The importance of sustainability and the trend toward high-performance ecological buildings continue to escalate in the construction industry. Our motto is to take the lead of this movement and contribute to awareness of the ecological qualities of steel, performance characteristics and exceptional life expectancy that make construction materials which are the most environmentally friendly.
Whether it is the production of steel, its manufacture and its use in construction, the industry wants to be a positive factor in relation to the environment. In our projects we only focus on recycled or reused steel, which is the most efficient and eco-friendly way.
The steel industry has extensively practiced recycling and reuse since the beginning of the last century. It has reduced its energy consumption for a number of processes, and since 1990, it reduced its CO2 emissions by more than 20%. The steel industry commitments are real and measurable and are being implemented at the global level.
But it all comes down to the approach and sourcing of steel and the very selective use. In some of our projects we encounter designs where the use of only wood is impractical and in some situations less than ideal. Because high quality steel will last several lifetimes it is a go to product, even though it does come at a higher CO2 cost.
Reduce | Reuse | Recycle
In the steel industry energy efficiency has increased by 26% since 1990 (canadiansteel.ca). Greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by 24% (per ton), and emissions to air and water have reduced by 90% compared to 10 years ago. Steel is a strong prefabrication system; it allows reducing periods of construction up to 60% and requires 75% fewer workers on the construction site, which has clear advantages for the client, the contractor and the local community. Steel also allows reducing the weight and the footprint of the buildings, by facilitating the use of longer ranges with shorter structure elements, and this is a significant contribution to offsetting the carbon cost.
Structural engineers recycle the elements of a metal frame or dismantle them to reassemble them elsewhere without loss of the fundamental properties of the steel. Slag, a byproduct of steel, is fully recovered and reused for the construction of roads, the manufacture of cement substitutes and various applications. The gases produced during the manufacture of iron are reused for heating. And because of its strength less concrete is needed which has an even higher carbon cost.
Each year more steel is recycled than paper, aluminum, glass and plastic combined. 99% of steel is recovered at the end of life of a steel building, 15% is reused locally, and the rest is recycled.
The inherent recycled content of steel is the highest of all construction materials. In North America, two methods are used to manufacture structural steel. More than half of structural steel is produced by small mills in the electric arc furnaces (EAF), a manufacturing process that uses almost exclusively 100% recycled steel. Integrated plants produce steel using furnaces (FO) from steel recycled up to 35% (recycle-steel.org/leed.html). The addition of recycled steel typically provides an average LEED value of 40 to 50% which goes far beyond the purpose of credits.
Together, the FAE and FO processes today guarantee sustainable development in steel construction. The international CO2 Breakthrough program is developing solutions to reduce the future impact of these processes.
The Triple Advantage Of Sustainability
Sustainability is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs”. It rests on three pillars: social, environmental and economic.
The steel manufacturing industry makes appeal to high-tech production methods, provides safe working conditions and an aesthetically appealing product.
The steel is recycled more than once and reused. It is energy efficient and enables a lightweight, durable construction.
Steel is associated with lower labor and production costs, fast assembly and costs less for construction and replacement during its use than other materials.