Steel is one of the most sustainable building materials in the world. The steel industry has embraced a common sense approach that reducing its impact on the environment is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes economic sense.

In 2014, the overall steel recycling rate for construction is 98 percent for structural and 71 percent for rebar and reinforcement steel. The steel recycling rates are calculated from data collected through the AISI Annual Statistical Report, US Geological Survey, infrastructure questionnaire and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

Construction Life Cycle Thinking

Construction project designers are increasingly concerned with the impact of their work on energy and the environment, especially as certain aspects of construction and building envelope design are becoming mandated by government codes, such as the California Title 24 Energy Code. In addition, change is being promoted through voluntary green building guidelines and techniques that assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life, from cradle to grave.

Life cycle thinking for construction provides a comprehensive, balanced, quantified look at significant product environmental impacts. A life cycle assessment (LCA) is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate a product’s environmental attributes based on comprehensive analysis of life cycle impacts and transparent data. When a team focuses on life cycle thinking, they create designs that facilitate building materials reuse and consider the full life cycle of the buildings and materials – from extraction through occupancy and also deconstruction and recycling. By implementing strategies that maximize materials recovery, the overall embodied energy and greenhouse gas emissions of building materials are reduced.

SMDI is currently developing bills of materials for several prototype buildings, which will allow for a comparable study that will serve as the basis for future Whole Building Life Cycle Assessments.

Cold-Formed Steel Framing

Cold-formed steel is a popular material for green building projects ranging from residential to light commercial construction. Cold-formed steel provides the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any building material providing material efficiency. Steel does not rot, warp, split, crack or creep, offering durability and dependability during its long service life and is 100 percent recyclable at the end of its long life. Click the title to learn about the contributions of light steel framing in sustainable design. Learn more.

Structural Steel

Steel is a superior construction material for non-residential construction. With its design flexibility, high strength and durability, and aesthetic appeal, structural steel provides the best material for innovative, sustainable designs. Designers, builders and architects choose steel due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, design innovation and its sustainable characteristics. Click the title to learn more about the sustainability of structural steel. Learn more.

Steel Roofing

Light, strong and durable, steel roofing comprises about 80 percent of the metal roofing market, and demand for this long-lasting, sustainable roofing material continues to rise. The steel itself boasts a minimum of 25 percent recycled content and is 100% recyclable at the end of a long, useful life. In addition to being much lighter and stronger than traditional roofing materials, steel roofing systems offer a wide variety of shapes and colors, allowing them to resemble different styles and materials. Metal roofing meets the EPA Energy Star Roof Products Program performance criteria and is also eligible for other cool roof incentive programs. Learn more.

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