By Mr. KK Pahuja, President, Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA)
As per industry estimates, the consumption of stainless steel in this segment has almost tripled in India alone, in the last decade, rising to around 20%. With major demand springing up from applications like sinks, elevators, architectural products like hand rails, gates, roofing and facade cladding, street furniture, and builders’ hardware, architectural. Newer paths in research are paving the way towards the use of stainless steel and engineering firms are also increasingly exploring its possibilities as a structural material. High corrosion resistance and aesthetic elegance help boost an exceeding competency for stainless steel among other metals. The concept of minimum life cycle costs has started to gain importance with the use of stainless steel while selecting the material of construction. In today’s modern age, where a premium is placed on better performance, long service life, and minimal maintenance of buildings and construction, stainless steel certainly stands strong.
Stainless steel is commended on its ability to uphold heavy buildings while maintaining the aesthetics of the design. The new ﬁnishes introduce a broad range of design possibilities and substantial savings in the overall energy-use of buildings. Stainless steel illustrates better performance, fire resistance, quake resistance, cost effectiveness as an architectural design material, and aesthetic appeal for sustainable design where long-term performance is expected. In addition to this, it is a ready solution to tackle potential health hazards with its anti-microbial properties and a nearly 100% recyclable nature.
Transit buildings such as airports and metro rapid mass transport systems have been extensively using stainless steel in various areas such as bollards, column claddings, ticketing counters, escalators, lifts, handrails, canopies, etc. The magnitude of this expansion can be gauged from the fact that a typical moderately-sized metro rail station uses 30-40 tonnes of stainless steel. There are 8 big Indian cities where metro construction is in progress, apart from 17 other cities where projects are under various phases of planning. In addition to this, Indian Railways’ decision to redevelop and modernize 400 railway stations is undergoing in a phased manner. As per government records, around 50 new airports are planned to come up in the next 10 years. Moreover, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is also planning to dedicate portions of 50,000 acres of urban airport land under its territory for building multiplexes, shopping centers, and convention centers. Such projects will generate good demand for stainless steel in the coming future.
In urban infrastructure development, stainless steel is finding its rightful presence in many areas. The National Capital Region has been leading and charting the way for all metros and other cities in the country in terms of urban renewal with a generous use of stainless steel. New Delhi set an example by deploying stainless steel for all bus queue shelters which resulted in a domino effect. Today, one can see stainless steel bus queue shelters even in remote places.
Field experts opine that environments with higher pollution levels or coastal salt exposure cause accelerated deterioration in most materials. This is where stainless steel stands out. For example, the corrosion rates of copper and aluminum are typically 10 to 100 times more than that of stainless steel in such environments. When stainless steel grade and specification choices are selectively made as per need, it can retain its aesthetics for almost a century.
Stainless steel structural elements have become increasingly inevitable for cutting-edge structural designs. High corrosion resistance, coupled with unique properties such as high strength-to-weight ratio, ability to make light-weight structures, and enhanced safety have enabled stainless steel to become a popular choice of materials for ensuring durability and longevity. Foot-over-bridges, if made with stainless steel, will not only have an enhanced life and stability, but will also save upon the maintenance costs and an everyday commuter safety by many folds.
Minimum maintenance and a better campaign life of structures constitute the major demand of various industries. Load-bearing structures made in steel have to face severe problems of corrosion, and therefore need protective coatings (like paint) to prevent any structural deterioration. This requires regular maintenance of these structures resulting in loss of productivity due to traffic disruptions, and increase in maintenance costs. In any industry, productivity and safety need to strike a balance. Therefore, it becomes essential that the choice of material ensures safety and a long service life. Roofing in stainless steel has become a worldwide phenomenon, considering the requirement of maintenance-free operations, along with prevention from damage due to extreme weather conditions.
The various types and grades of stainless steel provide ample scope for innovation. Most structural designs have used the familiar 304L or 316L types from the austenitic family of stainless steel. It is interesting to note that the duplex stainless steel family presents a much greater potential for light-structural applications. Many architects and engineers are unaware of this interesting stainless steel alloy family.
Recently, Ministry of Steel, Government of India, created a task force to increase the overall steel and stainless steel demand in the country. One of the prime focuses of this task force is to explain the importance of life cycle cost analysis in selection of material to various other ministries in the government for their respective projects. These include the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Road, Transport, and Highways, Ministry of Railways, and others. Such initiatives are likely to help stainless steel in becoming an optimum material of choice in transit building applications.