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The metal of choice

Materials

Ajit Advani, CEO, International Copper Promotion Council (India) brings out the growing significance of copper for the Indian MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) segment

In a broader sense, quality in the construction industry is determined only if all the aspects governing a building structure withstand the test of time. Since electricity and water are the only two dynamic forces in a building, it is logical that electrical installation and plumbing are the most important means of enhancing the life of a structure.

Among the materials, copper is one of the most reliable and efficient media for transmitting electric power and thermal energy. Electricity flowing through copper wires meets far less resistance than it would in aluminium or steel wires of the same width. In fact, copper is a better electrical conductor than any other metal except silver, making it the most inexpensive and efficient electrical conductor available. Using copper wires results in lower electrical transmission losses and thus conserves energy and reduces demand.

New constructions must have quality copper wiring for a safe tomorrow. Copper has 40% higher conductivity, higher efficiency, does not corrode easily, has a higher melting point, can be terminated easily and is more flexible than competing materials. Copper can withstand higher overloads thereby increasing the conductor life. Thus, the danger of fire hazard is greatly reduced with copper.

Endurance test

It’s not just as wires and cables where copper makes a foray into the buildings; water carrying pipes are also available in copper. In fact, copper plumbing is the most proven plumbing system in the world that dates back to over 5000 years.

Although the initial cost is marginally higher, copper plumbing systems offer unique benefits such as leak proof jointing and corrosion resistance thus ensuring zero-maintenance operations. This means no incurrence of repair costs for replacing leaking parts, and repairing broken tiles for an entire lifetime of the plumbing system. Copper plumbing system also has a life of 60-plus years unlike conventional plumbing that does not last for more than 15 years.

When it comes to water distribution, today copper is the quality standard accepted by building codes across the country. Compared to other plumbing materials, using copper can offer significant benefits to health, safety and economic terms. Copper is impermeable and biostatic – contaminants don’t penetrate it, and copper surfaces actually inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Copper tubing and fittings won’t burn or melt in case of a fire. And, in the long run, the cost of copper plumbing systems is equal to or less than other materials when repairs and higher home resale values are factored in.

Unlike other plumbing materials, copper retains its value as it is completely recyclable. This benefits both the environment and the plumbing profession. Home owners benefit as well, since their homes are more valuable with genuine copper plumbing, and more and more people today are concerned about the world’s natural resources.

Copper is possibly the greenest commonly used architectural metal today. It plays an essential role in the modern building from recycled cladding and roofing systems to high-tech plumbing and heating systems using tube and fittings manufactured from recycled copper. Even the wire and cable systems and monitoring equipment depend on upsized copper wire to maximise system efficiency, eliminate power quality issues and thus play a key role in green power systems.

Mission transmission

In view of rising energy costs, there is also an increased interest in creating energy efficiency and the benefits of environment-friendly green buildings. There is a growing motivation to integrate sustainable and green features into buildings as they improve the living and working environment.

Use of copper facilitates in enhancing the green factor. Naturally resistant to weather and decay, copper can also be alloyed with other commonly available metals to increase strength, performance characteristics and colour. Copper is also tarnish resistant thus making it an important material for sustainable, green building projects.

The building industry has long valued the beauty, longevity and practicality of copper. Its high ductility makes it easily pliable so it is ideal for cladding complicated details and shapes. Copper and its alloys are also used in the manufacture of interior design fixtures and decorative objects. Handles, door knobs and lock cylinders made from copper are current hardware items found in homes globally.

Copper sheets are light weight, easy to join, visually attractive and extremely durable. It resists attacks by air and moisture. Copper alloys such as bronzes and brasses (copper, alloyed with aluminium and zinc principally) are used in architectural design thus offering a variety of colours and finishes.

The metal is also a key component of many energy-saving technologies. For instance, passive solar water heating systems employ copper to capture and convert sunlight into heat. Copper heat exchangers efficiently transfer the thermal energy absorbed by the solar collector to the home’s hot water system. Sunlight is abundant, and even where it is not readily available, can supplement a home’s hot water needs virtually cost-free once a system is installed. 

Copper provides intangible benefits. In the era of global warming and GHG emissions, copper assumes a significant role as the metal of choice to support sustainable buildings. As the only metal with proven anti-microbial properties, it opens new avenues in infection control as well.

Thus the adoption of energy efficient copper products can offer immense benefits to the user as well as the country and the global environment. It naturally remains the metal of choice in the present and future markets.

About International Copper Promotion

The International Copper Promotion Council (India), (ICPCI) is the Indian centre of the International Copper Association Limited, an organisation for the promotion of copper worldwide. ICPCI is driven by the same objective as its parent organisation, which is to promote the beneficial usage of copper to health, environment and energy needs.

ICPCI’s activities focus on helping end-users to exploit the positive attributes of copper better. ICPCI actively promotes copper through seminars, workshops and training programmes across India, in collaboration with other organisations, institutions and trade bodies. For more information, visit: www.copperindia.org

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