Rusty steel is used a lot in architecture. Broadcasting Tower in Leeds is an award winning rusty building, owned by Unite Group and housing student accommodation, and the Faculty of Arts, Environment and Technology.
The steel used is Corten steel, it’s the same steel as used in many shipping containers. The steels used in these applications are known as a weathering steels. They have become a popular choice of cladding. On the steel cladding on the Broadcasting tower, the irregular shape of the side of the building creates patterns of exposure to the elements, creating gradients of colour in the steel and softening the appearance.
Broadcasting lower is award winning, in a David and Goliath competition it won awards over the tallest tower in the world.
After choosing a suitable composition of steel, by allowing the steel to be used uncoated, it can corrode and form an oxide layer. The steel continues to rust, but slowly, and since the whole surface is corroding, the lifetime of the steel can be predicted. The same steels can be used with painted coatings, and are likely to last longer, however its possible that with a coating, more regular inspections may be necessary to avoid localized corrosion by making sure the continuous coating is preserved.