Towards Sustainable Cities

Towards Sustainable Cities is an ongoing research programme, quantifying the in-use benefits of aluminium in architecture and the built environment.  Funded by the International Aluminium Institute [IAI], the programme is being undertaken by Michael Stacey Architects with KieranTimberlake and the Architecture and Tectonics Research Group [ATRG] of The University of Nottingham, UK.

The durability of aluminium is probably one of the most important qualities of this metal when used to form architecture and infrastructure.  This book charts over 100 years of the use of aluminium in architecture and the built environment using 50 built works from 1895 to 1986, with four historic exemplars being inspected and presented in depth.  Twelve twentieth-century award-winning and historically significant aluminium-based buildings were inspected, leading to the successful non-destructive testing of aluminium finishes on three of these projects.

Aluminium recycling benefits present and future generations by conserving energy and other natural resources. It saves up to 95% of the energy required for primary aluminium production, thereby avoiding corresponding emissions, including greenhouse gases.

Life cycle thinking challenges architects, engineers and contractors to be mindful of the life history of any manufactured product and more specifically, to understand the inputs (energy and water) and outputs (emissions to the environment) that result from the transformation of matter into product and from product to disposal. This report uses Life Cycle Assessment, a modelling method, to quantify and compare the environmental impacts and benefits associated with aluminium building components to those associated with alternative materials.

The penultimate research report in the Towards Sustainable Cities series takes an in depth look at the light quality of aluminium which may appear to be less obviously apparent in architecture and the built environment, when compared to aerospace and transportation. Lightness is considered in two ways – firstly, in that it provides high performance components, such as windows and curtain walling that are light in weight. And secondly, visually, providing architecture that is light and slender to look at. 

An invited audience of architects, designers, engineers, artists, fabricators and aluminium industry leaders were all brought together at the Towards Sustainable Cities Symposium, which was held in Kew Gardens, London, in October 2016.  Audience views on the use of aluminium in durable, recyclable, sustainable buildings forms part of this final report in the series.

To take a look at the Symposium and Professor Michael Stacey’s interview with Wolfgang Buttress, discussing The Hive, an impressive award-winning aluminium installation currently at Kew Gardens, please see the videos to your left.