Sustainable Buildings with Steel

Steel Building warehouse

With steel, it’s easy to be green. This metal alloy is one of the greenest building products you can use because it is easily recyclable without losing its quality. Most buildings you see contain recycled steel, and any steel resulting from demolition can be recycled and used in another steel product. 


Isn’t that the very definition of sustainable? 


We use steel in various products because of its strength, durability, and sustainability.


Steel Is More Sustainable Than Wood


Traditionally, wood has been the material of choice for framing buildings and has been considered a highly sustainable product. However, steel is a better choice than wood in various ways. 


Wood is a single-use material that often ends up in the landfill or incinerator at the end of its useful life, resulting in CO2 and methane emissions. Wood may be renewable because you can always grow more trees, but tree harvesting often includes clear-cutting, which impacts the local environment. 


In comparison, steel has a 98% recycling rate and is more durable and fire-resistant than wood. It doesn’t warp, crack, rot, split, or creep. Termites don’t eat it, and it doesn’t expand or contract according to moisture content.


Regarding design efficiency, steel has a greater strength-to-weight ratio than wood, allowing for larger bays and wider frame spacing. Steel is the way to go to maximize usable floor space.


Recycling Steel


Steel is an alloy of metals and non-metals, including carbon, tin, and iron. Steel can be recycled continuously without damage or degradation of its physical properties and can be treated to resist corrosion. 


About 94% of steel from commercial building demolition is recycled, no matter its form. The industry recycles decks, joists, beams, doors, and other components. Once the project’s life ends, the steel can be recycled and used to make different products. 


The US recycles over 60 million tons of steel annually, and the world recycles ten times that amount. The North American steel industry has recycled more than eight billion tons since 1988. Recycling requires collecting, sorting, processing, melting, purifying, solidifying, and transporting steel materials.


The Steel Recycling Process




Scrap steel is mainly sold to scrap yards rather than placed in landfills. Recycled vehicles provide the largest source of steel for recycling in the US. Other sources include railroad tracks, ships, and farm equipment.


Scrap comes in different types: 




  • Prompt scrap is steel scrap produced during the manufacture of new products.
  • Home scrap is produced in steel mills during production, including trimmings and reject scrap. Most are redirected back into the furnace.
  • Obsolete scrap is steel waste from household appliances, old cars, and office and household waste, including old buildings or structures sent to the scrap yard for recovery.




Scrap yards sort various types of metal from mixed scrap streams or material waste streams. Automation streamlines the sorting process using magnets and sensors to replace human sorters.




The reclaimed metals are shredded to make them easier to melt. Small, shredded metals have a large surface area to volume ratio and melt using less energy.




Shredded scrap metal is melted in a large furnace. Melting is the most energy-intensive part of the process but still requires less energy than making new steel.


The melting process can last from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the amount of metal and the size and temperature of the furnace.




The purification process ensures the recycled metal is contamination-free and provides high-quality reclaimed material. The most popular method of purifying steel is electrolysis.




Once the recycled steel is purified, it can solidify and cool on a conveyor belt. It can be formed into specific shapes, like bars, to produce various metal products at this stage.




Once the steel is cooled and solidified, it is ready for use. It’s transported to factories to be used as raw material for new products, such as prefabricated metal buildings.


The Benefits of Building Metal Buildings


If you are deciding on a material for a new building project, steel is one of the most sustainable choices. But the economic impact is only one of its many benefits.


Steel buildings, especially pre-engineered steel buildings, are often cheaper than traditional building methods. Pre-engineered buildings save you time and construction labor, as the buildings are built for your exact location and need little onsite modifications.


Metal buildings are less vulnerable to environmental changes and are less likely to need repairing or replacing. Whirlwind buildings, for example, are built to last decades and are tested for extreme weather conditions. You will likely pay much less in maintenance costs with steel materials than with wood. 


And if you decide at some point in the future that your steel building is no longer needed, then the metal can easily be recycled. 


Build a Better Tomorrow


Steel never loses its quality, durability, or strength, no matter how often it’s recycled. It outperforms and out sustains wood as a construction material, saving time, money, and environmental damage throughout its life cycle. 


Going green is easy with sustainable steel, a high-quality, highly recyclable material that outperforms wood and saves costs.

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Using a self-locking seal Super Seam II is a weathertight panel that gives a sleek appearance as a metal roof.


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