Nothing captivates attention quite like stainless steel. Any appliance that incorporates stainless steel becomes instantly more appealing, and any building that incorporates it into the design looks more innovative.
Stainless steel is truly in a league of its own. A combination of durability, aesthetics, low maintenance, and sustainability makes stainless steel a go-to material for builders, remodelers, contractors, and other design-build professionals.
The ever-growing demand for stainless steel has led manufacturers to focus on creating innovative and stylish outdoor products. As outdoor living and sustainability become increasingly important to the design community, these companies, among others, have uncovered unique reasons why stainless steel is such a widely popular building material.
Stainless Steel & Recycling
“I definitely believe that sustainability is one of the more important factors in the popularity of stainless steel. I also think its durability and aesthetic appeal play into its growth,” explained Praveen Sood, retail and product marketing manager at Feeney, Inc., a company that specializes in stainless steel cable railing systems.
Stainless steel is made from iron, chromium, nickel and molybdenum, making it easy and cost effective to recycle. According to the International Stainless Steel Forum, stainless steel is composed of 25% old scrap products, 35% new scrap that is returning from production, and 40% new raw material. As a result, it becomes a product with not only design appeal, but broad environmental appeal as well.
Stainless steel is 100% recyclable with no degradation; a rare feat amongst building products. And, according to the ISSF, roughly 92% of stainless steel used in architecture, building, and construction around the world is recaptured and recycled at the end of the project’s lifetime.
In addition, the Specialty Steel Industry of North America estimates that of the stainless steel produced in North America, the post-consumer recycled content rate is 75% to 85%. The reason this isn’t even higher is that the very long use cycle and increased demand for stainless steel have reduced the available supply of post-consumer recycled stainless steel.
Sood explained that because so much building material often gets tossed away, stainless steel has the potential to play a big role in the recycling movement. Because of its extreme durability and long life-span, the amount of waste in landfills is significantly reduced. Additionally, due to its high scrap value, stainless steel rarely finds its way into disposal sites, but when it does, it has no damaging effect on soil or water. Therefore, stainless steel becomes an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to the environmental consciousness movement.
Stainless Steel & Durability
Sustainability and durability go hand in hand. If a product claims to be sustainable but doesn’t have a long lifespan, can it really be considered “green?” Stainless steel boasts a balance of both. It is made to withstand the test of time and extremely harsh weather conditions, provided that it’s properly maintained. Because its products are available nationwide, Feeney has to ensure its products can endure harsh conditions from snow to salt water in the air, while maintaining the original design aesthetic.
“While stainless steel is typically very low maintenance, people should always remember that it is stain-LESS—not stain-FREE—and will require some maintenance, depending on how and where it’s used,” Sood said. And, even though stainless steel does not chip or crack, it can tarnish and even corrode if not properly protected and maintained. Stainless steel maintenance, while necessary, is not a challenging task since companies like Feeney, Inc. produce stainless steel cleaners and protectants, such as its SteelRenewal and SteelProtect.
Stainless Steel & Design
Versatility is also one of the many appealing traits of stainless steel, which begs the question: how is this material being used? Traditionally, stainless steel has either been used in kitchen appliances or as a conventional building material. But as it grows in popularity, the innovative ways it’s being utilized are also expanding, including in the realm of outdoor living.
Though outdoor kitchen cabinetry may be made from 100% stainless steel, they don’t resemble the classic material commonly seen in everyday home appliances.
“With competent design, stainless steel can be used for many more applications than typically thought. We are constantly asked if we can use the material in various innovative design projects,” said Mitch Slater, president of Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens. “The use of powder coat finishes enables us to design outdoor kitchens without sacrificing the style that is typically found indoors. This type of finishing technology allows us to create a look that you wouldn’t normally find, such as various wood grains or colors that allow for a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor living spaces.”
Without compromising style, manufacturers are able to create spaces that are welcoming, functional, and weather proof, which in conjunction have increased the popularity of outdoor living.
Feeney is also at the forefront when it comes to incorporating stainless steel into its cable railing products. With nationwide distribution, Feeney has to ensure its products can endure harsh conditions from snow to salt water in the air, while maintaining the original aesthetic.
“Just seeing the number of ways that companies are using the material has been interesting to watch,” said Sood. “It’s gone from primarily an industrial material, to consumer products, to residential and commercial interiors, and now we’re seeing it continue to grow into really innovative applications in building envelopes, exterior living spaces such as decks, and even landscaping. It’s proven to be incredibly versatile.”
Stainless Steel & Adaptability
For any building product, adaptability is important. Gama Sonic, a manufacturer of solar-powered outdoor lighting, answered when customers longed for a modern-style, durable, product by developing the Bollard, made entirely from stainless steel. This new addition to its already extensive line of outdoor lighting solutions is an energy and cost-effective solution for illuminating walkways, driveways, and sidewalks. And, better yet, it also features the company’s EZ Anchor Mounting System, making the installation process easy.
“The main reason for creating this product was really a market demand. We know that people are looking for stainless steel fixtures, particularly for landscape lighting,” said Itay Parness, vice president of sales and marketing at Gama Sonic. “The natural sustainability of the material combined with our new solar LED bulb technology results in a highly energy-efficient, highly-green product.”
Similarly, Danver is also experiencing increased market demand when it comes to stainless steel. “Since stainless steel has so many valuable traits, it’s the choice material for the design community. However, because we can change its appearance with different finishes and custom colors, the material can easily adapt to any living space.” Slater explained. “This opens up many options for the designer, architect or builder to create unique spaces indoors or outdoors without compromise.”
Being able to balance beautiful designs with a well-deserved trust of the material is what makes stainless steel the ultimate building material for architects, builders, and interior designers everywhere.
At the end of the day, functionality, durability, low maintenance, and aesthetics are the main deciding factors for any appliance or building product. For homeowners, stainless steel is a statement and a symbol of quality but architects and builders know that stainless steel is more than just a good looking building product; it is the building product that’s here to change the industry. Trends will come and go, but stainless steel is here to stay.