The combined total of the energy required to extract, manufacture, ship, and dispose of aluminum over its lifetime results in the highest embodied energy of common building products. Alcoa, a major producer of aluminum, acknowledges the environmental impact of its product. To improve the sustainability of aluminum, Alcoa is locating refineries close to mines, incorporating sustainable mining practices, managing water use to preserve and maintain biodiversity connected to water sources, implementing progressive land rehabilitation, reusing waste products such as bauxite residues and spent pot linings (the residue that is left when smelting pots reach the end of their useful life), and taking steps to ensure that no valuable aluminum will find its way to landfills. Aluminum can have a positive environmental impact, such as supplying essential nutrients, improving fuel efficiency when vehicles use lightweight aluminum components, and aiding in the increased sustainability of furniture by making components fully recyclable.
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When designing a project that is anticipating LEED certification, credits may be achieved in the following categories:
1. Indoor Air Quality Metal projects do not contribute negatively to indoor air quality, but plating and finishing processes often use products that release volatile organic compounds. Specify products that are finished by physical methods such as grinding and polishing rather than solvent-based coatings.
2. Using Recycled Materials Some aluminum has recycled content or may be entirely recycled. Steel often has a high recycled content. Mixed metal products are often not recyclable.
Perforated Metal as an Interior Screening Device
Metal can be used as a shading device or to cast dramatic shadow patterns. At Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, a glass atrium connects the new Nerman Museum of