Permanence and sustainability

Among the many benefits aluminium has to offer, Andrew Cross of Kestrel Aluminium discusses its ability to forecast the cost of maintenance over a system’s design life.

With increasing pressure to specify building systems offering clearly defined sustainability, the use of materials that embody recycling as an inherent feature is becoming increasingly significant.

Aluminium as a key building component is now used across a wide range of sectors and, as a matter of interest, is still arguably the most valuable item in our recycling collection. From an emissions perspective, the use of pre- and post-use aluminium greatly reduces energy consumption and adds tangible value to the economics of production. To put this into perspective, it saves around 95 per cent of the energy consumed in the ‘primary’ production process.

For those specifying metal window and door systems, there is, therefore, a clear incentive to use a raw material that can be reused on an infinite basis.

In terms of enabling building designs to achieve the highest level of BREEAM certification, aluminium can also provide tangible benefits in terms of assessment of an asset’s environmental, social and economic sustainability through the use of standards developed by BRE. In addition, it enhances specific aspects of technical performance such as thermal, acoustic and energy efficiency.

The use of natural materials – timber in particular – undoubtedly has its supporters, but most offer little potential for recycling. Deforestation, dwindling resources and a generally adverse effect on the environment can only become a bigger issue as demand for greater sustainability increases.

By contrast, aluminium products made using recycled material present consistently low environmental impact while offering strength, durability, stability and greatly reduced weight compared to steel. Among the many other benefits it has to offer, natural corrosion and UV resistance enable the specifier to forecast with considerable accuracy the cost of maintenance over a system’s design life.


To achieve greater efficiency in terms of thermal transmittance, high-performance fenestration design is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Aluminium can be formed into complex and diverse profile shapes, a feature that makes it ideal for contemporary designs. From a manufacturer’s perspective, working alongside specifiers offers considerable benefits in terms of product development. This is being seen across the construction spectrum and is highlighted, for example, in the construction of affordable homes such as the prototype two-bedroom detached ‘modpod’, Birmingham City Council’s first ever modular home.

Built in answer to the need for affordable housing in the area, particularly on brownfield sites, The Council’s housing arm, Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT), chose Just Solutions Ltd to deliver the ‘ModPod’ for a property, situated in Hockley. Shelforce, a leading window and door manufacturer based in Erdington fabricated the aluminium windows and doors which met the exacting standards of Approved Document L. Used in conjunction with low U-value double glazed units, this ensured the new homes are energy efficient. They not only provide high performance and aesthetic value but will easily be broken down into their component parts when the need for replacement arises.

To complement the installation, a PAS 24 accredited aluminium rebate door system was specified offering peace of mind that the building is safe and secure. This utilizes the same profiles and hardware as the windows and thus offers commonality of design. All profiles were dual colour powder coated which is more cost-effective in the long run than paint, with the added benefit that the finish is more durable and resilient. Powder Coating also offers a protective coating to the aluminium, extending the life of the metal as well as offering a seamless look between horizontal and vertical surfaces great for the aesthetics of any modern building.

The ‘ModPod’ comes as ground and first floor units, both essentially steel frames with insulated walls and customizable façades. It features a 4mm thick acrylic brick finish on the ground floor and a corrugated aluminium exterior on the first. Sleeping up to four people, it has everything expected of a modern home, including upstairs and downstairs bathrooms and a master bedroom with a balcony.

The unit took an hour to crane into place onto a pre-prepared site and was available to occupy the same day. It took around 20 weeks to construct though on a live production line Just Solutions estimate the build time will be just two weeks. BMHT already has Council approval, subject to planning consent, to build a further 54 units across six sites. The aim is to deliver these homes before a further review of the modular housing programme.


Aluminium’s ‘permanence’ and its undoubted flexibility and versatility will pave the way for products of increasing environmental value.

If we add to this the widely accepted ecological argument against the use of PVCu and tangible evidence provided by aluminium window and door systems with a design life that has already spanned several decades the case for its use has never been stronger.

Andrew Cross is marketing manager at Kestrel Aluminium