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Austenitic stainless steel

The austenitic stainless steels have been the primary alloys used for building and construction, consumer products and industrial applications. Their overwhelming popularity is due to several factors:

  • Commonly available in all sizes and product forms;
  • Highly formable, making very tight crisp bends possible;
  • Easy to weld and repair;
  • Widest range of aeshetic finishes; and
  • Superior impact, blast and seismic performance

The Jin Mao, Shanghai, China façade is Type 316 stainless steel and exposed to coastal salt and pollution. Courtesy C. Houska

US coastal private residence with Type 316 stainless steel roof and wall panels. Courtesy C. Houska

Cloud Gate sculpture, Chicago, welded Type 316L stainless steel plate that is exposed to deicing salt. Courtesy C. Houska

Building and Construction Applications

The most commonly used alloys have been Types 304 and 316 and their low carbon versions Types 304L and 316L. The low carbon versions are only needed when sections 0.125 inches (3.2 mm) thick and greater will be welded.  The molybdenum addition to Types 316/316L makes them more resistant to chloride salts (coastal and deicing) and to pollution related corrosion.

Early architectural projects, built some 50 or more years ago, were constructed in Type 302, which is equivalent to modern Type 304. While Types 304/304L and their predecessor Type 302 were widely used historically for building and construction applications, Type 316/316L and sometimes more corrosion-resistant stainless steel alloys are increasingly being specified for exterior and sheltered applications.  

This has occurred because of increasing global use of deicing salts, population concentration in coastal areas, and high pollution levels and rain acidity in developing countries. Sheltered areas are even more corrosive because they accumulate the same environmental contaminants but do not benefit from natural rain-washing. Austenitic grades with even greater corrosion resistance are used for industrial and seawater applications.

IMOA’s Stainless Steel Selection System, Case studies, Coastal Salt, Deicing Salt and other website resources provide alloy selection guidance.

Design and Fabrication

Many other brochures are available to provide guidance on different aspects of design and fabrication. They can be downloaded as part of the Stainless Steel Library or individually. Some of these are:

Stainless Steels in Architecture Building and Construction: Guidelines for Corrosion Prevention, Nickel Institute brochure 11024

Erection and Installation of Stainless Steel Components, EuroInox
Adhesive Bonding of Stainless Steels, EuroInox
Bending Stainless Steel Tube – Design Benefits in Engineering and Architecture, EuroInox
Stainless Steels: Tables of Fabrication Parameters, EuroInox
The Forming Potential of Stainless Steel, EuroInox

IMOA Downloads

Practical Guidelines for the Fabrication of Austenitic Stainless Steels
Building & Construction Stainless Steel Library
This is the 2018 version of the International Molybdenum Association and Nickel Institute's comprehensive stainless steel library for the architecture, building and construction industry. It contains over 550 PDFs, which is about 50% increase over the 2015 version.  The information is categorized into seven primary topic areas:

  • Applications
  • Finishes & Nickel Plating
  • Alloy Selection & Specification
  • Fabrication/Cleaning
  • Structural Design
  • Sustainability, Resilience, Health & Safety
  • Educational Programs

Subfiles are used to further categorize the information by topic. Information has been provided to assist with design, engineering, sustainability assessment, fabrication, installation and maintenance cleaning.  The application examples are diverse and include elaborate facades and roofs, structural stainless and glass, pedestrian bridges, infrastructure, restoration, ductwork, memorials, swimming pools, transit structures, interiors, industrial buildings, alternative energy, water and other subjects.