Copper in your living space : Sustainable Design (contributed article)
Copper is one of the oldest metals used by mankind. In one form or another, its use dates back 10000 years. It has a very long life cycle and its malleability has given us the opportunity to use it in different ways. While its biggest use has been in electricity, power transmission and telecommunications given that is a great conductor and ductile, copper has been used effectively in architecture and interiors over the ages, apart from decorative and artistic applications. It is an integral part of sustainable design because it can be recycled. In fact, all the copper around you has probably been used at one time or another in some form!! Less than fifteen percent of the world reserves have been mined and more than two thirds of the metal that has ever been mined is still used in one form or another today. No other metal is perhaps more environment friendly
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Although it has been used for solar heating for water, the most eco-friendly use of copper that would change the face of architecture and construction is perhaps its use in solar panels. Photovoltaic cells made of copper could convert sunlight into electricity and power homes across the globe. In the near future, this is likely to become more prevalent as will be the introduction of smart wiring in homes.
Its rust resistant properties and ability to be joined easily allowed for application in pipes for plumbing, while its heat conducting properties led to its use in radiators, refrigerators, air conditioners and even cooking pans. In bronze and brass it found artistic expression. Architects have used copper for roofing sheets, tiles,gutters,downspouts and a multitude of other applications not only because of its longevity ( over a hundred years ) but also for its malleability, resistance to fire and water and its appearance—the patina being its most enduring visual feature. Shingles were used extensively for roofing in many parts of the world, not only for its practical properties, but its aesthetic attributes as well.
In modern textiles it has been used innovatively by weaving it with other yarns and creating fabrics that have a luster and interesting detail. Another modern application is using it for wall claddings, panels and furniture. Interior wall cladding is fast becoming a distinctive feature in contemporary interiors, with architects and interior designers using this metal in interesting and innovative ways. In furniture strips and decorative inlays of this metal are being used as design elements. It is also being used in decorative tiles for kitchen backsplashes, bathrooms and panels. Its use in the kitchen has gone far beyond pots and pans and now from the backsplash to the kitchen sink all the way to the hood, copper is becoming a trend .Cooker hoods which were primarily in stainless steel have now made way for their copper brethren, by making a style statement. Copper countertops are attracting a lot of attention in kitchen design as an alternative to corian, marble, granite and stainless steel. Because of its oxidation properties, scratches disappear over time and the colour has its own individuality that is constantly changing. Because of its anti bacterial properties it gets full score on hygiene.
In the world of window treatment hardware, copper has again created a niche in terms of its applications for finials and poles, decorative accessories and tiebacks. Copper leaf is increasingly used in gilding. Gilding itself is making a comeback in the world of interiors and furniture. This beautiful metal is also being used for fountains and waterfalls because of its patinated look. For those that want the copper to retain its original colour and shine, the clear coated option is also available.
Copper as a colour tone has also become a rage; primarily because of the metal mania raging in the world of design– a dash of copper/bronze is a recurring theme in modern palettes. The copper finish and verdigris treatment is finding it way into faux finish walls, lighting fixtures and decorative accessories for the home. Light fixtures are available in copper from extremely contemporary designs to the more traditional variants reminiscent of country cottages. Hammered copper is being used extensively for photo-frames and decorative lamp bases. Copper insets are being used in flooring design as well. It is absolutely everywhere in some form. In all likelihood, the use of metal in interiors will shift from steel and nickel to copper and bronze in the next few years.
An accessory that has become a fashionable trend in recent times is the decorative rain chain in copper, which acquires a patinated finish over time and becomes even more beautiful. It could not perhaps replace downspouts and gutters in areas which have heavy rainfall, but its usage in rainwater harvesting is perhaps not as effective as its appeal for garden enthusiasts. The Japanese combined practical use and inherent beauty to create something that is quite a charming addition to any home. Fireplace screens in copper and bronze are also popular but their use in India is limited.
Because of its excellent properties, this unique metal is an artist’s delight. Coppersmiths use it for interesting light fixtures, furniture and interiors—apart from sculpture and garden accessories which have always been the mainstay of Cu in the arts. In landscape lighting, copper is an ideal choice as a material, because nothing else will give such a range of dimensions and respond so well to climatic conditions over a period of time, in a manner that only serves to accentuate its beauty. Its resistance to corrosion and sunlight couple with a long life cycle are major factors making it suitable for extensive outdoor use. Our increasing ecological awareness and a desire to move towards sustainable design will see copper being used extensively in the architecture and design industry in years to come.
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