With the rise in sustainable materials such as mass timber and cork, traditional building materials like metal have fallen by the wayside. The philosophy of sustainable materials is they are produced in large quantities without depleting nonrenewable resources with as minimal of an effect on the environment as possible. People dismiss metals, thinking they are unsustainable, but they have a place in the environmentalist construction era.
Varied sources prioritize different facets of sustainable materials, such as transportation and energy expenditure. Regarding design, it’s hard to define concretely what material is the best for the planet. However, metals have a strong case for eco-friendly structures.
They Are Reclaimable and Recyclable
It’s easy to see how heavy metal production, mining and transportation isn’t the most sustainable option — but this isn’t the whole picture. Humans have already created and transported so many metals people may as well optimize what they’ve already spent energy creating. Since metals are indefinitely reusable, recycling and reclamation are the best ways to take advantage of the metals available. Metal is nonrenewable, but repeated usage would not waste fossil fuels because of its infinite life cycle.
Reclamation and recycling shorten the process length of metals. Most of this material starts from raw extraction, heads to processing, gets used for buildings or products and eventually, demolition and removal. Extraction and processing become obsolete with proper recycling, creating a more circular life cycle for metals. Reclaimed parts are intended for reuse and are great for plumbing and roofing.
Using recycled and reclaimed metals — including aluminum, steel, copper and zinc — also saves companies money. Less of the budget is dedicated to mining and manipulating the ore for commercial use. That way, businesses could allocate more funds to hiring staff or finding ways to innovate sustainably.
They Are Durable and Versatile
Metals like steel are crafted explicitly with a chemical formula primed for durability. The iron and carbon in steel make it resistant to natural threats like high winds, storms, sand and other severe conditions. It is also less prone to wildfire effects than wood or bamboo.
It may seem irrelevant, but the sustainability conversation cannot ignore the versatility of metal. Advantageously, the durability of metals translates into countless industries. It works in sustainable design for buildings, cars and other technology where bamboo, wood or other eco-friendly materials may not be optimal.
Many sectors use it because it is adaptable and flexible. Innovative implementation of metals like the Metal Shutter Home proves architects manipulate metal in practical ways and can be stylish as well. A trademark of sustainability is people can reuse it, so seeing a material applicable to so many industries is optimistic for eco-friendly design.
They Synergize With Other Green Technologies
Coatings go on metal to reduce the chance of rusting and damage from environmental wear and tear. However, innovators are creating greener metal coatings to try and maximize total ecological benefit. The coatings can be biorenewable or developed with solar-reflectivity to keep buildings cool by pushing off excess heat stored in other materials, reducing the urban heat island effect. This describes how cities have higher temperatures because infrastructure absorbs and expends heat more than greenery and water.
Only time could have only made these refinements and many greener operations are still trying to develop. Sustainable technologies would benefit from having already advanced manufacturing materials to support their development. Steel is an essential component of solar panels and heat exchangers, which help water and air temperature in homes worldwide. Considering the implications of metals in this way makes it easy to comprehend the impact.
Metals also help green tech because they do not contain harsh chemicals or toxins. Therefore, less energy is required to cleanse metals of components harmful to humans.
Metals Can Still Be Green
Though it’s tempting to try and build something with just one eco-friendly material, people make buildings and products from many materials. It isn’t necessarily true one is more eco-friendly than the other.
The future is about creating avenues for businesses to source, develop and construct every material — including metals — sustainably. This will initiate a shift in countless industries moving forward as humans discover more innovative ways to use materials.