Copper in Construction
Copper is a soft, malleable, ductile metal with high thermal and electrical conductivity and good resistance to corrosion due to the protective patina that forms on its surfaces. 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. It is non-magnetic and has good biofouling resistance.
Copper has the chemical symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum) and atomic number 29. It has been used as far back as 8,000 BC because it is a native metal, occurring naturally in a useable form. It is also found in the minerals cuprite, malachite, azurite, chalcopyrite and bornite, and is a by-product of silver production.
It is commonly used in the construction industry to form pipes and tubing for potable water distribution and heating and cooling systems, as it is malleable and joints can be easily formed by soldering. The ease with which it can be made to form complex shapes means it is also used as a cladding and flashing material, for gutters, downpipes and coping. Electrical and communications cables are often formed with copper wire.
It can be hot and cold worked, and joints can be formed by soldering or welding, using mechanical fasteners, by brazing, or with adhesives. It can specified according to the temper levels; soft, half-hard, hard, spring and extra-spring.
Copper is a pinkish-orange colour when first exposed, but can oxidise to a blue green colour. This oxidisation is sometimes allowed intentionally to create a characteristic green cladding. It can also be given a range of brown colours.
It is generally recyclable, and this combined with its long life means it has relatively low life cycle impacts.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc.
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