Steel is an alloy that has been responsible for many modern advances. The alloy is lighter than many other metals and is incredibly strong. It has been used for everything from kitchen knives to the skin of high-performance aircraft. Steel has revolutionized the construction industry by allowing for taller and more architecturally complex structures. Steel buildings also have several environmental benefits when compared to other structural materials like wood or stone.
Many people are unaware that steel is a very sustainable building material despite being a finite resource. The reason is that steel is 100 percent recyclable. The iron, carbon and silicon in the alloy can be melted down and then reused. This means that all steel reclaimed from the demolition of a structure can be recycled into new beams, panels or other components. It is possible to perform this recycling process on steel as many times as necessary since the important molecules do not degrade. Recycling and using recycled steel products reduces the need to mine new minerals and saves energy.
Low Production Impact
Modern manufacturing techniques have been steadily reducing the amount of energy and resources required in order to produce steel for construction. Modern facilities use over 30 percent less energy than factories from 20 years ago. Additionally, new filters and processes are lowering carbon emissions. The newest refineries are starting to use hydrogen to power the furnaces instead of carbon-based fuels. Nearly all of the water used during the production of steel is purified and recycled. Any scrap materials from the manufacturing process are reused making production waste incredibly low.
Steel allows for very efficient construction. All of the structural components of steel buildings can fabricated before construction even starts. This reduces the amount of time, resources and energy required to erect a building. Pre-fabricated steel beams and panels also reduce the amount of construction waste on a job site. The result is that the environmental impact of building a steel structure is much smaller than using materials like wood.
Steel is one of the most durable construction materials in widespread use today. It is resistant to weather, many chemicals and changes in temperature. Buildings made from steel can support much higher loads while using less of the alloy. The tensile strength of steel also makes it resistant to physical damage and age. This means that a single building made from steel can last for a much longer time than nearly any other material. It also means that a minimal amount of maintenance is required over the decades.
Steel has several properties that are allowing it to be used in new green buildings that are designed to reduce overall energy usage. Steel acts as a good insulator. It can protect a building from the sun and intense heat. The surface of steel is reflective. It stops radiation from the sun from entering a building and warming the spaces inside. This is particularly useful when steel structures are combined with green technologies like solar panels. Some steel panels can even be coated with special materials that improve the reflective qualities.