Buildings and structures in Stainless Steel

Nickel charts the progress

August 15, 2015


Nickel Institute consultants, workshops and literature have been a valued source of information for making the building and construction specification decisions for 30 years and work funded by the organisation has made new innovations possible. The pages of Nickel magazine have chronicled these contributions and journey—a look back at just the first 10 years provides insight into the Nickel Institute’s influence. Many of these projects have become iconic symbols of nickel-containing stainless steels’ contribution to durable sustainable design.

Many construction materials require extensive maintenance, including repainting or replacement within as little as 20 years. Properly specified, stainless steel can provide hundreds of years of life. The formability, weldability and range of finishes available in nickel-containing stainless steels make them the material of choice for architects around the world.

The Nickel Institute has helped fund structural research, specification and design guide development and as well as specifier education. Nickel has documented important structural restorations and new applications. The restoration of the Statue of Liberty was completed using nickel containing Type 316L (UNS S31603) and Alloy 255 (S32550) duplex stainless steel to support the famous copper skin. It replaced badly-corroded structural iron.

Greenhouses can be very corrosive environments. 17km of Type 316L stainless steel glazing bars were used for the restoration of the historic Palm House at Kew Gardens in London, U.K. (March 1990). The traditional appearance had been maintained with white paint. (Figure 2) Type 316 (S31600) was also instrumental, although hidden, in restoring the architecturally-important 12th century Santa Maria degli Amalfitani church in Monopoli, Italy. (March 1995)

The magazine has also highlighted cutting-edge applications in famous buildings, including the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France (June 1991, Figure 3) which used nickel-containing Type 316L and 17-4PH (S17400) for the first large glass curtain wall supported entirely by stainless steel. The structural supports for the stainless and glass roof of the International Terminal of Waterloo Station in London, U.K. are Type 316 as is the roof and the diamond floor plate.

Many well-known stainless clad buildings graced the pages of Nickel during the first 10 years. The selection of Type 316L by César Pelli for the first building in London’s Canary Wharf business complex, One Canada Square, was announced in Nickel in June 1990. At 48 floors and 235 metres, it was the tallest habitable building in the United Kingdom and tallest building in Europe upon completion. Most of the other buildings in the complex and the spectacular subway entrance canopy also use Type 316L.

The gleaming polished Type 316 curves of the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, USA, show how Frank Gehry skillfully combined sculpture and architectural design in his first high profile stainless steel clad building. It constantly changes as it reflects its environment.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is the showplace gateway to the U.S. capital and features numerous exterior and interior applications. Its distinctive stainless steel roof used a specially developed very dull finish and started a global airport roof trend.

Since longevity is such an important aspect of sustainable materials, the Nickel Institute also provides advice on cleaning and restoration. After cleaning, Chrysler Building’s famous stainless steel roof (March 1995) still gleams on the New York skyline.

Whether the nickel-containing stainless steel is visible or hidden, it provides unparalleled performance relative to other architectural metals. While projects featured in Nickel represent a very small percentage of the projects influenced over the years by the Nickel Institute, their breadth is indicative of the important work done.

Current Issue

Nickel and sustainability

Towards a circular economy

August 30, 2018


Feature Story:
A catalyst for sustainable operations
Nickel-containing catalysts are widely used in the refining and petrochemical industries worldwide. At end-of-life, catalysts are either sent to landfill or sent for recycling to recover the valuable metals they contain. Refineries in Kuwait are changing the way they handle spent catalysts.