Is Steel Really an Eco-friendly Building Component?

Is Steel Really an Eco-friendly Building Component?

Here at Matador Engineered Metal Buildings, we know that there are many pros and cons people weigh when deciding what material to use in new construction. We also understand that our customers may have concerns about the environment. And rightly so, since a small investment today can pay huge dividends for the future—that goes for a building just as much as it does a planet. That’s why we want to show you just how eco-friendly steel can be and why it’s the best choice for people interested in going green.

Steel is a green building material. Since steel buildings are prefabricated with precision in a closed facility, steel building erection sites produce less waste. That means less waste to haul away from a construction site, and less waste for the landfill. Even better than that is the fact that steel is the most recycled material on earth. And steel won’t lose any of its integrity no matter how many times it gets recycled.

But we know that there are other choices when it comes to picking a construction material for your building project, so you may still be considering one of those. Let’s examine the environmental drawbacks of using concrete or wood as your main building material instead of steel.

What about concrete?

While it is true that concrete can be recycled, in its second life it is only used as a component in roadbed, not as the main material in a new building. That means that with each new structural concrete-based project, you have to build with entirely newly-mixed concrete. And concrete alone is the cause of between five and ten percent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans, mostly due to the production of one of its main ingredients, cement. Contrast this with steel’s ability to be recycled indefinitely without losing any of its inherent strength or properties, and you will see why you come out ahead with steel.

What about wood?

One common misconception about steel is that it’s not a good construction material choice for the environmentally-conscious consumer because it’s not a renewable resource. Many people mistakenly believe that wood is the way to go. After all, they say, if you cut down trees, you can just plant more!

What this belief fails to consider, however, is that the new trees that get planted when the old ones are taken down won’t mature for decades. And clearcutting, which is a common harvesting method, often hastens erosion and has a detrimental effect on entire ecosystems.

Wood construction advocates may say that using wood in buildings has environmental benefits because the wooden beams in your home or barn lock in carbon that would otherwise be adding to the greenhouse effect in the form of atmospheric CO2. This claim doesn’t quite hold up either though, because living trees are a much better reservoir for carbon than dead timber is. In addition, when trees are harvested for lumber, their roots and branch systems go unused and thereby send carbon back into the atmosphere when they decompose.

No matter what, once a wooden building is demolished, the lumber, (whether it’s in good enough condition to be reused or not), is almost always incinerated or sent to a landfill. When this lumber burns or when it decays, the carbon it holds is nonetheless released into the atmosphere at that time.

Why steel is the best choice for going green

In addition to being recycled more often than any other material, steel producers have worked to reduce the waste generated during the production of steel. The steel industry now recycles more than 95 percent of the water used in the process of making steel. Steelmakers are also embracing efficiency. Over the past five decades, the industry has reduced the energy it consumes to produce a ton of steel by 60 percent. And the steel industry is committed to a more sustainable future overall, which includes the goal of steel production that is carbon-neutral.

Steel buildings are durable. They are made to last. If your building has a steel roof, it’s likely going to last twice as long as a roof made of asphalt. That means that by choosing steel, you keep tons of shingles out of landfills. And since steel buildings require less maintenance than buildings made out of other materials, that means less waste associated with basic upkeep. Plus, if you need to relocate a steel building, it’s possible to disassemble it and move the parts to a different site to be re-erected, rather than pouring resources into creating a new structure. This is obviously also preferable to demolition or abandonment.

Speaking of steel roofs, they are perfect for installing solar panels as well! That’s yet another sustainable way you can reduce your carbon footprint by working to move away from being dependent on fossil fuels (while also saving on energy costs).

Being eco-friendly is the future of good business

We know that your business needs to comply with government environmental regulations as well. Steel buildings can help you get ahead there too!

Sustainability is the way of the future. Fortunately, for those investing in steel structures, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), through its green building evaluation program, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has acknowledged the value of steel for its high recycling and reusability rate. Steel buildings are good candidates for getting LEED credits. They can achieve this by being designed to reduce the heat island effect through having a cool roof, for instance, along with incorporating a number of other environmentally helpful features and innovations.

We know that you have a choice in what material you use to construct your barn, your shed, your church annex, or even your home. We also know that you care about the earth. You can do right by your business while also doing right by the planet by choosing steel. In addition to all of the other advantages that steel buildings offer you, we’re confident that you’ll also see how green they are and know how good it is to go green.