Whether you are concerned about climate change or not it’s on a lot of minds these days. Owners may be shooting for a LEED rating or simply want to know what impact a steel building has on the environment. Building with steel means building for flexibility and durability. Plus a high percentage of steel is recycled every year.
In short, steel is very good for the environment.
Reduce Heat Island Effects
When you replace grass or trees with concrete more solar energy from the sun will be pulled into the earth. You’ve probably noticed the difference between standing on a baseball field and a mall parking lot. A city full of concrete can make a pretty big heat island where solar energy doesn’t leak away as easily as an open space.
It’s all about reflectance. A black or dark colored roof may reflect as little as 10% of received solar energy back out into space. A white or steel roof reflects as much as 90% of solar energy. That is a big difference and reduces the heat island effects. Put another way, a steel roof can reduce the absorption of solar energy from 225 watts per square meter to just 25.
Save on Utilities
When solar energy is reflected, less energy is used to cool the building since it just doesn’t heat up as much. Even though electricity rates have held steady for a while, usage is still one of the biggest line items in the operations budget. Why use more than you need?
Steel buildings are also easily insulated, knocking even more off energy needs in both summer and winter. Insulation helps keep the cold air out during frigid weather, lessening the energy needs for heating while it also keeps the cooler air of the interior cool longer in the August heat. More savings on the electric bill.
Keep Building and Maintenance Costs Down
Steel, as you hear repeatedly, is durable. When treated correctly it doesn’t corrode and doesn’t wear out. This results in less need for replacement and repair. Steel doesn’t require a new coat of paint every year. And HVAC equipment gets a break from lower usage, just like utility costs are saved.
Steel buildings are manufactured off-site and arrive ready to be put together. Construction is faster with less disruption to the neighborhood, less energy used, less waste, and lower labor costs.
Go Really Green
Steel buildings can be large without the need for columns. The steel roof of a large building is the perfect size to plant in grass or develop into a garden. As cities search for ways to bring nature a little closer to city center living spaces, a roof top park becomes an attractive option as well as a natural CO2 scrubber.
Re-Use, Reduce, Recycle
Steel is 100% recyclable and it can be recycled repeatedly. There may be steel in use that was originally produced over a century ago. It doesn’t lose any of its strength through recycling. When a steel building is demolished the metal is reclaimed and used again.
Steel can also be reused without melting and recasting. More and more steel structures are made to be easily taken apart and components reused in another structure. Today’s roof may be tomorrow’s floor.
Re-using and recycling also reduces the amount of iron that must be mined, reduces processing time and materials, and keeps the need for additional steel production down. When in production, the creation of steel has very little waste. Water is recycled and there are few waste components after smelting and rolling. With more reuse and recycling, the average annual carbon footprint shrinks with steel.
To answer the title question, “How do steel buildings affect the environment?”