Of Green Steel and Jackfruit Trees

Over the last six months, Alex Morales, AISC's structural steel specialist for the Houston market, led a campaign to help teach local AEC firms about the sustainability of structural steel. To make things fun and engaging, Alex created a friendly competition amongst the firms. Each firm was given jackfruit tree seeds to grow, with the tallest tree being the winner at the end. On a bi-weekly basis, Alex visited each firm to measure and record the height of their jackfruit tree. He also used these visits to share the dynamic sustainable characteristics of steel, often through the use of fun facts, creating a dialogue on how material and design are important in promoting a sustainable built environment.

For instance, domestically produced structural steel contains 93% recycled steel scrap, on average. And at the end of a building's life, 98% of the structural steel can be recycled back into new steel products. Additionally, steel is the only building material that can be recycled over and over again without the loss of its physical properties. So with its high recycled content and recycling rate, structural steel is the premier green construction material. The jackfruit competition recently concluded and sadly, some didn’t survive to the end (including one that went missing without a trace). But overall, it was a fantastic experience for everyone involved. It also proved to be a great opportunity to engage with local firms and share more information about structural steel with them. In the end, there were several great finalists who did all of their research and managed to provide their trees with the best environments and living conditions for success. And as a bonus, the Houston Museum of Natural Science was excited to have their horticulturists select one winning specimen to be accepted into the museum. This jackfruit tree will join a great collection of tropical plant species from around the world as a permanent installation.

To learn more about the sustainability of structural steel, please visit