Designing Sustainable Steel Structures: Environmental Considerations

  • Author: Fazal Umer
  • Posted On: October 24, 2023
  • Updated On: October 24, 2023

We rely heavily on steel structures daily as they build our hospitals, schools, and workplaces. Remember, steel also helps you safely get where you should be across bridges and all means of transportation, be it cars, airplanes, ships, or rail. The demand is expected to grow, increasing the need for virgin materials.

Our world as we know it is facing environmental deterioration and climatic changes. Civil engineers need to step up and embrace environmentally sustainable practices. If they take the necessary measures, then the challenges of environmental degradation in the construction sector will be mitigated.

Why do civil engineers use steel structures when constructing homes and workplaces? Are there any other types of metals they can use? Honestly, yes, you can get other reliable metals out there but I don’t think they can reach the level of steel in terms of strength, durability, and the perks that come when minimizing environmental impact. Explore these sustainable construction practices with the guidance of a construction consultancy in Ireland.

How Are We Going to Design Sustainable Steel Structures?

Are you looking to promote a sustainable and greener future for the construction industry? You have come to the right place.

Below we will take a look at some of the aspects that aid in the mitigation of effects that affect our environment adversely:

Recycling Steel Structures

About a third of the steel made annually comes from scrap. Almost all the rest is virgin steel created from iron ore. Recycling is a better and usually cheaper alternative for the construction sectors. So, why are we still not making so much of it from scratch? Because the world needs more than scraps can provide.

Steel production is energy-intensive. Therefore, it contributes to annual carbon emissions. Thus, the need to make more sustainable steel through recycling is the only solution. Construction companies have been recycling steel for over a century. Trucks deliver thousands of metric tons of scrap from cars, washing machines, demolished buildings, and more daily.

Recycling takes advantage of one of steel’s properties: it has an infinitely / higher recyclability with no downgrading in quality. You can easily separate steel from other recycling trash as it is magnetic. The process minimizes energy use, conserves valuable natural resources, and reduces waste spread.

How Does the Recycling Process Occur?

Powerful magnets layer different types of steel based on what’s required for each batch. The scraps are moved to the furnace, where the melting occurs. The melting process makes the recycled steel cleaner. There is no need to mine or get virgin iron. The arc furnace uses less than half as much as the ones that make new steel.

If you plan on using other processes, they can adjust the same chemistry and strength of the steel. It molds and shapes the steel into bars ready for sale. Especially the companies that sell them to copper and gold mining sectors.

Energy Efficiency

We have been sold the notion that decarbonizing steel production was near impossible for decades. Savy steel manufacturing processes minimize energy consumption and emission of greenhouse gases.

Using solar & wind-powered electric arc furnaces to recycle steel scrap has improved energy efficiency. The arc furnace uses energy-efficient materials instead of former coal that served for more than half a century.

Replacing the coke ovens with innovative steel scrap recycling technologies like electric arc furnaces guarantees a sustainable carbon-free future. The plan is to reduce 90 percent of direct carbon emissions by using renewable power sources. We want to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

Reducing Carbon Emission Footprint

Reducing the carbon emission footprint in the steel industry could help curb environmental deterioration. However, these measures are only possible with international policy change emphasizing the need for coordinated efforts.

Transitioning to a low or free-carbon future is a challenging walk. However, the construction sector can adopt structural steel as its primary building material.

Steel will enable the sectors to build lightweight structures with less carbon footprints. The strength-to-weight ratio of steel allows for the creation of systems with less material requirement.

Longevity and Durability

Most people think steel is just a metal like any other. That’s not the case, as steel is an alloy. Let’s closely examine what an alloy is to understand better.

An allow refers to the amalgamation of different metals to come up with a composite material that helps construction companies establish projects that last much longer. In this case, iron is a major component in steel structures. You can blend more components like manganese, cobalt, carbon, nickel, silicon, and chromium.

Have you ever thought of a structure like the Eiffel Tower? The structure comprises the above components, contributing to its robust and long-lasting nature. The Eiffel Tower has been around with only minimal maintenance requirements over its lifespan for centuries. Imagine building the same Eiffel Tower with only 25% of its steel today.

Final Thoughts

Our firms must establish comprehensive approaches to help achieve the safety of our well-being, eradicate environmental impacts, and save more energy.

We’ve got structural steel as a remedy to help reduce waste problems, mitigate environmental deterioration, and conserve our natural resources. We hope this information comes in handy. If you have anything to add, we would also love to hear from you. How are we going to build a more sustainable future?

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Author: Fazal Umer

Fazal is a dedicated industry expert in the field of civil engineering. As an Editor at ConstructionHow, he leverages his experience as a civil engineer to enrich the readers looking to learn a thing or two in detail in the respective field. Over the years he has provided written verdicts to publications and exhibited a deep-seated value in providing informative pieces on infrastructure, construction, and design.