"Upscale" Metals and Building Trends in Chicago

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Way, way back in the early 1990s, my mood ring and slap bracelet were the coolest thing since kindergarten. Remember those? Slap bracelets didn’t stick around for long, probably because of parents like mine banning them from the house. Mood rings, on the other hand, came and went throughout the years. Apparently, they were big in the 1970s — and when I began first grade (a decade or two after the first wave, but let’s avoid specifics), I adored mine. Intricate scientific studies and complex advancements in emotional jewelry technology surely made it possible for the ring to reflect my mood. When I was happy, the ring turned blue. When I was sad, the ring’s vibrant yellow tint proved my discomfort. And after I had the ring for a bit too long, when I was wondering why it was constantly the same blackish hue, I would rub it against the warm playground sand until the ring finally turned a shade of violet or green.

Much less exciting than a ring that turns green is a ring that turns your finger green, which Eleanor Perry-Smith mentions in a recent article in Medill Reports, a site written and produced by graduate journalism students at my current school, Northwestern University. However, the metals process detailed in those cheap rings is much more important than temporary discoloration around a ring finger would allow you to think. Perry-Smith’s article is fascinating from both a metals perspective and a Chicago-area construction perspective. “Since the 1960s, the same process that left the annoying green spot on your hand has marked architectural and structural innovations for buildings in Chicago. Metals that oxidize are coming back into vogue for the strength and design potential they offer to the exteriors of buildings. The advantages of using metal exteriors in construction often outweigh the high cost and add an aesthetic edge. Upscale sidings and roofing offer varied finishes and decorative patterns offer for commercial buildings and houses alike.”

The architectural and aesthetic use of various metals is discussed in this piece, and copper, zinc and steel are noted as “the frontrunners for metal demand.” As we’ve mentioned on MetalMiner, however, the price of steel is rapidly increasing, making copper and zinc the best buys. Perry-Smith also mentions some interesting alternative metals for construction, making the short, but interesting article worth a read.

–Amy Edwards

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