There are mixed opinions on whether corten steel should be used in buildings at all. Obviously, architects are still in love with its aesthetic qualities because they continue to use it, but critics are concerned that it doesn’t last long enough to justify its use.
Critics are quick to point to the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta, which rusted away and had to be demolished after just 25 years. The New Haven Coliseum suffered a similar fate: it was closed to the public after 30 years and pulled down five years after that.
Even US Steel hasn’t recommended corten steel for “architectural application[s], such as roofing and siding” for the past two decades. The reasons given are that abrasion from weather and acid rain cause the oxide skin on the material to reform, which causes the material itself to eventually become perforated. Can we justify using materials that we know may need to be replaced in the near future?
Instead, US Steel offers an alternative product for architectural use: COR-TEN AZP. This product has improved solar reflectivity (which is better for roofing), no unsightly staining from water runoff, and a high recycled content and recyclability. While that may sound positive, up to two-thirds of steel production already involves recycling, and large amounts of carbon dioxide are emitted from burning coal and coke as part of the process.