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Aluminum vs. Wood - A Cost-Value Analysis for Handicap Ramps
Handicap access for modular buildings.

By: Bob Head - Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Source: American Incline

Historically, Most School Systems Have Chosen Wood

Distributors of aluminum steps and handicapped-accessible ramps have tried to persuade school systems to replace site-built wooden ramps and steps with aluminum solutions for more than 20 years. But, it’s been a very hard sell, due to the lower initial cost of building with wood. Despite aluminum products’ long-term cost effectiveness, most school systems couldn’t justify spending any additional current budget on items with cost-recovery periods longer than three years.

Now, a New Model Is Gaining Momentum

The prices of aluminum products have steadily decreased during the past several years, while wood prices have continued to rise. Today, distributors can make a convincing case that aluminum ramps, steps, and landings are actually less expensive than the same wooden structures. In fact, the cost of a 4’x30’ aluminum ramp has dropped from about $3,600 in 2002 to as little as $2,850 today. Automation and improved manufacturing processes, combined with an aggressively competitive marketplace, have accounted for an industry-wide price reduction of approximately 20 percent.

How the Baseline Parameters Were DerivedAmerican Incline gathered a sampling of the initial installation costs and maintenance expenses for implementations using wood in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas school districts, over a three-year period. The expenditures were then averaged to establish a typical baseline. The baseline installation is a straight-run, 4-foot wide by 30-foot ADA-compliant ramp that includes ADA-compliant handrails with pickets and a 5’ by 5’ landing platform with steps.

Three-Year Cost-Value Analysis
This table shows the derived baseline costs for a wooden installation, compared with the costs for an identical aluminum structure with a five-year manufacturer’s warranty, based on a 10-unit volume installation.

BASELINE COMPONENT

ALUMINUM

WOOD*

5’x5’ Landing and Steps

$1,355.00

$1,665.00

4’x30’ Ramp

2,870.00

$1,800.00

Installation**

300.00

00.00

Maintenance

150.00

150.00

Staining to prevent exposure to CCA

(recommended every other year)

 

00.00

 

600.00

Replace tread strips, year two

00.00

100.00

Replace warping, rotting, splitting, shrinking boards and repairing nail pops, year two

 

00.00

 

225.00

Steps maintenance (rails), year three

00.00

100.00

Replace splintered and damaged boards,

and pickets, year three

 

00.00

 

425.00

Replace tread strips, year three

00.00

100.00

Move to new modular unit and repairs

due to modular unit move, year three

 

00.00

 

1,050.00

Eventual removal and disposal

00.00

150.00

Total

$4,975.00

$6,365.00

  *    Marine-grade installations in coastal areas are significantly higher and are not factored into this analysis.

**     Installation price of wooden landing and steps is included in the construction price. Aluminum landings, ramps, and steps can be installed by school maintenance personnel in approximately four hours or through American Incline’s installation service for approximately $300.00.

Summary

Historically, school systems have chosen wood installations over aluminum installations based entirely on cost. Now, the lower cost of installing and maintaining ADA-compliant, aluminum ramps, landings, and steps, is establishing a new model. The new model allows school systems to take advantage of aluminum solutions’ many additional benefits, too.  

American Incline is dedicated to providing the finest, ADA-compliant, aluminum products at the lowest possible price with world-class customer service.




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