Architects and construction contractors have long known of the benefits of stainless steel for any number of uses in buildings and other structures, including siding, roofing, steps, staircases and exterior and interior railings. Those benefits include an attractive appearance, low maintenance requirements and increased safety, especially for railings on both the inside and outside of buildings and concourses.
Stainless grades made with molybdenum, particularly Type 316, are well suited to structural architectural applications. Stainless steel is often used to tie masonry and stone assemblies together, as well as to connect elaborate glass structures. Stainless helps highlight structural detail in new designs as part of the architectural form.
The corrosion resistance of stainless is one of its major attributes, especially for architectural applications in coastal areas. Gary Carinci, president of Pittsburgh-based TMR Stainless, has said that 316 grades "are the most cost-effective choices in many environments" and are necessary in aggressive coastal applications where handrails and other structures are exposed directly to salt water.
Others who have worked with stainless applications in architecture and design have noted that an appropriate grade of stainless steel can withstand the ravages of pollution, salt, wind and water. It also can provide hundreds of years of service.
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, architects and designers also began to appreciate the fire resistance of stainless grades. Although perhaps no metal could have contained the inferno that erupted in the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center following the eruption of thousands of gallons of jet fuel, stainless is as close to fire resistant as any metal known to man.
Copper and aluminum begin to lose strength at relatively low temperatures, and most carbon steels experience significant strength reduction at about 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Most grades of stainless, however, can handle short exposure to temperatures as high as 1,600 degrees F.