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Famous Buildings Constructed Using Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an ideal construction material in many ways, strong and resistant to corrosion. It has been used as a building material since the 1920s, which attests to its longevity and its enduring popularity. Some of the world’s most recognisable buildings (and other landmarks such as bridges, statues and monuments) have used stainless steel in their construction.

The first stainless steel building in the world was the Chrysler Building, completed in 1930 and at that time, the tallest building in the world. It still holds the title for the world’s tallest brick building with a steel framework. It is, in fact, the stainless steel framework that forms the load-bearing parts of the Chrysler Building, not the external brickwork. The decorative external steel features are formed from an alloy called Nirosta, a version of stainless steel that has a reputation for remaining permanently shiny, and this is well-deserved, as the structure has only been industrially cleaned twice. As the use of stainless steel in skyscrapers was pioneering at the time, it was subject to tests every five years, until they were deemed unnecessary in 1960, due to lack of deterioration.


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A more modern skyscraper construction that incorporates stainless steel are the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, in contrast to the Art Deco style of the Chrysler building, the steel here is used to form the exterior facade, rather than the load-bearing framework, which is instead made from high strength reinforced concrete. These towers have also held the title of World’s Tallest Building, from 1998 to 2004. In 1999, the world record for BASE jumping was set from the Towers by Felix Baumgartner, who would later gain recognition for his skydive “from the edge of space”.


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Stainless steel is not only suitable for use in skyscrapers, but also for a wide range of other construction purposes. The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California, is only a fraction of the height of the previously mentioned towers, but still uses stainless steel to produce its highly recognisable sail-like exterior shape. Resistant to corrosion and other pollution damage, the stainless steel is highly suited to the busy, urban location of this building, and has the advantage of requiring little maintenance. In contrast to the shiny alloy on the Chrysler Building’s exterior, Frank Gehry’s design for the Walt Disney Concert Hall has a matte finish, although still retains its reflective quality.


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Drawing comparisons to the Walt Disney Hall, the unpredictable shapes of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health building in Las Vegas are another Frank Gehry design. Stainless steel sheets form the exterior structure again here, although this required each connection between them to be individually designed, manufactured, and tracked with barcodes to ensure the placement of each unique piece was correct. Any errors in connecting the pieces would have required the entire building to be taken down and started again.


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The Art Gallery of Alberta, in Canada, was originally designed in 1968, using a style known as Brutalist. However, as the collection in this public art gallery grew to contain thousands of works, a larger building was required, and it would undergo a complete redesign and rebuild in 2007. Parts of the original design were used, in combination with an unusual shape formed from both glass and stainless steel. The steel has both functional and decorative purposes.


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There are many different grades of stainless steel, each suitable for a variety of purposes in construction. However, one thing that they all have in common is that they are all completely recyclable, so should any stainless steel building undergo demolition and rebuilding, the steel itself is not wasted, and could even be reused on the same site.

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The Benefits of Stainless Steel in Architecture


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Stainless steel has been used as a construction material since the 1920s, so it is certainly not a new product. In fact, its rising popularity in recent years is testament to how suitable it is for use in the building industry, with uses ranging from roofing and safety railings to architectural cladding. It has also been shown, due to its use over so many years, to have a long lifespan, which is an important consideration in construction.

There are many benefits to using stainless steel in architectural designs. Firstly, it is strong, meaning that it is ideal for use as structural support, even when placed under high tensile stress. It is, therefore, now a popular choice for bridges, particularly for the areas of the structure that will be exposed to potentially harsh weather and environmental conditions. The first stainless steel bridge that was designed for vehicle use was the Cala Galdana Bridge, on the Spanish island of Menorca. It is also a popular choice for pedestrian bridges around the world. London’s Millennium Bridge, the first new pedestrian bridge to be built over the River Thames in over 100 years, is partially constructed from stainless steel. It was also the material of choice for the renovated underpass in Sartrouville, near Paris, France, which was completed in 2011. Being underneath the railway lines, it needed to be sufficiently strong to prevent collapse under the weight of the trains. Both the cladding panels and the rectangular support beams are constructed from stainless steel.

