February 5, 2008
 

INDUSTRY WATCH

Steel Framing Meets Tests As A Sustainable Building Material
In a report to the United Nations nearly 20 years ago, sustainability was defined as “progress that serves the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (
“Our Common Future,” Brundtland Commission to the United Nations, 1988)

Never before has awareness and interest in environmental conservation been as high as they are today. And nowhere is this more evident than in the construction industry, where sustainable building practices have become as important to the success of a project as quality construction and good design. But since 54 percent of U.S. energy consumption is directly or indirectly related to buildings and their construction, this heightened sensitivity to “green building” promises to have long-term positive benefits for the Earth.

An escalating population, depleting natural resources and recognition of changes in climate patterns are all driving architects, builders, designers, owners and consumers to demand products that use resources wisely. With a minimum of 25 percent recycled content, steel meets the tests for an environmentally responsible material and can be an important addition to any project where sustainable construction and design is a critical requirement. As a recognized green building material, steel framing projects can also earn credits or points for green building rating programs as well as other government incentives.

While many people agree that steel’s recycled content is its hallmark environmental attribute, few are aware of steel’s many other green benefits.

Steel is 100 percent recyclable
Steel is the world’s most versatile material to recycle – from old cars, buildings and bridges to appliances and soup cans. Steel is also the most highly recycled material in the world – more than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined. Each year, nearly 68.7 percent of all steel scrap in North America is recycled.

Steel projects are built to last
Steel is highly durable, non-combustible and won’t contribute fuel to a fire. Furthermore, its galvanized zinc coating (a natural element) prevents corrosion. This means the life of a structure framed with steel can last hundreds of years, which also reduces the need for future building resources.

Steel projects can be built with fewer materials
Steel framing allows for designs that use wider stud spacing and varying thicknesses of material. Cold-formed steel also has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any structural building material, which allows builders and contractors to maximize the footprint of a structure by typically going higher with less impact on the foundation. As a result, it takes less material to build a project framed with cold-formed steel than for projects built with conventional materials.

Steel does not contribute to the growth of a landfill
About sixty percent of the average landfill consists of construction debris. But because steel studs are straight and true, there is only a minimal amount of job-site scrap. Scrap from steel framing is always recyclable.

Steel is a healthier building material
Indoor air quality is regarded as one of our top environmental health risks today, and compromises the well-being and productivity of many people. Building materials can release volatile chemicals into the air through evaporation, which can continue for years after they are installed. This means people can continue to breathe these chemicals as they work, sleep or relax. Since steel does not contain any VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), steel-framed structures provide a healthier environment because there is no opportunity to pollute indoor air. Furthermore, steel does not support the growth of mold.

Steel-framed projects are energy efficient
Buildings consume two-fifths of all material and energy flows. But unlike other construction materials that expand and contract with humidity and temperature changes, steel framing members remain straight and true from the day they are installed through the life of the structure. This means door and window openings framed with steel remain stable, which ultimately saves on energy costs.

For more information about steel’s green benefits, visit the Steel Framing Alliance at www.steelframing.org.

About the Author
Maribeth Rizzuto is the director of Training and Education for the Steel Framing Alliance and is a LEED® accredited professional. She is currently serving on a task group as part of an initiative of the International Code Council and National Association of Home Builders to develop a residential green building standard.

Source: Modern Trade, January 2008

 

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Brought to you by the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) on the first Tuesday 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.