Stainless steel has long been acknowledged for its high performance, having first been developed a century ago. It primary characteristics are corrosion resistance, strength and distinctive appearance which make it ideal for most architectural applications.
Usage in construction is now increasing rapidly due to an increasing choice of colours, textures and finishes and the development of nickel-free ferritic grades which have made stainless steel highly competitive against other metals. Stainless steel’s inherent strength enables systems to be far thinner, thereby reducing façade weight. Spans can be up to 20 metres in length and the product presents no risk of underside corrosion in non-vented situations.
In addition to traditional mirror-faced and polished products, developments include materials with a smooth matt finish for severe conditions such as those found in coastal and desert areas. The degree of smoothness minimises corrosive deposit accumulation and increases the effectiveness of self-cleaning by natural rain washing.
Systems are also available which take on the matt grey, patinated appearance similar to that of aged lead sheet. In the UK this prompted publication by English Heritage of a Guidance Note endorsing the material as a lead replacement.
More recent uses for stainless steel include structural reinforcement of bridges to provide resistance to attack from salts in marine and other ‘severe’ environments.