Is the steel the ultimate sustainable construction material?
Thanks to steel’s material properties it is now widely recognised as the leading sustainable construction material. Because steel has a superior strength-to-weight ratio, only a relatively small amount is required to create innovative designs. In addition, zero and low carbon buildings which have high BREEAM ratings (Buildings Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) can be easily achieved with steel construction.
In this week’s blog post we’ll begin to cover what makes steel the ultimate sustainable construction material. There’s a lot to get through though so our next post in two weeks time will cover a number of other factors including adaptability and the minimisation of on-site and local impacts.
Steel is made from iron which is the most plentifully available material. In addition it can be reused or recycled an unlimited number of times without compromising on quality. Thanks to these unique characteristics, steel offers a high value during all stages of its life cycle. Furthermore, there is a highly developed and extremely efficient recovery infrastructure in place for steel recycling. As a result, 99% of structural steelwork is recovered for recycling from UK construction sites – a far higher percentage than any other construction material. When we say that steel is ‘recycled’ it really as as scrap steel is used to substitute primary steel, unlike many other materials used in construction which are ‘downcycled’ and used for lower grade applications.
The steel fabrication processes
The steel components used in construction are manufactured in a controlled environment such as the fabrication factory we have here at Steelwork Engineering. As a result, quality is assured and traceability can be designed to match the specific requirements of every project. When created in this sort of environment, it is easy to standardise, test and certify all components. This means that any waste material which is produced during the fabrication process such as swarfe or off-cuts, can be recycled so that they’re used again when making other components.
Steel makes it possible to build buildings quickly and this is a quality which has helped to make it the leading framing material for the UK’s construction sector. Shorter construction times equal less time on site which, in turn, equal less disruption and disturbance. In addition, steel components require fewer on-site deliveries whilst it is also relatively clean and quiet to erect.