Stainless Steel: Green building materials

Neeraj Raja Kochhar explains that stainless steel is chosen over and above other alternatives in construction sector because of its low maintenance and longevity. Stainless steel products contribute towards renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and reduction in environmental impact.



Neeraj R Kochhar

Neeraj R Kochhar

Stainless steel is one of the most environment friendly metals used in architecture and building construction. It has been the preeminent material for projecting a progressive, modern image, helping to enhance security, and providing long-term durability and sustainability. Usage of SS in architectural applications goes back to as old as mid- 1920’s, which was not long after the invention of stainless steel. Some of the most popular uses of stainless steel in construction are: Architectural Cladding, Handrails, Drainage and Water Systems, Wall Support Products, Roofing, Structure, Fixings etc. Without stainless steel in construction we would probably see a rise in prices to build because the other substitutes are more expensive. In addition to this we would see buildings which didn’t look as aesthetically pleasing and weren’t as resistant to corrosion.

Usage of stainless steel in architecture and construction not only enhances its aesthetics rather it also offers a very long life span. If maintained properly and used in correct grades, this life span can be around hundreds of years. And the best part of this wonder metal is that it can be restored to its original beauty with minimum cleaning and maintenance or else it can also be reused for other applications.

The average life of stainless steel products is in the range of 15-25 years and for some applications, much longer. Due to its resistance to corrosion and staining, as well as needing little maintenance, most stainless steel products have long useful lives. Stainless steel products contribute towards renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and reduction in environmental impact.

One of the main reasons why stainless steel is chosen over and above other alternatives in construction sector is because of its low maintenance and longevity. For example, we can look at increasing usage of SS in public transport system, airports, railways, bridges, building construction, parks and several other public utilities. All these facilities are made to last usually for longer periods. However, conventional materials require regular re-painting or repair, which is extremely costly and hamper the work flow. Stainless steel provides a virtually maintenance free solution even in the most demanding environments like seaside locations in hot and humid tropical climates. Durable, aesthetic, safe and hygienic stainless steel provides the ideal solution in a wide range of urban applications – including street furniture. Its low maintenance cost, ease of cleaning and resistance to vandalism and fire, structural strength, scratch resistance etc also make it attractive to architects and designers who are seeking sustainable solutions. However it is very important to choose the correct grade with correct finish if long term performance is desired. Some of the factors which are to be considered while choosing the grade are air pollution, salt exposure, weather change, climate pattern, cleaning frequency etc.

Usage of this Green material has proved to be very useful for indoor as well as outdoor applications. Stainless steel is ideal for interior applications because no coatings are required and there are no emissions. With proper selection, ductwork made of stainless steel will not perforate due to corrosion and can be thoroughly sanitized. Reflective stainless steel panels can be used to bring natural lights into buildings. Using Stainless Steel in household can safeguard against termites, pests etc and thus increase the life of the product. As another factor of convenience, cleaning stainless steel does not require chemicals that are hazardous to workers or the environment. Stainless steel also conserves the natural resources in many ways. Less mining is required since the corrosion resistance is very high and recycling is possible. In structural applications, material requirements are reduced if designers capitalize on stainless steel’s superior high temperature performance and if higher strength stainless steel are used to reduce section size. For ex in roofing applications, it is possible to use thinner panels and reduce heat gains and thus reduce the cost of air conditioning. Products manufactured from stainless steel are an excellent choice for protecting the environment and creating comfortable, attractive structures. Although independent data comparing the life-cycle environmental impact of different materials are not yet available, there is no question that stainless steel will receive high ratings. The environmental and aesthetic performance of stainless steel is dependent on selecting an appropriate stainless steel, finish, and design.

No doubt Indian market has grown at a very good rate in past couple of years. However, at the same time, we do realize that the potential for growth is huge and there is still a long way to go for India. If we look at the trend of stainless steel consumption in India in past couple of years we notice that the consumption of stainless steel has actually increased multifold. According to recent industry reports, the consumption of Stainless Steel in India has grown almost 10 times in last 20 years. Some of the main sectors which have led to this trend are infrastructural and architectural application like modernization of airports, metro railways, modernized bus shelters, stainless steel wall claddings, household applications like stainless steel modular kitchens, furniture etc. However, we do understand that India still has a long way to go compared with the global consumption of stainless steel. The potential growth of Stainless Steel in India is huge, considering the fact that the per capita consumption at 1.9 KG is much lower compared to global average of 4.85 KG. But we are sure that in coming years, India will be consuming a bigger chunk of the whole pie. Stainless steel is unmatched compared to other material and can play a very important role in sustainable development of Indian infrastructure.

More encouraging is the fact that Government institutions have also started realizing the importance of using this wonder material and its benefits in the long run. The recent example would be the application of stainless steel in BRT bus shelters, railways, bridges, airports modernization where the use of the material not only provides sturdiness rather it also saves on maintenance and at the same time looks aesthetically sound. On a broader scale, as the stress on maintaining environment is growing day by day and companies are becoming more aware about their responsibilities towards creating a greener earth, what better option do we have than Stainless Steel which is 100% recyclable material and long lasting and turns out to be very cost effective considering its low maintenance and longevity.”

However, in order to fully expand its production capacity, the country needs to take care of certain issues like resistance to use stainless steel due to high initial cost, endemic power shortages, high price volatility of nickel, unorganized sector producing cheap quality products, not enough availability of scrap material in the country etc. We hope that we shall be able to overcome these hurdles and soon India will also be one of the lading countries in consumption of stainless steel.


(The author is Chairman and Managing Director, Viraj Profiles Ltd.)

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