Mr. Deepak Mathur, Sr. Vice President – Global Marketing and Sales at Jindal Aluminium
In modern construction projects, aluminium is one of the most extensively used materials owing to its numerous advantages over other materials. Around 25 per cent of all the aluminium produced worldwide is used by the construction segment alone. As aluminium products are highly endurable, and long-lasting in character, the need to replace materials due to wear and tear caused by everyday use is marginal in comparison to other materials. As manufacturing aluminium products is a highly energy-intensive process, the need to replace less also means it has a reduced impact on the environment and carbon footprint. From approximately 22 million metric tons of aluminium produced in 1995 to 61.79 million tonnes in 2021, the global primary aluminium industry output has increased exponentially. As a result of this, a large number of aluminium items are used in the construction domain, for example, from external facades to roofs, wall claddings, windows, doors, and even the entire building frames are only some of the many examples. Hence, it goes without saying that aluminium offers excellent flexibility to architects, designers and engineers and enables them to experiment and create innovative and cutting-edge products.
Why choose aluminium for the construction sector?
Aluminium is strong, flexible, conductive, durable, and extremely lightweight. It is because of these qualities that it helps to create exceptionally sturdy structures. The weight of an aluminium structure is one-third of an equivalent steel structure; hence, this makes its use in construction cost-effective and durable. Moreover, naturally corrosion-resistant, aluminium can be anodised or painted to offer more durability. Aluminium also allows increased design flexibility, as it can be customised to offer an infinite set of colours, styles, finishes and coatings. It helps developers to choose from a large number of options.
Aluminium products for a sustainable construction industry
As our towns, cities, and urban areas are expanding to accommodate the growing global population, taller and stronger structures need to be built cost-effectively and faster and smartly. As aluminium products are highly versatile, they can be integrated smoothly into any aspect of a construction project from internal building support, doors, and windows to exterior cladding and finishing touches, with less effort. Thus, aluminium is the perfect design choice, not only because it is lightweight but also because it is thermally efficient and cost-effective.
Low-carbon and recycled aluminium in construction
Over the past few years, carbon emission reduction has taken centre stage for aluminium producers around the world. Most manufacturers realise the need for products that are environmentally viable to manufacture. Recycled and low-carbon aluminium is one of the most sought-after materials in the construction sector. The leading aluminium producers are working towards their long-term sustainability goals related to the LCA strategy to recalibrate their production methods. One of the most effective solutions for the aluminium industry is using hydropower stations to provide electricity to smelters, effectively lowering the carbon footprint. Also, solar and wind-powered stations are being considered replacements for fossil or fuel-fired electricity. Primary aluminium manufacturing accounts for more than one gigaton of carbon annually, which low-carbon aluminium can reduce by almost 60 per cent. Another significant step in lowering CO2 emissions is recycling. The fact that aluminium is infinitely recyclable makes it fundamentally possible to achieve a 100 per cent recycling rate. To cut down on carbon emissions, secondary production that requires significantly less energy plays an essential role in offsetting the carbon footprint of primary production.
Aluminium in railways
Therefore, the significance of aluminium is not limited to the above uses but has even wider applications. With Indian Railways receiving the first batch of aluminium coaches this year, it is evident that we have considered a technological shift in railways to boost our effort in achieving Sustainable Development Goals. These self-propelled coaches will enable Indian Railways to run superior train sets in line with its aim to connect major Indian cities with car train services. With an extended life of 40 years, these coaches are lighter than stainless steel coaches and can generate extra revenue for the next five years. Furthermore, it can also lower haulage costs and enhance fuel efficiency. The exclusive hollow extrusion design, owing to the properties of aluminium, allows for commendable resilience in case of an accident or mishap. It is the beginning of a change that will, in years to come, have the potential to completely revamp the face and efficiency of the world’s most extensive rail network, the Indian Railways.
The bottom line
Today, aluminium has caught the attention of world leaders, major construction players, sustainable builders, and architects worldwide to become a norm for usage in constructing green buildings. Aluminium is leading the way to the future of the construction industry and the railways. Hence, one can say that it is hard to imagine a world without aluminium for an ecologically balanced and smart future from now on.