In addition to its high strength, stainless steel is also highly resistant to corrosion. This means that the structures are low maintenance, and unlikely to be damaged by exposure to rain or salt. This is especially important in coastal regions, where iron or steel that is not stainless is prone to rusting. The use of stainless steel instead removes the need for regular painting to protect the metal. The Helix Bridge in Singapore, which would be heavily exposed to salt water from the sea, is stainless steel in order to resist corrosion. Exhaust gases can also contain corrosive chemicals, especially when they combine with water vapour in the air. This was also one of the reasons for choosing stainless steel in the Sartrouville underpass.

There are many different types of stainless steel. Adding small quantities of a metal called molybdenum increases the resistance of the steel to corrosion, particularly to chlorides (usually in the form of sodium chloride, from salt water). This is beneficial in coastal areas and in large cities. It has been used for the exterior cladding of One Canary Wharf, London, most likely due to its corrosion-resistant properties.

Another advantage of stainless steel is its versatility. It can be made into almost any shape, giving it an exceptionally wide range of uses within the building and construction industry. It is not simply restricted to structural supports or flat sheets of exterior cladding, but can be used to create more unusual shapes instead. The architect Zaha Hadid made use of this feature in numerous designs, such as the University of Oxford’s Investcorp Building, which has fluid curves that have been used to connect two existing Victorian buildings. Frank Gehry also used this to his advantage when designing the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Stainless steel’s ability to resist corrosion from air pollution was also undoubtedly a consideration here.

Making use of all of these advantages possessed by stainless steel is the Thames Barrier. Spanning the 520m width of the River Thames, the ten stainless steel piers make up one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks. High strength combined with a low need for maintenance is essential here, as its purpose is to prevent flooding in the city. It is constantly exposed to both air pollution and water, yet the stainless steel making up the structure has prevented any damage from occurring.

 

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NCTS Provides Stainless Steel Roofing Courses

National Construction Training Services (NCTS) provide Stainless Steel courses that are mapped to the National Occupational Standard and the Vocation Qualification. Their objective is to support those operatives who have neither a full competency nor an official roofing qualification, providing the opportunity to become qualified and helping them to convert their green CSCS card to the Blue Skilled Worker CSCS card. Successful completion of the BCP provides the attendees with a certificate of competency in the knowledge and understanding of product systems, health, safety and welfare at a recognised level in the industry.

The BCP is also aimed towards individuals with higher level CSCS cards who are looking to gain experience of using other products/systems, or those wishing to up-skill from one roofing discipline to another. Endorsed by CITB, NFRC, Competent Roofer, Roofing Industry Alliance and CSCS, following successful completion of their CSCS health and safety test, certificated BCP operatives are able to apply for a 3 years Red Experienced Worker CSCS card which will put them on the path to becoming competent and qualified. 

For further information visit the National Construction Training Services website at www.ncts.org.uk 

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Stainless Steel A 100% Recyclable Product

Stainless steel is the “green material” par excellence and is infinitely recyclable. Within the construction sector, its actual recovery rate is close to 100%.

It is environmentally neutral, inert and when in contact with elements such as water it does not leach compounds that might modify their composition. These qualities make it a material which is ideally suited to building and construction applications: roofs, facades, rainwater recovery systems, domestic water pipes and swimming pools as well as bridges and pedestrian bridges.

Stainless steel’s longevity fulfils the requirements of sustainable construction. A suitable choice in terms of grade, surface finish, installation and maintenance guarantees the user unrivalled service life.

Construction components in stainless steel are delivered ready to install on site reducing pollution (noise, dust, etc.). Furthermore, during demolition, these can be salvaged for re-use in recycling, adding value.