Sustainability and Steel in Construction Applications

Using steel takes the pressure off renewable resources: a typical 2000-square-foot home requires about 40 to 50 trees, about an acre’s worth. With steel, only the equivalent of about six scrapped automobiles are needed.

The construction industry is being driven by market demand for sustainable materials and practices. Federal policy is shaping the “built environment” in the areas of sustainability, energy and infrastructure. Building and construction codes now include a focus on thermal compliance. Public policy initiatives are impacting the transportation and infrastructure market. There is a sharper focus on the role of renewable sources of energy, including wind, solar and nuclear power.

Steel construction materials are meeting the “green” construction demands of architects, builders, engineers, framers and roofers, highway transportation officials, bridge owners, electric utility companies, and other construction professionals with sustainable products. Steel’s sustainable benefits include its life cycle advantages, product durability, and recyclability.

  • Commercial Buildings: Steel is durable, with the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any building material.
  • Commercial Roofing: Metal roofs with heat-deflecting coatings and finishes can save building owners up to 40% in heating and cooling costs.
  • Residential Framing: Steel construction materials are completely recyclable. A typical 2000-square-foot home requires about 40 to 50 trees, about an acre’s worth. With steel, approximately six scrapped automobiles are needed.
  • Residential Roofing: For homes in warmer climates, pre-painted or granular coated metal roofing systems not only reflect solar energy but also cool the home by re-emitting most of what solar radiation is absorbed.
  • Bridges: Newly developed steel grades offer significant weight savings, which make steel bridges cost-effective.
  • Utility Poles: A steel pole is at least 30% lighter in weight than wood. The lighter weight translates to reduced cost of transportation, handling and construction.
  • Highways: The rigid surface of continuously reinforced concrete pavement (CRCP) reduces rolling resistance, providing better fuel economy for motorists.

In the construction industry, recent interest in recycled content has been driven largely by the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) rating system. The LEED® rating system only promotes the use of materials with high levels of recycled content. The equally important reclamation rate of the materials is not currently considered.


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