A relative cost comparison of metals can be made between materials, but it should come with a number of caveats.
First and foremost, it is important to note that metal prices are always changing. Metals are commodities and are traded as such. Their value rises and falls with demand, and as global markets dictate. The more common metals such as aluminum, are fairly predictable. Aluminum is the third-most abundant element, after oxygen and silicon. As such, it rises and falls with the cost of electricity. A rare metal such as gold, on the other hand, is far more volatile.
The second aspect to consider is a material’s lifecycle cost. Quality materials used in architectural systems will typically have higher upfront costs. Many of the less expensive options have a short life expectancy, costing more over time.
Third, and last: it is better to measure the installed material than the base material. For most metals, the fabrication and installation costs will be the same. So a metal like copper, which is two or three times more expensive than a steel sheet, might only be 2% more expensive when installed. This is the illusion of cost per square foot when discussing raw materials.
Note that commercial quality standards are rarely to the levels needed for good architectural or ornamental work. Moreover, one mill’s commercial quality may be another mill’s architectural quality; therefore it is always advisable to acquire metal samples that represent the quality a mill can provide.
Comparative costs do not usually account for the maintenance, long- term performance, or weathering characteristics of the metal. These factors, as well as others, must be included to arrive at a true, albeit subjective, conclusion as to which metal is best suited for a particular surface. For up-to-date pricing on these materials, contact Zahner.
A valuable reference tool for anyone evaluating and specifying metals for an architectural project. Download the guide and get access to the information you need to make well-informed decisions about the materials you specify.
The guide includes:
Metal Reflectivity Chart
Metal Thickness Comparison
Relative Costs of Metals
Thermal Movement of Metals
Download the Guide
Comprehensive Metal Guide & Toolkit
Get access to all of the properties and specifications details included in our Specifier’s Guide to Metals—plus information on metal cleaning & maintenance.