Our philosophy regarding materials is to select a product that will last the useful life of the building with little or no maintenance. This usually results in the least long-term cost to the building owner. It also limits environmental impact (see Environmental Responsibility). The Federal Highway Administration issued a report in 2001 estimating that in the United States alone, we spend $550 billion per year combating metallic corrosion.
Of that cost, $113 billion per year is spent on construction related metal failures ranging from roof perforation to replacement of components that have become aesthetically unattractive. This suggests that to a significant degree, we are penny wise and pound foolish with the metals we specify.
In terms of architectural applications, we argue that life cycle costing should be taken into account when selecting materials.
In order to evaluate the relative life cycle costs of different materials, it is necessary to estimate all expenses, and the dates these expenses are expected to occur. The analysis should take the following factors into account:
When it comes time to demolish the building, the relatively high value of high performance metal scrap can provide an offset. Limiting the volume of materials that end up in a land fill will also reduce disposal costs.
Once all of these costs are dated and estimated, they need to be factored to present dollar terms. (ie: A $5 million roof replacement 20 years from now would cost $1.8 million if the building owner put the money in the bank today at 5.25% interest. Therefore, a material upgrade costing, in this case, less than $1.8 million merits consideration.)
After a present value analysis is concluded for all of these costs, the different material choice options can be measured in like terms. The usual conclusion is that high performance metals are the low cost solution.
A life cycle costing model is available from the Specialty Steel Industry of North America at (202) 342-8630 or www.ssina.com.
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