Designing for Sustainability

The green building movement is increasing at a rapid pace. More and more building owners, architects, engineers and contractors are realizing the benefits of sustainable design and construction practices in improving not only the longevity of the earth's environment, but also the quality of the built environment.

The LEED Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, has been crucial to this movement. And under the LEED system, structural steel receives maximum credit for its contribution to the overall rating for a structure, due in large part to its recycled content and recycling rate.

Structural steel produced in the United States contains 93.3% recycled steel scrap. At the end of a building’s life, 98% of all structural steel is recycled back into new steel products with no loss of its physical properties. As such, structural steel isn’t just recycled but “multi-cycled,” as it can be recycled over and over and over again. It is truly a cradle-to-cradle material.

We encourage you to explore the below resources to learn more about steel and sustainability. You can also contact an advisor in AISC’s Steel Solutions Center to discuss how steel can contribute to the sustainability of your project: 866.ASK.AISC, [email protected]. General questions or ideas regarding steel and sustainability can be directed to Vice President of Marketing, John Cross, [email protected].


bullet_orangeAISC Sustainability Course

AISC's sustainability course "Sustainability and Steel" is now available for one hour of LEED/GBCI continuing education credit. Those who attend this live learning presentation will report the credit hour directly to GBCI and receive certificates of completion from AISC. Contact your regional engineer if you're interested! Click here to visit GBCI's Course Catalog and see a description of the course (search on 90006210).

bullet_orangeNational Environmental Report

AISC has released an educational documentary that explores structural steel's sustainable attributes and construction processes as part of the National Environmental Report series airing in November on PBS TV stations and other major U.S. networks.

The documentary takes viewers inside structural steel facilities to see the steel-making process and describes how the structural steel industry is setting the standard for environmentally friendly and efficient building materials. The video also includes interviews with industry experts highlighting structural steel's strength, durability and adaptability.


Video featuring Larry Flynn, AISC industry marketing manager

bullet_orangeNew NREL Facility Sets Benchmark

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Research Support Facility, which opened in 2010 in Golden, CO, sets the standard for environmentally office buildings-and also uses reclaimed steel piping for a significant portion of its vertical columns. Click here to view a short YouTube video on the project.


bullet_orangeLEED Reporting

Industry average Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for fabricated structural steel products are available at

Current LEED Reporting templates are available on the SteelTools website,, under the keyword LEED.

A Green Roadmap- An overview of the requirements of LEED, ASHRAE 189.1 and IgCC relative to structural steel.

Producer Documentation

bullet_orangeGreen Steel Projects

A New Bridge Over the Po River - An 18-month replacement project showcases bridge construction innovation in Europe.

Greening Steel Construction - Low-impact facility sets high standard for future sustainable construction.

2011 IDEAS2 Awards Winners - There are several LEED-Certified or otherwise green projects in this year’s list of winners.

Built for Deconstruction - Careful design allows the new gift shop on Liberty Island to be easily moved when its lease expires.

An Inside Job - Converting a nearly abandoned vintage power station into prime office space relied on a detailed erection plan and flawless execution.

Ecologically Sound - Planned and constructed for sustainability, new music facilities earn LEED certification as well as acclaim.

A Green Building for a Green Company - Committed to practicing what they preach, this manufacturer's new facility is built to achieve LEED certification.

Hangar Life - The U.S. Navy's largest aircraft hangar is also its largest LEED Silver project--and is one of only a few hangars in the world to achieve this level of LEED certification.

Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus - Exposed steel and straightforward finishes were key to the sustainable design approach for this multi-building campus addition. (Go to page 9 of PDF.)

Built to Last - The Kirsch Center at DeAnza Community College stands as an eco-friendly example of how sustainability and structural steel go hand-in-hand.

Banking on Sustainability - Cellular beams help Boise's Banner Bank Building achieve green goals and provide open, flexible office space, at tremendous materials and energy savings.

Getting the Green Light - An attractive, sustainable DMV gives maximum exposure to structural steel.

Warehouse Wonder - The adaptive re-use of an existing steelframed structure resulted in one of the "greenest" office buildings ever.

Getting Back to Nature.... in Las Vegas - Vegas provides a high-tech sensory overload, but there's a serene, natural side to the city as well-and no, it's not a tropical-themed casino.




bullet_orangeRelated Links


bullet_orangeModern Steel Construction Articles


bullet_orangeMore Green Steel Projects

    • Christy Webber Landscapes Greenworks Project (an IDEAS2 Award Winner)

    • Heifer International Headquarters (an IDEAS2 Award Winner)

    • Seattle City Hall (an IDEAS2 Award Winner)

    • Waterfront Winner - The David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh used a cable-stayed design to create the largest clear-span convention space in the U.S.

    • Creative Quarters - The steel-framed expansion of Harley-Davidson’s Willie G. Davidson Product Development Center in Wauwatosa, WI is a sustainable structure designed for innovative thinking.

    • Outdoors Inside - The Oregon Department of Forestry’s new Operations Building combines structural steel and re-sawn timber to create attractive offices.

    • Green Acres - A new truck-assembly building for the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, MI integrates green building concepts into a modern manufacturing facility.
    • Fitting In - The Palazzo overcomes spatial hurdles to become the lastest high-class resort on the Las Vegas strip- not to mention the world's largest LEED-certified building.


bullet_orangeMSC Sustainability Column