How “green” is structural steel?

Structural steel, long considered the premier green construction material, is continuing to improve its environmentally friendly position by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While numerous legislative and regulatory efforts have targeted emissions, energy efficiency, and related environmental concerns in recent years, the structural steel industry has been proactive in pursuing measures of its own that typically exceed regulatory requirements.

The results of structural steel industry efforts are evident in recent Environmental Protection Agency findings on greenhouse gasses, which show that the iron and steel industry reduced carbon emissions by 47% between 1990 and 2005 along with the highest overall emissions reduction of any major industry of 67%. By comparison, initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol would have required U.S. industries to reduce emissions by 5.2% by 2012.

At the same time, the industry remains the world leader in the use of recycled material and end-of-life recycling, with the recycled content of the structural steel beams and columns produced at U.S. mills averaging 88% and a recycling rate of 98%. The steel industry has also continually pursued methods for reducing energy consumption and has reduced energy intensity per ton of steel by 29% since 1990. The industry also has committed to the Climate Vision program, which seeks to reduce energy usage by an additional 10 percent by 2012.


Recommended Resources:

Steel Takes LEED
Going Beyond Material Issues, Gorgolewski paper