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.

The Need for a Shift towards Sustainable Change

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 Role of Steel Construction

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.

Efficient Recycling properties

The advantage of structural steel work is that steel can be reused and recycled repeatedly without ever losing its quality 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 are 99% for structural steelwork and 96% for all steel construction products – figures that far exceed those for any other construction material.

Sustainability of Steel Structures

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. Consider wood as an illustration: it generates offcuts and produces waste that cannot be utilised, and obtaining the appropriate amount of wood for a project necessitates a wide range of resources. However, achieving the “perfect amount of wood” is virtually impossible. In contrast, steel presents a different scenario. Almost all steel orders are custom-made, resulting in no offcuts, no waste, and no justification for discarding otherwise excellent materials. These seemingly insignificant factors can add up significantly.

Exceeding Sustainability Targets

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.

In conclusion, the use of structural steelwork in construction projects presents a sustainable option for the industry, enabling it to meet its sustainability targets and reduce its carbon footprint. With the ability to recycle and reuse steel without losing its quality, the recovery infrastructure for steel recycling is considerably developed and efficient, and the recovery rates are much higher than those for other construction materials. By opting for steel structures, the construction industry can contribute to a circular economy and reduce waste while creating new buildings that benefit the community without causing harm to the environment. With the properties of strength, durability, and resistance that steel brings, structural steelwork is undoubtedly a smart choice for any construction project seeking to exceed sustainability targets and support a more sustainable future.

If you want to know more about Midland Structures and how we prioritise sustainability in our steelwork fabrication and installation, then get in touch today.


British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA): Sustainability in Steel Construction Sustainability and Steel Construction

The Steel Construction Institute (SCI): Sustainable Steel Construction