As the world’s population keeps climbing, the need for putting up shelters is increasing at a rapid rate. Traditionally, most dwellings and human habitats depended upon timber and wood for construction. However, with the need for preserving nature and trees becoming a pressing issue, the construction industry is switching raw materials for sustainable building. Among these optional materials, aluminum remains a material with many advantages, in terms of ease of shaping, light weight, design versatility as well as appearance and finish. While commercial building constructors have long embraced the use of aluminum in the design and construction, residential home designers remained steadfastly attached to wood until recent times. However, thanks to pioneering architects who started popularizing aluminum use a few decades back, this shiny metal is now making great inroads to residential housing construction.
One of the first efforts at making a house out of Aluminum can be traced to Albert Frey and Alfred Kocher’s university project collaboration in 1927. With limited technology at handling construction with this raw material, they ended up with an experimental house, which was meant to be a demonstration of low cost pre-fabricated houses. This historic artifact is now on display at Campus NYITAs in New York.
Another milestone in the aluminum architecture timeline is the Alcoa Aluminum house project in 1957, which was a demonstrational project meant to stress the many advantages of building homes with aluminum. Implemented by Alcoa, the global giant in aluminum production, this project was a key stepping stone towards aluminum architecture in residential markets. Contrary to the myths of low aesthetic appeal associated with aluminum houses, the Alcoa houses remain still in use, and much loved by their owners. Some have undergone unique redesigning and renovations, relying on latest developments in aluminum architecture.
When it comes to design versatility, aluminum has always remained a winner with many advantages. It offered great shaping and structural advantages as well as a clean, crisp appearance for modern designs. Combined with other materials, such as glass, aluminum is now among one of the most green construction options. It brings in the major advantage of sustainability at a time and age where humans can no longer ignore their impact on the environment. The construction industry is one of the main drivers for application of green technologies and use of aluminum in residential architecture is bound to make a notable positive impact. New developments in aluminum productions offer various components to facilitate superb designs, and the ability to optimize natural lighting. It is also a major facilitator of enhanced energy management. To top it all, this is a material that has almost 100% recyclability. Its versatile form and flexible function simplify the creation of structures that maximize a good environmentally merging design. The components are engineered for precision and offer an excellent fit and finish, resulting in fast assembling, fabrication on site and low wastage. The light weight, yet strong and durable building material is made to withstand extreme weather conditions. It is ideal for prefabricated house modules that can be easily transported, assembled and disassembled as needed.
It is estimated that a 3,000 sq ft house being built with wooden architecture needs close to 30,000 board feet of lumber and paneling boards. A sawmill will tell you that a 20 year old mahogany tree that has a height of 40ft and a diameter of 2ft will yield 3,000 board feet as a conservative estimation. An average home of 3,000 sq feet will therefore, need a minimum of 10 such trees cut down. It is no wonder that the world produces over 1.6 million m3 annually and that Britain alone use up 50 million m3 of it. 30% of the world timber harvest goes towards sawn timber that is mostly used in the construction industry and furniture making.
With the popularity of aluminum architecture growing, we will be able to retain our trees and houses may need less up keep and maintenance, while still looking chic and beautiful. Don’t forget the fantastic outside scenery that most aluminum and glass combined houses will deliver, which certainly is an added bonus.
Photo by Todd Huffman