The current world population of 7.4 billion is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050, by which time 66 percent of the world population is projected to be urban, according to the United Nations. If these projections materialise, 2.5 billion more people will live in urban areas by mid-century, compared to 2014. The demographic changes that are likely to unfold over the coming decades will present many challenges for achieving sustainable development, and stainless steel, as a highly durable and versatile material, is poised to play a major role in meeting them.
To facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas about the potential of stainless steel, the British Stainless Steel Association (BSSA) recently organised a conference titled ‘Stainless Steel in Architecture, Building and Infrastructure.’
The primary objective of the BSSA is to promote and develop the manufacture and use of stainless steel across the UK and Ireland. Based in Sheffield, the birthplace of stainless steel, the association provides marketing support, technical advice, information, training and education in all aspects of stainless steel.
Organising conferences is part of the association’s activities, and the theme of this year’s conference was chosen very carefully, as Paul Barker, Managing Director of BSSA, explained: “Global forces have changed the landscape in recent years; manufacturing has moved to different places around the world, and for example cutlery, which was the first commercial usage of stainless steel in Sheffield, is virtually no longer made in the UK. If we want to make an impact in the UK on the amount of stainless steel that is being used, it is important that we focus in an area that has opportunities. For this reason, we chose a general theme of urbanisation. Urbanisation is a global trend, with more people moving to live in cities, and with that and the emergence of new, huge metropolises we get the opportunity to see the potential for stainless steel which will be increasingly used in architecture, building and infrastructure – all major consumers of the material already. And that increase in consumption is what we are looking for in the UK. But in order to achieve that we need to get people to understand the benefits of stainless steel, how cost-effective it is and how it can be designed into various projects, which is why we decided to organise this conference.”
The recently completed Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, USA, is a stunning example of the use of stainless steel in architecture. Photo © A. Zahner Co.
The two-day event was held on 18 and 19 May at the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham and attracted 115 international delegates. The programme was divided into five sessions, each of which covered a specific topic related to stainless steel, including an overview of current market conditions and industry developments as well as future prospects; building exteriors; broader use in urban environments; structural aspects; and the use of stainless steel in infrastructure. Speakers included architects, engineers, manufacturer representatives, fabricators, consultants, market analysts and other industry professionals. A number of presentations showcased recent architectural and infrastructural projects making innovative and artistic use of stainless steel, while some addressed various challenges concerning fabrication, installation and stainless steel grades for specific environments and applications.
Stainless Steel Demand Growth
In his presentation on global megatrends which are predicted to bring many opportunities for stainless steel, Markus Moll, Managing Director of SMR, highlighted the fact that in terms of end-use consumption, the ABC (Architecture, Building, Construction) and infrastructure segment is expected to grow at the fastest rate compared to other market segments, growing by 140 percent by 2050 (from 5.6 million tonnes in 2015 to 13.4 million tonnes by mid-century). If these predictions prove to be correct, the ABC and infrastructure segment, currently the third largest and accounting for 15 percent of global use of stainless steel, will become the second largest by 2050, at more than 20 percent.
Catherine Houska, Senior Development Manager at TMR Consulting, addressed another important global trend that offers much promise for stainless steel, namely sustainability. “Stainless steel is an inherently and indefinitely recyclable material so it can be recycled over and over again. In architecture, building and construction, 92 percent of the stainless steel used is recycled back into new steel, which makes it incredibly sustainable. Furthermore, it provides very long life, and one of the most important trends is whole-building life-cycle analysis. More and more clients require that buildings are designed for 60, 75, 100 or more years of service life. And if you constantly replace materials, that is horrible in terms of carbon footprint. You don’t have to do that with stainless steel.”
These trends will be given all the attention they deserve, so in the future you can expect to read more blog posts about the use of stainless steel in architecture, building and construction as well as about the issue of sustainability.