Great post Mike. Use of aluminum to replace wood and composites in deck structures seems like a real winner, particularly from a sustainability point of view. Specifically, you avoid the problems of toxic treatment of wood. You also avoid the rotting and mildew problems with wood. Composites made with recycled plastics and wood dust can't take the load for deck structures. No question that aluminum is a far better structural material. I would guess that svaings on installation would make up for any initial cost premium for a superior material.
What a great idea. The control of safety is a good idea, plus you get the benefit of slower deterioration. What you don't get, though, is the thrill some folks -- like my dad -- get from building a wooden deck that goes on and on and on. My dad built one that went on forever, over many levels as it traveled from the back of the house to an above-ground pool. We all thought it was a major eye-soar. That is, until my parents sold the house to a doctor who bought it for the expansive deck.
I'm with you, Doug. I never cared much for hammer-and-bruised-thumb projects much as my dad tried to drag me in. I remember pounding wooden shingles on the house all summer long when I was a teenager. I loved my Erector Set.
Reading the comments about erector sets brings to mind very happy memories of the myriad of erector set components that I had strewn around the house and the many crazy mechanical contraptions I'd develop. That was my indoctrination to Mechanical Engineering. Now, as a homeowner that has finished a modest size deck/pergola project in my yard last summer, I wish I had known about this system. I'm a big proponent of low-maintenance systems around the house. The aluminum components would have been a blessing especially at the house connection and ground level locations!
This whole Erector Set discussion got me looking online. It seems that Erector Sets have gone the way of Lego, with sets that are designed to build specific toys. When I was a kid, Erector Sets, like Lego, were raw materials. The design was entirely up to the kid. I never knew quite what I was building until I ran out of parts. By the way, some of the sets cost $80 now.
Over the last few months, I've watched a metal structure -- a large multi-unit, six-story retirement home -- constructed in my neighborhood. All metal, from the girders to the shiny walls and pre-form metal stairways. I've been amazed at how much it's like an Erector Set. Huge portions come on large trucks, and 10-story cranes lift them into place. Snap, snap, and the pieces go together. Way more fun to watch than the usual frame stucco here in Albuquerque.
I can easily see how aluminum could be the material of choice in deck structures.
I have been using aluminum structural profiles in machine building since 1990.
They are generally light, corrosion resisitant, (if anodized properly) structurally efficient, cost effective, and they have a predictable yield strength and consistiency. They come in numerous shapes and sizes. I have a cold saw with a 20 foot long table and stock the popular sizes of structural aluminum for machine building.
You wont find any wooden, decks, flowerboxes or other structures in my back yard.
Even the patio furniture is cast aluminum
The deck boards they are making out of recycled wood and plastic look good.
This is a great example of a material option that might be overlooked simply as a result of convention. Most decks are made of wood simply because most decks are made of wood, not necessarily because it's the best material. As engineers, we should constantly be challenging this type of thinking. Maybe the material which is conventionally used is the best one, maybe not - what are the pros and cons? Engineering education is supposed to encourage this kind of critical thinking; how often it succeeds in that goal is probably a question for another thread.
One issue which I didn't see discussed in the article was noise. Obviously a noisy deck could be a nuisance to a neighborhood. Rain on an aluminum deck would sound very different from rain on a wooden deck. Even walking on the deck with hard shoes could be loud depending on how it is designed. These issues could be addressed through testing and simulation.
I'd also like to see a detailed cost breakdown. I could imagine that the lifetime costs of an aluminum deck would be lower due to the lower amount of maintenance required, but would like to see what the numbers say.
Another interesting question would be the environmental impact. Is it possible that aluminum is actually the green option? After all, it is a recyclable material.
Finally, as a metallurgist, I'd like to know more about the castings. Some photos of the castings would be nice. I'd also like to know the alloys used, surface treatment, etc.
Overall, this is an interesting article which will hopefully get engineers thinking about non-traditional material options, not just for their decks. This is exactly what I read Design News for.
Dave, as one of the people at SigmaDek intimately involved with the development of the product since its inception, I'd like to address your comment/concern vis-a-vis noise when walking on an aluminum deck substructure. This matter was dealt with very early on in and thouroughly addressed in our risk register. We engineered a proprietary clip which results in a very robust and secure relationship between the deck board and our SigmaDek substructure. It also provides a much quicker installation time which will be appreciated by the person doing the actual construction. SigmaDek was designed to be deck board neutral thus allowing the consumer to choose the look and features they preferred in a deck board along with the integity of the SigmaDek substructure. Having walked on numerous SigmaDek test decks, I can assure everyone that there is NO perceptable difference in the sound between a wood constructed deck and the SigmDek substructure. I would invite anyone to visit our website www.sigmadek.com to further their understanding of our unique system and attendent benefits as well as view a timelapse video. Thanks everyone for your very encouraging comments and look forward to SigmaDeks immanent launch.
Brian, thanks for responding. How about lifetime costs? It says on your website that the upfront costs may be 25 - 35% higher than a comparable wooden deck. It would be interesting to know how long it takes that initial expenditure to pay for itself. I'd imagine it wouldn't be hard to calculate with some estimates of maintenance cost and the difference in expected lifetime.
Also, what about sustainability? Your website says "safe, strong, sustainable" but it would be interesting to know how it stacks up against wood in that regard. Wood is a renewable material; aluminum is a recyclable material; it would be good to know how they compare. There has been some discussion on this site about the sustainability of aluminum.
There are so many materials that can be used for decks and other outdoor spaces. Choosing the suitable one needs a bit of information to help you choose well. http://www.bclumberstore.com is source of quality materials anddesign tips for your decks.
I haven't seen anything in here about the temperature of the decking. Here in Alabama where we have had too many days this summer with temps of 99° F and heat indices of 110° F, how hot would an aluminun deck be? I walked out on to my wood deck to water the flower boxes and jumped back indoors after only a few steps to look for my sandals. I'd really like to find something that would replace the deck planking, as mine is starting to splinter from age and wear. I am to the point I am about to consider replacing the decking.
For those whom I know will be kind enough to offer suggestions, my deck is all wood (so far,) 16' X 20', and on the east side of the house, where the shade starts at 2:30 in the afternoon and covers the deck by 5:30 or 6:00.
David, while I can't really offer any suggestions relative to what type of decking you could install to reduce the heat situation, I can tell you that aluminum is a fairly poor conductor of heat and therefore would NOT contribute to the overall temperature on your deck. I have taken a section of our aluminum joist and placed it in the sun for several hours during the heat of the day and was able to pick it up with my bare hands.
I suspect the only thing you might be able to do to mitigate the suns effect would be to create some sort of shade either with a pergola, gazebo or awning. Even very light colors get hot under direct exposure to the sun.
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New versions of BASF's Ecovio line are both compostable and designed for either injection molding or thermoforming. These combinations are becoming more common for the single-use bioplastics used in food service and food packaging applications, but are still not widely available.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.