Copper In Construction

construction workers

Uses of Copper In Construction

Few metals can hold a candle to copper. It is a vital part of human civilization and development. Copper is a soft, malleable, ductile metal with high thermal and electrical conductivity and good resistance to corrosion. Although copper is used in a wide range of applications, approximately half of the global copper supply makes its way into buildings. On average, one home can contain 439 pounds of copper. 

Copper plays a vital role in construction. Building applications for copper range from heating and plumbing, to roofing and electrical wiring.  Copper tubing has a number of applications and can be found in water pipes, refrigeration lines, heat pumps and HVAC systems. Copper wiring is also required for moving electricity throughout the house and linking to telecommunications and cable networks.

Benefits of Copper In Construction

Copper’s malleability makes it easy to solder,  yet it is strong enough to create the bonds needed for plumbing and electrical wiring. Copper is light and requires little maintenance, and thanks to its resistance to corrosion copper can last for several hundred years. 

It has low thermal expansion, making it stable and resistant to deterioration from movement. It is relatively light compared to lead, and requires little maintenance compared to other metals. It is non-magnetic and has good biofouling resistance, thus is commonly used in the construction industry to form pipes and tubing for potable water distribution and heating and cooling systems. Copper can easily be made to form complex shapes and is used as a cladding and flashing material, for gutters, downpipes and coping. 

Copper can be both hot and cold worked, and joints can be formed by soldering or welding. Another big plus: copper is antimicrobial. It’s resistance to bacteria, viruses and microbes plays a large role in its use in plumbing and the transportation of water.

Additionally, copper is a sustainable metal for use in building construction. Copper can be recycled time and time again without losing durability or conductivity, which means it has low life cycle impacts. This, in turn, translates to copper’s cost-effectiveness when compared to other metals. Copper roofs and cladding do not have to be replaced and typically last hundreds of years or more. The longevity of the metal eliminates the need to use new roofing material and prevents the waste generated from other worn-out roofing materials. This offsets any higher initial costs due to the lack of maintenance costs required throughout the life of copper-clad or roof buildings.

The Impact of Copper A Shortfall

Copper is critical for solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles and battery storage and countries around the globe are pushing fast toward an EV future. As governments aim towards net-zero emissions, record quantities of copper will be required. 

Until recently, within the past year, the copper market has been flat. Prices have been low, which has not been a good environment for producers. The market is now on the move and the demand for copper and other energy transition minerals has forecasted a commodity boom, and a golden age for mineral exploration. Unfortunately, we’re headed for a copper supply crunch. Market analysts estimate the annual copper supply shortfall could be as high as 10 million tonnes by 2030 if no new mines are built. This means prices are on the rise, giving miners an incentive to bring new copper mines to market. (Source). 

With the significant uptick in global demand, the world needs more sources of copper that can move from exploration and development to production, quickly and efficiently. Expansion of existing mines will account for the majority of new copper production scheduled to come online by 2024. Following this, new projects will be required to bridge the growing supply gap forecasted by analysts.

Learn more about The Future of Copper.