You are on page 1of 19

Sustainable Architecture with Stainless Steel

Esko Miettinen, Architect SAFA, Stelos Oy, Helsinki

Presentation on the occasion of the conference
Creative Architecture with Stainless Steel
jointly organised by Euro Inox, Brussels, Belgium and
Cedinox, Madrid, Spain, on 12th March 2002 in Barcelona


Stainless steel
Stainless steel is the common name for all steel
grades that contain at least 10.5% chromium.
Chromium improves the corrosion resistance of
stainless steels. In addition to iron and chromium,
stainless steels contain other alloying metals, of
which the most important ones are nickel and
molybdenum. The combination of chromium and
oxygen leads to the formation of a chromium-rich
passive layer on the surface of the steel. This
layer protects the steel, and reforms over time, if
The first stainless steel grades were developed in
the 1910s. Thus, the first austenitic and martensitic stainless steels were developed just before
the First World War. The industrial manufacture of
stainless steel started in the 1920s.
Most of the standard stainless steel alloys in use
today were developed between 1913 and 1935 in
Britain, Germany, the United States and France.
With the introduction of standard alloys, it was
possible to concentrate on more economical production methods and on promoting the use of
stainless steel.
The extremely strong and corrosion-resistant molybdenum alloyed stainless steel grades were first
developed in the 1970s.
Long-term durability
Provided stainless steel structures are carefully designed and the steel is correctly selected, treated
and maintained, the theoretical service life of
stainless steel structures is hundreds of years. A
rough estimate of the successful design and durability of the structure can be made after just a few
years. A good rule of thumb is that, if there are no
rust stains during the first years, the probability of
corrosion later is low.

Environmental properties
The environmental impact of the manufacture and
use of materials and products can be measured
by the amounts of, e.g. various emissions and
their environmental impact, as well as by energy
demand. The values and the decision-making process of consumers and business partners today are
based not only on the traditional values, but also
on environmental impact. An environmentally
friendly product is valued highly in selection situations. Legislation in recent years has also emphasised environmental values more than before.
Stainless steel is mainly manufactured from recycled stainless and carbon steel. The utilisation
of recycled raw material reduces the energy demand of the manufacturing process, as well as
the amount of waste and emissions.

Stainless steel raw materials

Scrap metal


Stainless steel itself is 100% recyclable. Thanks to

the excellent long-term durability of the material,
however, the service lives of the products are extremely long. This reduces the relative consumption of natural resources and energy during the
service life of products made of stainless steel, in
comparison with products made of materials that
deteriorate faster and need to be replaced.


Stainless steel in construction and

Stainless steel was patented at the beginning of
the 20th century by the German company Krupp.
At the same time stainless steel was developed
in England. At first, it was mainly used in the engineering industry in the manufacture of machines
and equipment, and medical instruments, etc.
Then it was gradually introduced into the construction industry.
Chrysler Building, New York, 1930
The Chrysler Building in New York is one of the
significant buildings of the 1920s and 1930s, in
which stainless steel plays a visible role. When
completed in 1930, it was the tallest building in
the world and made the designer, architect William
Van Alen, a celebrity overnight. Today, it is one of
the landmarks of New York.
The Chrysler Building is an entity representing
pure, well-implemented art deco. The good image
of the building, however, is really based on the expressive art deco realisation of the top part, which
is covered with stainless steel.
Chrysler Building,
New York, 1930,
architect William
Van Alen.
Stainless steel
cladding on the
top part of the

Arne Jacobsen,
SAS Hotel,
Stainless steel
has been used in
the shell construction to a
limited extent.

Arne Jacobsen, 1950s and 1960s

The architecture of the Dane Arne Jacobsen is characterised by how he creates the entire surroundings of the buildings in one single style. Jacobsens
office also designed all the furniture and small objects for the buildings, all representing the smallscale design so typical of his larger projects, as
Arne Jacobsen used stainless steel in many of his
well known designs, such as cutlery, coffee pots
etc., as well as in the interior of the buildings, e.g.
in stair rails, and to some extent also in external
cladding elements. The furniture and small objects
originally designed for architectural entities have
started to live a life of their own outside the buildings. They are essential ingredients of the classic
modernism of the 1950s and 1960s, and most of
them are still being sold in different parts of the
Small stainless
steel objects
designed by Arne
Jacobsen for
various projects
in the 1950s and
1960s, still being
sold today.


