The Use of Metal on Airport Exteriors is Taking Off 

Metal is showing up more frequently on newly-constructed airport exteriors across the country. The trend signals a see-and-avoid juncture for airport construction specifiers mindful that some metal products are less suitable for airport settings than others – those that have reflective properties, require paint, or corrode when exposed to jet fuel emissions. Not so with Contrarian Metal Resources’ InvariMatte®, a corrosion-resistant, uncoated stainless steel finish with low glare and a long lifecycle.

The InvariMatte® finish recently has been used on several major airport projects in the United States, including the Jamaica AirTrain JFK Terminal in New York, an expansion at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Michigan, and the Scottsdale Aircenter in Arizona. InvariMatte® was chosen for these projects because of its dependable characteristics and uniform appearance.

In addition to sun, wind and precipitation, airport exteriors are continually exposed to jet fuel residue, earth-rumbling engines and the repercussions of heavy traffic. The materials used to construct these exteriors must stand up to these elements and maintain an aesthetic standard. Stainless steel accomplishes both goals.

InvariMatte® resists the threat of corrosion from atmospheric conditions and trapped moisture.

Data collected from the Nickel Development Institute indicates that aluminum, a common alternative to stainless steel, corrodes several times faster. While a layer of paint is effective for extending the life of an aluminum panel, it can actually have a detrimental effect on corrosion resistance if that layer is breached and moisture is trapped at the metal interface. Incidental damage to roof panels – punctures in the paint, or dents and dings – can easily occur from routine maintenance or weather events, such as hailstorms. If moisture and contaminants - like sulfur dioxide and chlorides - are trapped at the metal surface, rapid deterioration, known as crevice corrosion, will occur.

Fortunately, with InvariMatte®, no paint is needed, allowing the natural beauty of stainless steel to shine through.

No Chance for Paint Deterioration
Aside from physical damage done to them, painted surfaces do not stand up well in an airport environment because of jet fuel residue. Kerosene-based fuels will act as solvents when particles come in contact with painted exteriors. While some floor paint formulations are resistant to jet fuel, none is available for coil-coated applications. More to the point, however, is the fact that “resistance” to jet fuel does not equate with “imperviousness.” The InvariMatte® finish is able to make the claim that it is impervious to jet fuel.

Low Glare
In addition to being visually uniform, Contrarian’s InvariMatte® has low reflectivity compared to typical stainless steel finishes. For that reason, it can be used on airports as prominently visible exterior walls and roofs with no risk of glare or reflection that could compromise a pilot’s sight. InvariMatte® has lower gloss (<20 at 85 degrees Fahrenheit) than many paint finishes.

Low Lifecycle Cost
Considering the high cost of service disruption at an air terminal, not to mention security issues, a permanent stainless steel roof system is a logical and cost-effective choice. While titanium will perform beautifully from a sustainability standpoint, it’s expensive in comparison to stainless steel. Likewise, a less costly alternative, aluminum, painted or not, requires maintenance or replacement at some point during its lifecycle, which makes it more costly overall.

Type 304 or 304L InvariMatte® stainless steel can be expected to last the useful life of an air terminal building with little maintenance. Gutters should be kept clear and panels may need to be cleaned for cosmetic reasons, but these are minimal necessities as compared to alternative products.

Recent Airport Applications for InvariMatte®
Jamaica AirTrain JFK Terminal in New York is a $389 million multimodal transfer point that links the new light rail system from JFK International Airport to the Long Island Railroad, New York City Transit subway lines, and ground transportation centers. About 8,500 of the airport’s 32,000 daily passengers arrive or depart from the terminal.

Reflectivity was a concern not only for pilots and airport personnel, but also for those who live and work in surrounding high-rise buildings and condominiums. “InvariMatte® is a sensible choice as a cladding material in dense urban environments,” says Contrarian Metal Resources President Jim Halliday. “While stainless steel addresses corrosion and paint failure concerns due to smog and jet fuel residue, other stainless steel finishes are just too bright to be used in glare-sensitive locations like transportation centers.”

InvariMatte® was also specified for its longevity and low-reflectivity at Detroit Metroploitan Wayne County Airport and Scottsdale Aircenter. When construction began in 2001 at the $1.2 billion Edward H. McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro, it was one of the largest construction projects in the United States. The redevelopment and expansion project solves operational and structural problems and readied the airport for forecasted growth in air traffic and passengers.

Scottsdale Aircenter, a full-service Fixed Base Operator at Scottsdale Airport, opened in 2003. Construction is underway on an expansion project that will add more than 100,000 square feet of hangar and office space.

InvariMatte® is a non-directional, low gloss, uniformly textured stainless steel finish designed for architectural applications. While its lower reflectivity lends itself to roofing applications, it can be applied to wall panels, coping and trim. The superb consistency of this finish results in excellent panel-to-panel matching. Since InvariMatte has no coatings to deteriorate, it will last indefinitely with little maintenance. InvariMatte is readily welded or soldered and available in coils and cut lengths up to 288 inches and widths ranging from 0.75 to 49 inches. Because stainless steel is dimensionally stable up to 2000-degrees Fahrenheit, InvariMatte® provides an added measure of protection in the event of a fire. Contrarian Metal Resources offers a 30-year warranty on Grades 304, 304L, 316, and 316L.
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