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Aluminum | The great bet of sustainability



When thinking about a construction, be it a bridge or a building, aluminum has several advantages. Starting with the fact that it needs no maintenance for 75 years. Because of this sustainability, AluQuébec, the aluminum cluster, is stepping up its efforts to convince various players in the province to take the aluminum shift. And quietly, she sees behaviors changing.

“While we are talking more and more about sustainable purchasing, we are starting to see calls for tenders which mention that the work must be made of aluminium, and since it is generally a little more expensive to buy than the steel, it is important that it be registered because of the rule of the lowest bidder”, indicates François Racine, president and general manager of AluQuébec.

When looking at the overall cost of using the structure, however, aluminum is more affordable because it does not require maintenance. “To prevent it from rusting, steel requires a lot of maintenance, especially painting, which has a big impact on the environment,” he adds.

Quebec was also a pioneer in the field of aluminum. The Arvida bridge, in Saguenay, inaugurated in 1950, was the first bridge in the world built entirely in white metal. It is 150 meters long and was recognized as a Civil Engineering Historic Site in 2008 by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

Today, all eyes are on Norway, which is doing a lot of research and development to show that aluminum is interesting for infrastructure projects.

François Racine, President and CEO of AluQuébec

“For example, we are currently studying the construction of a suspension bridge of more than one kilometer, which would be a big step forward compared to what has been built so far,” continues François Racine.

Aluminum exterior wall envelopes

Aluminum is also widely used now for the exterior wall envelope of institutional, commercial and multi-residential buildings. Panfab, in Blainville, even offers certain aluminum products at the same price as steel.


Benoit Comeau, technical representative at Panfab

“Aluminum makes for a better product in terms of durability, it’s maintenance-free and for some of the custom architectural panels we make, the price is about the same for steel as it is for aluminum, so you have to stop thinking that cost is a brake,” explains Benoit Comeau, technical representative at Panfab, which has around thirty employees.

And customers respond. “Over the past five years, we have carried out 107 school projects with aluminum panels and 41 hospital projects, in addition to dozens of projects for shopping centers and hundreds of multi-residential buildings”, specifies Benoit Comeau.

Greener Quebec aluminum

Choosing aluminum from Quebec, in addition to being a local purchase, is also a much greener choice than sourcing from abroad.

The carbon footprint of aluminum depends mainly on the source of energy used to produce it and Quebec, due to its hydroelectricity, produces aluminum with a much lower carbon footprint than elsewhere.

François Racine, President and CEO of AluQuébec

It now remains to improve the traceability of aluminum to guide companies in their supply. AluQuébec is working on this, as well as on the issue of recycling.

“Aluminum is infinitely recyclable,” says François Racine. In addition, making recycled aluminum requires only 5% of the energy needed to make primary aluminum. We need to develop the entire value chain, from collection in factories to resellers, to those who do the overhaul. »

Rio Tinto also announced at the end of August an investment of 35 million dollars to build an aluminum recycling center in Arvida. No less than 30,000 tonnes of aluminum will thus be able to be processed from the spring of 2024.

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  • 2
    This is the number of tons of GHG emitted by the production of one ton of aluminum produced with renewable energy, such as hydroelectricity in Quebec. If non-renewable energy, such as coal, is used, it is rather between 16 and 18 tonnes of GHGs that are emitted per tonne of aluminum produced.

    Source: AluQuebec

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