Lloyds of London, 1970s

The Lloyds of London building was realised on the
basis of the English architect Richard Rogers winning entry in an invitational competition. The main
philosophy of the design was to locate the staircases and the building systems on the outside of
the building, in order to produce clarity in the interior spaces. Stainless steel has been used as
cladding on the technical units. The building
blends excellently into the townscape of the City.

At close range, it creates an effective contrast to

the surrounding blocks. The controlled, plastic
shapes of the technical parts of the building make
an unforgettable sight in the enclosed urban
Stainless steel is clearly a significant material in
the external architecture of Lloyds of London. The
frame of the building is made of reinforced concrete, built using prefabricated parts.

Lloyds of London, 1984,

architect Richard Rogers.
Stainless steel used as a
cladding material plays
a significant role in the


Bibliothque Nationale de France,

the National Library of France,
Paris, 1995,
architect Dominique Perrault.
Pedestrian level.

National Library of France, 1990s

The new National Library of France (Bibliothque
Nationale de France), which was designed by
architect Dominique Perrault on the basis of a
winning competition entry, was completed in Paris
in 1995. It was one of the significant construction
projects during Franois Mitterrands presidency.
The building was widely acclaimed in the press
all over the world. Reports highlighted the space
concept, form language and connections with
classic modernism, e.g. Mies van der Rohes architecture during his stay in America. Another focus
of interest was the technological character of the
building, such as the methods of transferring
books from the storerooms in the towers to the
reading rooms.
The library may also be reviewed on the basis of
materials used and the selected implementation
methods. The reinforced concrete frame of the
building has been realised in a very high-quality
manner. The shell structure consists mostly of
tropical wood, glass and a higher alloyed stainless
steel. Stainless steel is very visibly present also in

the interior spaces, with, e.g. woven metal on the

walls and ceilings, combined with natural-colour
reinforced concrete, textiles (e.g. the red wall-towall carpeting in the entrance lobby) and reddish
tropical wood.
The external shell of the library is logically realised
with three materials. One of them is stainless
steel, used in its various finishes as matte surface
plates and woven lattices. The building mass also
encompasses trees and bushes, surrounded by
frames made of stainless steel wire. A small wooded area forms the central external space of the
building, with the main entrance passage opening
into it and the tall public facilities of the library
grouped round it. The consistency of high-quality
materials in the external shell and the mass division of the building lend credibility to the external
National Library of France,
Paris, interior views.
Interior materials include
reinforced concrete, wood,
stainless steel and carpeting.


Ludwig-Erhard-Haus, Berlin
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Stock
Exchange Building, designed in 1994-1998 as the
communication and service centre of the commercial and industrial circles of Berlin, is located in the
western centre of the town, the Charlottenburg
The building was designed by architect Nicholas
Grimshaw on the basis of the winning entry in an
invitational competition. The basic idea of the
design was a low-rise solution that would support
the townscape, and a suspended structure of the
central building mass. The building combines the
traditional modern architecture of the office section with the strongly structural organic expression
and the requirements of ecology.
The stainless steel used in the external shell of
the building and in the cast cladding of the steel
arches at ground level gives the building yet another dimension.
The design work was based on adapting the requirements of new technology and the diverse operations as well as the eye-catching architecture to the
existing old environment. The load-bearing structure of the building comprises 15 steel arches, from
which the top nine floors are suspended. This has
maximised the free space. The elliptical steel arches
were prefabricated at a factory. The street faade is a
separate, light structure supported on steel arches.
This makes the central mass of the building resemble a suspension bridge structure.
The building is equipped with natural ventilation.
The atriums serve as regulators of ventilation in the
workspaces. The solar control system incorporated
in the faades reduces the need for artificial lighting.

Berlin, 1998, architect
Nicholas Grimshaw.
The external cladding consists exclusively of matte
surface stainless steel.


Sony Center, Berlin

In recent years, quite a few office complexes designed by renowned architects, displaying interesting applications of stainless steel, have risen
in Berlin. The Sony Center, completed in 2000 in
downtown Berlin on Potsdamer Platz, contains
not only offices but also commercial premises.
The mass division of the building complex designed by Helmut Jahn is an example of space
diversity. The faades of the building block are

mostly of stainless steel-glass construction, with

stainless steel used as sections, plates, corrugated sheets and woven surfaces. The Charlemagne
building in Brussels, designed by the same office,
can be described as a much more enclosed administrative building in spirit, while the Sony Center
in Berlin opens up in many directions, making it
an easy-to-access block with a versatile space

Sony Center, Berlin, 2000,

architect Helmut Jahn.
Translucent roof of the
central courtyard.

