Angelo Borzillo: the co-inventor of Galvalume coating advanced its global, industry-wide adoption

2022 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

By Christopher Brinckerhoff

Angelo Borzillo

In 1965, Angelo Borzillo was conducting an experiment that would improve the metal construction industry. At Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, Pa., Borzillo completed a series of steel coating tests in pursuit of corrosion resistance that was greater than that of galvanized steel.

Instead of zinc-coated galvanized steel or aluminum-coated aluminized steel, Borzillo, with his manager in the research department, Jim Horton, combined zinc, with its sacrificial property, and aluminum, with its barrier protective mechanism, in a range of ratios to determine the optimal composition. Eventually, they arrived at 55% aluminum, 43.5% zinc, and, to improve the coating’s adherence to substrates, 1.5% silicon. Their invention: Galvalume.

Borzillo, who is 89, says, “It really was an evolutionary process. And all of the early work was done in a small lab pot that held 6 pounds of metal. Basically, we started out with a very elementary situation where we mixed aluminum and zinc, and went ahead and applied those coatings on steel samples about the size of a business card. That’s how it all started.”

Production of Galvalume was refined and improvement patents were filed. It became increasingly clear as Galvalume-coated roof panels and other exterior building components were used, their expected service life was at least double that of galvanized-coated components, and sometimes more.

The impact of Galvalume is remarkable. By 2021, cumulative global production of licensed Galvalume exceeded 220 million tons, according to data compiled by Vancouver, Wash.-based BIEC International Inc., the licensing subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel for Galvalume.

I’m one of these lucky researchers who was involved in a product that grew from small samples into an accepted product that’s being used around the world.

Angelo Borzillo

For Borzillo, the advancement of Galvalume was a lifelong quest. For 47 years, retiring in 2002, he worked in a variety of roles at Bethlehem Steel and BIEC.

In the 1980s and 1990s, when Borzillo was working on licensing Galvalume at BIEC, he worked closely with Arif Humayun, who was tasked with research of Galvalume. Together, they traveled across Europe and elsewhere to give presentations about Galvalume.

Humayun, president at BIEC, says Borzillo’s unwavering confidence in Galvalume’s performance coupled with his work ethic and personable approach led to numerous successes. “For the research he did, he was persistent. He would not take a short-term approach; he would take a long-term approach and, at times, it caused more work, but he always did things the right way.”

Similarly, the way Borzillo communicated with prospective licensees and others contributed to Galvalume’s adoption.

“He was very patient, a good listener and always willing to help people out with questions or finding a solution, just a very gentle person, a hardworking person,” Humayun says. “He is a very principled person, and so his credibility was very high. He would never shy away from anything that he could do to help out with an issue or help convince people what things were. Using his scientific background, he would go over data with them to convince them, and I think that it made a big difference in his success.”

Borzillo’s work on Galvalume led him to a great number of events including Metal Construction Association meetings. At an MCA meeting the 1980s, Borzillo met Rob Haddock, now CEO at S-5! in Colorado Springs, Colo. Haddock, who was operating a metal construction contracting company at the time he met Borzillo, would go on to invent metal roofing products. He says Borzillo’s influence on him was essential to his success.

“[Borzillo] was very transparent and willing to share his successes and failures in the development of Galvalume,” Haddock says “When he would tell me about what a struggle it was through this experimental and inventing process of Galvalume, it made me realize that, hey, other people, even big shots, run into mountains and almost give up, but push on. In the early days of S-5!, I was told many times: ‘there is no market for this,’ or ‘it cannot be made for any reasonable cost.’ What if I had quit?”

At the time, Haddock says he didn’t know many people in the industry, and Borzillo helped him with that too. “He had no reservation about introducing me to other people that I didn’t know; he was very gracious in doing that kind of thing,” Haddock adds.

For his part, Borzillo, co-inventor of one of the most important metal building materials in the world, humbly describes his experience as being in the right place at the right time.

“When I think about how it all started with a sample the size of a business card, and now we’re looking at millions of tons of product being used around the world by various companies in various locations, I can’t believe it,” Borzillo says. “I’m one of these lucky researchers who was involved in a product that grew from small samples into an accepted product that’s being used around the world.”