Sustainability in structural steelwork

steelwork sustainability

As energy costs rise and carbon emissions continue to become an increasing concern, the way the construction industry works is changing for a more sustainable future. With the construction and operation of buildings being responsible for over half of the UK’s carbon emissions and water consumption as well as a third of its landfill waste and a quarter of all raw materials used in the economy- sustainability is a significant factor.

With these huge volumes, sustainable development targets cannot be met without a concise shift to sustainable change in the procedure in which all buildings are designed and constructed. Furthermore, this shift needs to cross over into how these buildings are then operated, deconstructed and reused for new purposes.

The construction industry is currently facing a crucial challenge in the drive to a circular economy as well as the national targets for greenhouse gas emissions both in the operation and construction of buildings. A challenge which the steel construction sector is playing a major part in overcoming.

The advantage of structural steelwork is that steel can be reused and recycled repeatedly without ever losing its qualities as a building material. This unique characteristic gives all steel a high economic value at all stages of its life cycle which, unlike some other construction materials, ensures that it is routinely recovered and reused.

Because of this, the recovery infrastructure for steel recycling is considerably developed and efficient having been in place for decades. The recovery rate at present from demolition sites in the UK is 99% for structural steelwork and 96% for all steel construction products – figures that far exceed those for any other construction material.

The fundamental basis of this is that steel frames are often what can be described as a collection of parts making it possible for them to be dismantled and reused for new structures. With standard section ranges and bolted connections, components can be removed and reused easily while still in their best working condition. They can even be reused as entire structures meaning that the steel can be reused continuously and never sent to landfill.

An entire steel structure can be completely dismantled and reconstructed in an entirely different location in just months creating minimal dust, dirt and noise. Constructing an entirely new building from a previous structure is one of the most sustainable ways to approach construction. Providing the benefits of a ‘new’ building to the community without leaving behind negative effects on the environment. Furthermore, the properties of strength, durability and resistance that steel brings make it the ultimate material to recycle for new use, making structural steelwork one of the most sustainable ways to construct a building and exceed sustainability targets across the globe.