Sony Center,
faade mainly of
stainless steel and


Diversification of stainless steel applications

The examples of stainless steel applications in
architecture are also reflective of the widening of
applications in construction. The use of stainless
steel has increased considerably and the applications of the material have become more diversified in significant European building projects in
the 1990s. Many of the applications involve shell
structures, such as faades and faade components.
In addition, stainless steel has become a material
for load-bearing structures, e.g. stainless steel
frames and concrete reinforcement bars. Stainless
steel surfaces have traditionally been bright, either
ground or polished. Matte surface stainless steel,
however, is gaining in popularity in shell structures.
Woven stainless steel surfaces in the interior and
exterior spaces of buildings are a completely new
phenomenon. In external spaces, they are mainly
used in cold structures such as wind shields and

Nokia Head Office,

Espoo, Finland, 1996,
architect Pekka Helin.
The double faade structure is consistently realised with stainless steel.

Real Estate Company viinikantu 47,

computer house Nixdorf, Tampere,
Finland, 1990,
architect Antti Katajamkj.
Faade cladding consists of stainless steel cassettes.

sunscreens. Lately, faade components have also

been realised as cast stainless steel structures.
An example of this is the Ludwig-Erhard-Haus, the
Stock Exchange building, completed in Berlin in
late 1990s, which has a prefabricated steel frame
and a stainless steel envelope.
Less than one hundred years after its invention,
the properties of stainless steel are being utilised
in all building parts, from cladding to load-bearing
and supplementary structures.

The Petronas Towers,

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
1997, architect Cesar Pelli.
The stainless steel faade
structures on the head
office of the oil company
also serve as sunscreens.
The doubletower of the
building rises to a height
of 452 m.


Public building
The use of stainless steel in the structures and
buildings of public transport services started in
the 1960s and 1970s. The long service life and
ease of maintenance make stainless steel an ideal
material in structures that serve large crowds of
people, such as railway and metro stations, bus
stops, ship terminals, and airports, etc.

Metro sign made

of acrylic resin
and stainless
steel, architect
Esko Miettinen,
late 1980s.
The signs of Helsinki Metro
are integrated into a consistent system, which is
part of the station architecture. The sign system was
designed by architects
Ola Laiho, Esko Miettinen,
Esa Piironen, 1970-82.

Helsinki Metro
The planning of Helsinki Metro started towards the
end of the 1960s, and metro traffic began in 1982.
The Helsinki City Metro Office was established for
the planning and construction of the metro system,
and teams of various architectural and engineering
offices were responsible for the design of the stations. The design work also covered the design of
so-called continuous structures, such as the signs
and fixtures as well as the metro trains, all of which
were repeated in similar design throughout the
metro system. The selection of molybdenum (Mo)
containing stainless steel for, e.g. the stations
external doors, lifts, column shields, fixtures and
signs was based on issues related to maintenance
and the corrosive urban atmosphere.

metro station,
Kontio - Kilpi Valjento - Oy.
Station hall.

metro station,
Kaupunkisuunnit-Oy, architects Jaakko
Ylinen, Jarmo
Station plattform.

metro station,
total design Oy
City Consult Ab,
Bjrkstam - Heino
- Kostiainen Ky.


Extension of AvestaPolarit head office

Tornio, Finland, 1996
Architect Eero Eskelinen
In the summer of 1992, planning work was started
for the extension and faade renovation of the
Finnish stainless steel producers head office built
in the late 1960s. Owing to the loose industrial
plan, the extent of additional building and the mass
division could be determined as desired. The traffic
routes in the area act as natural limits to the building area. The new narrow-framed extension, a little
over 1,000 m2 in size and three storeys in height,
is connected in a straight angle to the existing twostorey office building, which is almost 100 m long.
The straight-angle layout allows for two more extension units of similar size to be added later.
A spacious, two-storey high lobby connects the old
and the new building, with a rather narrow bridgelike access ramp between the buildings on the first
floor level. The panorama lift in the extension part
opens up into this entrance lobby. In the stepped
eastern side of the building the room division is
almost fixed. The size of the office rooms on the
western side, on the other hand, can be altered.
The central mass rising above the second floor acts
as a collecting core of the building mass, with the
eastern side opening up through a continuous
upper window to the central passage of the second

Plan drawing, connection

between old and new
building parts.

