What Architects Say About Aluminium Building Products?

Aluminium is a favoured material by many architects in tropical Malaysia. This versatile and sustainable material has been widely utilised in local design and architecture. Whether as part of functional roofing and cladding systems or used aesthetically in exterior or interior designs, aluminium is an emerging material of choice today.

When it comes to using aluminium as part of creative inspirations for the local market, architects believe that a key consideration lies in the local climate. “The local environment and climate is of prime importance in shaping up a design that suit best in that context,” says Dato’ Hew Hoi Lam JP, Principal of Akitek Supra. Indeed, Malaysia’s tropical climate often makes choosing durable and functional roofing materials challenging.

For architect Leslie Tan Aik Fong from Perunding HY Chung, roof leakage is something that every architect needs to consider. Hence, he feels that installation technique as well as rust-proofing the roofing material is crucial. Apart from these considerations, aluminium’s high resistance towards chemical corrosion is a key advantage as a roofing material, according to Mr Leslie.

To Dato’ Hew, the selection of roofing for buildings often depends on the building type and usage. “The roofs selected must be durable with minimal maintenance and architecturally pleasing to suit our design intention,” he says. As such, suitable roofing materials for local projects require careful considering of material durability, sustainability as well as versatility, and aluminium is one such material.

When our guest architects are asked their professional view on aluminium as a building material for local constructions and buildings, most concur on the popularity of the material. “Aluminium is widely used in building finishing components for windows, doors and decorative enhancement elements in elevations,” Dato’ Hew reveals. In terms of roofing usage, his opinion is equally positive. “Acceptance of aluminium roofing is slowly gaining traction… and with concerted marketing, it should be able to capture our designers’ attention…”

At the same time, Mr Ho Kiat Yee, Associate Partner of Perunding Jurutera JH, thinks that using aluminium in roofing is an innovative idea that is in line with Green Building Systems. “Its weight is lighter than [that of] other materials and [is] easy to handle,” says Mr Ho.

In addition, our expert panel have had previous positive experiences utilising aluminium as a façade and/or roofing material in their respective projects. Mr Leslie Tan made use of this material in a chemical factory project due to its corrosion-resistant properties. “[Aluminium] is resistant to certain chemicals, and very durable [against] weather,” says Mr Leslie.

On the other hand, Mr Ho has previously used aluminium to clad an entire steel car porch. “Aluminium is chosen for [its] aesthetic appeal as well as its durability and quality,” says Mr Ho.

Dato’ Hew tells us that certain of his office and industrial showroom projects utilised aluminium composite panels. Specific to roofing usage, his firm has also completed buildings, including warehouses and schools, using corrugated aluminium roofing sheets, he says.

Sustainability is a current buzz word. As a building material, aluminium is often admired for its recyclable property and high buy-back value. In fact, aluminium is 100% recyclable which gives the material a huge advantage over other building materials used locally. These recyclability and high re-sale value characteristics are important considerations – even acting as deciding factors – for both architects and their clients when it comes to choosing the right sustainable material for the projects. “For the local industry, sustainability is gaining attention and one of the reasons for our selection… [of] aluminium [for the roof the school premises belonging to Lycee Francaise]… was the recycled buy-back value driven by the supplier of the aluminium roof,” says Dato’ Hew.

When comparing aluminium to other metal construction materials commonly used in building facades and roofs, Dato’ Hew believes that aluminium is not as widely promoted as other metal construction materials to give it the required exposure. Other architects, including Mr Leslie Tan, also affirms that aluminium is a material of good quality and suited for local projects. Without doubt, aluminum fares well, and often above, when compared to other commonly used metal materials due to the former’s unique qualities suited for the local environment: corrosion resistance, durability and thermal efficiency being the most-often cited reasons for choosing aluminium as façade and roofing material of choice.

“In the near future, we hope to see aluminium materials being adopted more into our local architectural design output and, with precedents from overseas, we hope we can focus to include creative usage of aluminium in our designs,” says Dato’ Hew when asked to share his thoughts on the creative potential of aluminium in local projects. When it comes to his personal creative inspiration on incorporating aluminium as a key or accent material in building and design, Dato’ Hew shares that “it would be building a house using all structural elements and components with aluminium.”