December 3, 2008
Making Sense Of Green Building Standards And Rating Systems

Today’s construction market presents a laundry list of challenges for developers and other construction professionals. Keeping informed and ahead of the many programs, rating systems and soon to be released green building standards is a full time job.

Tantamount to achieving the core mission of the Steel Framing Alliance is the advancement of steel framing as an environmentally responsible product.

No single issue confronts the steel framing industry today with such potential deleterious consequences as that of sustainability. Our primary constituencies/customers including developers, builders, designers, and owners are being catapulted towards green building initiatives through regulatory as well as mandatory requirements of their customers. Their understanding of the environmental attributes of steel framing is critical.

A sustainable/green building program is a process template that impacts every phase of the construction process and beyond – from location selection, through site preparation, project planning and specification, construction, commissioning and occupant use, and structure adaptation or deconstruction.

Typically green building programs award points for achieving goals that support sustainability within the confines of best application of standard practices.

Most programs have both a prescriptive and performance path to accomplish the requirements. Often the prescriptive language in material specification sections of the programs has left direct reference to cold-formed steel (CFS) largely absent from green building guidelines. In fact many programs do not specify particular materials or processes in favor of general practices. This should not dissuade interested parties from using steel framing; instead one must be vigilant in communicating how steel meets the overall goal of sustainable construction using steel’s environmental attributes.

While there are hundreds of green building programs in the US, several continue to gain momentum and are being adopted by state and local jurisdictions. In some instances builders/developers must comply with the adopted program to obtain a building permit.

A brief review of three of the programs is outlined below:

US Green Building Council’s LEED

With broad appeal, the US Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) is a green building rating system that awards certification points for compliance in five categories related to siting, water conservation, energy, materials, and indoor environmental quality, plus an innovation and design category.

Under LEED, projects earn points based on credits achieved in each of the categories; a minimum 26 points certifies a project as "green" and allows the owner to tout the building’s environmental superiority. LEED Silver, Gold and Platinum status levels are designed to encourage friendly competition among construction industry participants, and bring a markedly high distinction to the building and/or builder. The use of steel building products contributes to credits in LEED because of its recycled content and recyclability. Steel is the only material with an automatic default for recycled content.

One should also look at other provisions of the rating system specifically in the areas of sustainable sites, indoor air quality, and innovation in design to fully realize steel’s contributions.

National Green Building Standard

This new initiative is being developed under the ANSI consensus process by the International Code Council and the National Association of Home Builders. Currently awaiting ANSI approval, this standard covers all single and multi-family structures. Essentially anything with a dwelling unit is covered with the exception of institutional facilities. The steel framing industry is represented on the Consensus Committee and has one vote. Steel framing is well represented throughout the provisions of this anticipated standard.

ASHRAE 189.1

Under development by the ASHRAE, USGBC, and IESNA is yet another new standard – ASHRAE 189.1 - Design for High Performance Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. This initiative applies to new buildings, new portions of buildings, and new systems in existing buildings and will provide minimum requirements for the design of high-performance, addressing energy efficiency, a building’s impact on the atmosphere, sustainable sites, water use efficiency, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

Inherent Sustainable/Green Building Benefits of Steel Framing

Steel has the highest strength to weight ratio of all structural building materials, a high recycled content and is a structural substitute for both dimensional lumber and reinforced concrete.

Highest strength to weight ratio of all structural building materials

  • Minimizes site disturbance for subsurface footing/foundation
  • Design flexibility
  • Durability
  • More transportable

Recycled and Recyclable

  • Minimum of 25% recycled content
  • 100% recyclable
  • 68.7% recycling rate – highest of all structural materials

Inert material

  • Non-combustible
  • Won’t support mold, insects or rot
  • No VOCs (off-gassing)

Green building Success Story

Finally steel framing has a lot to offer those looking for sustainable construction. One example is the Poly Canyon Village project of California Polytechnic University. As required in the state of California the project has to attain green building certification. “Cold-formed steel was selected for its inherent green benefits and because of its superior quality, high performance, unlimited design flexibility and benefits to the owner such as lower construction costs,” said Kevin Greer, a project executive with KHS&S Contractors in Anaheim, Calif.

To read more about the Poly Canyon Village project, visit the Metal Architecture magazine Web site.

For more information about sustainable/green building initiatives contact: Maribeth Rizzuto, LEED AP Director of Education and Sustainable Construction, Steel Framing Alliance at

Next Article >>



Steel Framing Alliance
1201 15th St., NW,
Suite 320
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone 202.785.2022
Fax 202.785.3856

January 12-14, 2009
Steel Doing It Right
Fort Lauderdale, FL More

January 20-23, 2009
Steel Central at the International Builders Show
Las Vegas, NV More


February 4-5, 2009
Steel Doing It Right
Orange, CA More


February 22-24, 2008
International Zinc Conference
Las Palmas, Rancho Marage CA


February 24-25, 2008
2009 International Zinc Oxide Industry Conference
Las Palmas, Rancho Marage CA





Become a Member | Unsubscribe

Brought to you by the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) on the first Wednesday of each month, Framework Online arms you with the latest news and commentary on the steel framing and construction industries. In addition to industry headlines, trends and project profiles, Framework Online provides information and ideas that will better enable members to increase their participation in the residential and commercial construction markets.