Site plan.

floor. The floodlight mast, which is intended for

illumination of external areas, is connected with
the building and its architecture. The extension
part is located on the south side of the old office,
partly on top of it by the main entrance on the
north side. The entrance has been made prominent
with a new protruding vestibule and a canopy on
the north side, which also tie the architectural features of the old and new part together using the
form language, materials and details of the new

Western elevation.


The main faade material in the new building is

Mo-containing stainless steel (EN 1.4401).
The tall central core mass of the new part is covered
with composite panels, in which two thin-gauge
stainless steel sheets have been joined together
using a stiffening intermediate material. The external surface is 0.8 mm Mo-containing steel with
a ground surface finish and an embossed pattern.
The cladding on the outer faade surfaces consists
of 150 mm high, 1.0 mm thick profiled type 1.4401
stainless steel panels. The panels have a ground
surface finish.
The windows on the southeastern side of the building are protected with suspended inclined sunscreen gratings made of stainless steel. The sunscreens on the western side are a little over 12m
high stainless steel grating walls with foundations
in the ground. The spacing and the mesh of the
grating walls follow the basic room module.
The floodlight tower of lattice construction, at the
south end of the building, is covered with perforated Mo-containing sheets. Vertical luminaire rows
are mounted in the inside corners of the tower,
making it appear as a vertical light beam in the

Eastern elevation.

The building seen

from the south.




Nokia Head Office

Keilalahti, Espoo
Finland, 1996
Architect Pekka Helin
The office building is located at a junction of Lnsivyl arterial road and Ring Road I, some 8 km
from the centre of Helsinki and 2 km from the regional centre of Tapiola and from the Otaniemi
area. The sea surrounds most of the building. The
large total volume has been organised using human scale and proportions, and the building is
characterised by lightness, airiness and careful details, which together with the space solution create
a modern and original working environment.

Site plan.

Space solution
The facilities reserved for offices and product development can be altered. The room division can be
based on combi-offices or individual offices, or a
landscape office. The working and service facilities
wind round two large atriums. The ground floor
contains common service facilities: a restaurant, a
cafeteria, conference and meeting rooms, an auditorium, exhibition space, as well as a gym, dressing rooms and washrooms, etc.

Main entrance,
the stainless steel
faade reflects



Steel structures
In addition to their functional purpose, the visible
steel structures influence the architectural appearance of the building considerably. The double faade, the first one in Finland, is supported on a frame structure that consists of (grade EN 1.4401)
stainless steel profiles. The frame structure itself is
fixed to the concrete faade and suspended from
the canopy structures on the roof of the building.
The aluminium maintenance grilles on each floor
are also supported by the frame structure. The additional glass surface and the auxiliary structures
of the double faade reduce the consumption of
cooling and heating energy. In addition to these
ecological functions, it also acts as an architectural

Western views.
Faades made of
steel and glass.

Plan drawings.



Sanomatalo Publishing House building

Helsinki, 1999
Antti-Matti Siikala, Professor Jan Sderlund
In 1995, Sanoma Osakeyhti arranged an invitation competition for the design of a new building
for their newspaper publishing house in downtown Helsinki in the Tlnlahti area, near the
Parliament House and the railway station. The
9-storey building houses, e.g. the editorial offices
of Helsingin Sanomat, Ilta-Sanomat and TalousSanomat. The ground floor and the first floor are
reserved for shops, galleries and restaurant facilities, which can be accessed from the pedestrian
passages. All in all, the building is the work place
of some 1,000 people.
The base plan of the Sanomatalo building is a
square, diagonally divided by two public pedestrian passages. The space between the passages, on the northern side of the building, is formed into a full-height town space, the Media
Market, which opens up to Tlnlahti through
the 35-m tall glass wall.
The open character of the building is emphasised
by the extensive use of glass on the external faades, realised as double faades on the sections
containing the office facilities. A second faade

Western elevation

Northern elevation

Northern view.



consisting of single-glass panes is mounted at a

distance of 90 cm from the actual glass faade, to
serve as weather protection. This solution makes it
easier to control the indoor air quality. The external
faade structures are made of glass-bead blasted
stainless steel, grade EN 1.4401, mainly selected
for the low maintenance demand of the material.
Brown oxidised corrugated and plain copper
sheeting are also used on the surface cladding.
The inside glass walls of the double glass faades
are made of floor-height 2.7-m wide glass units
with steel frames, prefabricated at the factory. The
outermost glass panes are supported from the
edge of the intermediate floor slab on each floor,
using stainless steel structures. The outermost
glass wall continues as a cantilevered wall on the
corners and on the roof terrace of the building. The
steel frame of the inside faade elements and the
stainless support structures of the outermost glass
panes are all made of welded profiles.

