The Big Picture
As the primary building material for infrastructure, automobiles, housing and commercial construction, steel has been a leader in providing solutions for our everyday needs. Unknown to some, steel also has led the way when it comes to innovation and tackling the issues of the next generation. Perhaps no issue today is more pressing than environmental awareness and developing sustainable building solutions to budding future problems.
The steel industry has long been an advocate of improving environmental practices. When it comes to the production, transportation and construction of steel and steel products, there is no competition in terms of eco friendly building materials. Cutting-edge eco efforts by the steel industry include: transitioning to the electric arc furnace for steel production; off-site prefabrication to minimize waste, and incorporating updated technology to reduce carbon emissions. It’s a focus that extends to each and every stage of the steel life cycle. Here’s why steel is considered THE green building material.
Eco Friendly Building Materials from Steel Production
There’s no getting around it: it takes a lot of energy and resources to produce steel. But while some industries ignore the effects of their production process, the steel industry has acknowledged its role in creating a more sustainable future. That’s why steel producers have invested in new technology, such as the electric arc furnace, to advance sustainable building.
Commonly referred to as EAF, this steelmaking process primarily uses recycled steel and electricity, as opposed to the blast furnace, which requires natural resources such as iron ore and coal. According to the World Steel Organization, blast furnace production requires 50x the amount of coal and 12.5x the amount of limestone as EAF production. This commitment to innovation and research is why since 1960, steel producers around the world have reduced the energy required to produce a ton of steel by 60 percent. As the industry continues to make the transition to more sustainable building practices, we’re likely to see other major benefits, including reduced carbon emissions and material waste.
Quality of Sustainable Building Materials
Steel is a popular choice for modern construction, in part, because it is an eco-friendly building material, but it’s also a strong, reliable option. That strength carries a couple of environmental benefits:
- Steel has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than any other building material. That means fewer resources and materials are needed to build a steel structure to handle the same amount of load or stress as other building materials, such as wood.
- Steel does not burn, warp, or twist. It also resists moisture and pests, which can sacrifice the structural integrity of a building structure. That’s why steel structures typically last longer than other building materials. On a small scale, this conserves materials and resources. On a larger scale, that conservation leads to significant decreases in carbon emissions over time.
When it comes to sustainable qualities, its steel’s ability to be recycled that truly separates it from other building materials. Steel is the most recycled material in the world. In fact, more than 650 million metric tons of steel are recycled every year, more than all other materials combined.
But it’s not just that steel can be recycled. It’s that when steel is recycled, it retains all of its properties without losing any quality. That means steel has a potentially never-ending life cycle that reduces production waste while also conserving energy and natural resources. According to the World Steel Organization, steel recycling saves more than 3,000 pounds of iron ore, 1,600 pounds of coal, and 250 pounds of limestone for every 1,200 pounds of new steel production. The steel recycling process is almost the very definition of sustainable.
Your Steel Building Project
All of these environmental efforts are valuable to our society, but the benefits of a steel building aren’t limited to large-scale, long-term initiatives. When choosing steel for your project, you can see immediate environmental and financial results.
Why Metal Buildings Are Environmentally Friendly
- The Durability and strength of metal building kits conserve natural resources
- Components used to customize the look and functionality of prefab buildings can be easily deconstructed and repurposed or recycled
- The prefabrication process decreases transportation and construction time, leading to reduced carbon emissions and material waste
Prefab Buildings Are Also Financially Friendly
- Minimal maintenance is required
- Steel structures require less material, which can decrease transportation and construction costs
- Design flexibility encourages energy efficient practices such as insulation, solar panel installation and natural lighting that can lower energy costs
Green Building Doesn’t Always Mean Sacrificing Your Budget
Every industry is feeling the pressure to adapt to the expanding world of environmental awareness. But for the steel industry, this pressure is nothing new. It’s a movement that steel producers and distributors have believed in for decades. As the industry invests more in research and technology, it’s becoming even more obvious that using steel as a primary building material is environmentally responsible. What’s surprising to some, however, is that environmental responsibility can also mean financial rewards. Those rewards can come in the form decreased construction timelines, increased operating efficiency and energy savings. It’s what makes steel the quintessential green building material.
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