Corrugated Copper Villa by Camillo Botticini Architetto. Image by Eugeni Pons and Niccolò Galeazzi
Throughout the years, people have been building with copper and incorporating it into a variety of structures, such as castles, churches, commercial buildings, offices, and homes. Because it complements other common building materials such as timber, glass, and wood, copper is a favoured material for a number of both indoor and outdoor architectural elements, including wall cladding, roofs, gutters, and expansion joints. It is a visually pleasing material, able to give structures a touch of sophistication with its unique colour and shine.
Copper, however, goes beyond aesthetics. It has a number of qualities that make it function as a good building material. Here are a few benefits of building with copper.
It is Durable
Historically, copper is a good choice for roofing, as shown on a number of historical buildings all over the world. As a roofing material, sheet metal generally provides better coverage for more roof types and good water resistance. But certain characteristics make copper stand out among other types of metals.
Copper is light in weight and has less density than lead, making it easier to support structurally. But copper has significantly greater tensile strength, which makes it easier to install on steeply pitched roofs, such as domes. Additionally, copper has a comparatively high melting point and great fire resistance.
Being a noble metal, copper is also known to have superior resistance to corrosion. However, it is important to note that other metals may corrode if in direct contact with copper. While contact with rusted metals will have little to no effect on a copper roof’s weathering abilities, it can create staining that will ruin the copper’s natural colour. For these reasons, copper needs to be separated from other metals with gaskets, certain paints, or other separating materials.
It is Cost-Effective
Copper is often perceived as a premium material because of its initial price. But researchers have found that copper is among the most cost-effective roofing materials, because of its durability, ease of maintenance, and salvage value. When considering overall roofing costs, copper is comparable with zinc, aluminium, stainless steel, and concrete tiles. It is considerably more affordable than lead, slate, and handmade clay tiles.
Recent technology and growing interest in building with copper have also made the material more cost-effective. Contractors are now more familiar with using copper in mechanised seaming, prefabrication and other cost-saving techniques.
It is Antimicrobial
Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs) are a growing problem worldwide. Australia has seen approximately 9,000 deaths resulting from HAIs picked up in hospitals.
But building with copper and using copper surfaces for hospital fixtures could help reduce HAIs. Research shows that antimicrobial copper surfaces help continuously kill up to 83% of bacteria that cause HAIs. Antimicrobial copper can also eliminate drug resistant strains.
“Because the antimicrobial effect is a continuous property of copper, the re-growth of deadly bacteria is significantly less on these surfaces, making a safer environment for hospital patients,” according to Dr Michael Schmidt, Vice Chairman of Microbiology and Immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina in the United States.
It is Sustainable
Copper-containing building products are durable, require little repair or replacement, and are often highly recyclable. Copper’s longevity lessens the need to use new cladding or roofing material, which then prevents waste and decreases the energy required for constant maintenance.
Being a very reusable product, copper has minimal impact on natural resources. Also, as the standard for environmentally sound wiring, plumbing, and an important component of high-performing technologies, copper also has a positive impact on energy efficiency.