Plan drawing, 1st floor

Gross area 43,000 m2

Volume 231,000 m3

Plan drawing, ground floor

The faade structures are located

on the outside of
the glass wall.



Ruohoparkki Car Park

Helsinki, 1999
Architect VP Tuominen
At the turn of 1994-1995, a design and bidding
competition was arranged to build a multi-storey
car park in the Ruoholahti area of Helsinki.
The competition proved difficult, as the car park
is exceptionally large, with 10-11 storeys required.
The location of the car park in the new town section of Ruoholahti, which would later be filled up
by office blocks not yet planned or built at that
time, at the end of the western radial road leading
to Helsinki, specified great requirements on the
architecture, faade materials and preliminary
layout of the building.
The building was realised using thin-gauge stainless steel sheet as well as thin plastered, ground
and painted concrete in the faade structures. The
objective of this solution was to create a whole but

Elevation toward Itmerenkatu Street.

Elevation toward Porkkalankatu Street.

The faade reacts

sensetivley to variations
in lightning conditions.



still versatile entity into the townscape. The properties of the chosen faade materials made it possible to use a simple form language that contains all
the necessary functional, economical and technical
The steel faade parts are made of stainless steel
sheet, 1.25 mm in thickness, perforated and profiled as a stiff structure. The profiled sections are
fixed on the raised horizontal stainless steel strips
of the intermediate floors. The perforated sections
act as windows and replacement air vents. On
faades, stainless steel is a low maintenance
material in urban surroundings and marine atmosphere.


Floor area 25,300 m2

Volume 74,000 m3
Parking spaces 790

Plan drawing

Elevation toward
Porkkalankatu Street



Villa Inox Single family house

Tuusula Housing Fair 2000, Finland
Architect Esko Miettinen
The central theme of Villa Inox is space, the relationship between internal and external space, for example. The plan is of semi-open type, with spaces
designed for family get-togethers, but also private
spaces for every family member. Moving outdoors
from the inside has been made as easy as possible.
Each room has its own outdoor extension space,
which on the ground floor is part of the courtyard
and on the upper floor a balcony. The surrounding
nature has been brought inside the house, e.g.
through the floor-level windows in the living room
and in the vestibule.
The main mass of the house is built on a column
frame. The frame columns are almost completely
visible in the two-storey tall living room. The loadbearing frames are made of stainless steel and the
intermediate floor of the two-storey main mass is
supported on the beams of the stainless steel
frames. The walls in the single-storey part of the
house are load-bearing.
The external walls are of Termo purlin construction
and the load-bearing frame is a heated structure.
The partition walls have steel frames. The loadbearing frame of the car shelter is made of stainless steel as a cold structure. The Termo purlin
element structure is covered with half-lap boarding
fixed on battens. The building frame and the wall
elements mounted on the frame were prefabricated.
The frame structure and the construction method
based on elements allowed for a short building
time, only some three months.

Site plan

The stainless steel

frame is visible in
the internal spaces.



The load-bearing column frames of the house are
made of stainless steel. The surface finish of the
steel is in internal spaces mostly ground while
pickled steel is used in the garage. The vestibule at
the main entrance, the balconies and the staircase
are also made of stainless steel.
The internal cladding of the element walls consists
of painted gypsum board. Flooring is beech parquet and ceramic tile. At the request of the lady of
the house, the worktops in the kitchen and in the
laundry room were mainly made of stainless steel.
The uniform impression of the internal spaces is
emphasised, e.g. by the identical pull handles and
skirting structures, all made of stainless steel.
The roofing and the window sills are made of copper. The downpipes, the fence posts and the frames of the external staircases are made of stainless steel. Part of the external cladding is also
stainless steel.
4 rooms, kitchen, laundry room, sauna section, car
shelter, storeroom, technical space

Southern elevation

Northern elevation

Eastern elevation

Gross area 178 m2

Net apartment area 159 m2
Plot area 722 m2

Western elevation

Plan drawing, 1st floor

Plan drawing, ground floor