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Identifying Construction Material Alternatives to Steel, Aluminum

Apartment industry prepare for traiffs

How one apartment developer is preparing for tariffs.

Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group – which owns, manages and develops affordable multifamily and senior housing communities in nine states – is anticipating the tariffs proposed recently by the Trump Administration to affect the cost of steel and is looking at alternative methods to offset this potential increased cost for its projects.

The construction division works closely with the development division within Evergreen. Andre Pintauro, President of Evergreen Real Estate Group’s construction division, serves as a resource to the development team in exploring alternative methods and materials that may reduce costs. For example, Evergreen has been able to use materials like pre-cast and wood-frame structures, when applicable, to offset certain material increases.

Evergreen also has been advised by its subcontractors and vendors to anticipate an increase in the cost of aluminum and is looking at ways to minimize the use of aluminum materials, when applicable. For example, the company explores the use of vinyl and other alternate material options when aluminum is specified in certain cases for windows, cladding, and exterior wall paneling.

“We certainly have been keeping a close eye on material costs, as it’s part of being in the construction market,” Pintauro says. “We’re in constant conversations with subcontractors and vendors to keep our ear to the ground so they can let us know the minute they hear something and how it will affect material costs.”

Pintauro, who has worked in the construction industry for 20 years, says Evergreen has always approached each project individually when it comes to making decisions on what materials to suggest for use.

“We run the numbers to confirm what design options fit best with economies,” he says. “Material pricing does and will change. For example, in one of our projects, where we’ve been in pre-construction for over a year, we’ve gone back and forth on what materials to suggest to maintain the project budget when deciding for the overall building structure and envelope. Should we suggest to design a bar-joist steel structure due to budget constraints? Or should we consider conventional concrete? Or pre-cast concrete structure materials?”

With windows, Pintauro compares vinyl frames with aluminum frames. 

“It depends on the window vent sizing and the wind load criteria,” he says. “In certain cases, the vinyl option may meet the design criteria. But for a five-story building with large vent opening requirements, vinyl might not have the durability needed without having to add additional steel or aluminum supports, thus requiring us to utilize aluminum instead.”

Shifts in material prices are part of the construction business on an ongoing basis, regardless of tariffs.

“Concrete material prices do change, drywall material prices do change,” he says. “I’ve been in this business long enough to have seen steel tariffs come and go before.”