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Steel as green material

By Amado de Jesus
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 10:53:00 02/29/2008

Filed Under: Construction & Property, Endurance, Environmental Issues

NOT MANY PEOPLE REALIZE THAT STEEL is a green building material. This is the reason steel is a popular material for green buildings. It addresses the challenge of rising oil prices and the need to deal with climate change.

It also has high strength to weight ratio, making it the first choice for automotive production. Steel represents about 62 percent of vehicular mass.

In the United States, iron and steel production accounts for only one percent of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Steel manufacturers being mostly private-owned and market-driven in the United States, invest heavily to increase efficiency and decrease energy use. The use of recycled steel and scrap contributes remarkably to the reduction of GHG emissions.

As a result of economic and environmental benefits from recycled steel, recycling is now an essential part of the steel business. Therefore, more steel is recycled each year than all other materials combined, including aluminum, paper and glass. Steel is the only material that can be recycled over and over without ever losing its quality. The overall recycling rate for the steel industry is approximately 66 percent.

Benefits of steel

The steel industry recycles millions of tons of steel scrap from recycled cans, appliances, automobiles and construction materials. This scrap is re-melted to make new steel.

Steel does not outgas since its toxicity is low. However, the protective coat of oil found on some steel framing may irritate some sensitive individuals if not removed before installation.

Steel can be magnetically separated from the waste stream. It therefore saves landfill space and helps conserve natural resources.

Steel recycling saves energy equivalent to the electricity needed to power 18 million homes per year.

Every ton of recycled steel saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone.

New steel produced from recycled steel requires only 39 percent of the energy required to process steel from virgin material.

After its useful product life, steel is recycled back into another steel product. Steel with almost 100 percent recycled content can hardly be better than steel with 30 percent recycled content.

From soup cans, to appliances, to cars and bridges, steel may be recycled.

Steel is termite resistant and has fire protection properties.

In building construction, steel in the form of I-beams for columns and posts facilitates faster construction. It also has the ability to span wide distances between supports. This is why it is an ideal material for pedestrian overpasses and bridges.

With the tensile strength of steel in combination with the compressive strength of concrete, modern architecture and engineering made technological advances. Tensile strength is the capability of steel to be stretched or drawn out.

Precautions in using steel

Powder coating is better than solvent-based coating application. Mechanical process such as abrasive blasting, grinding, buffing and polishing do not generate as much hazardous waste as chemical and electrical processes.

We have to be careful with electroplated coatings that use toxic or polluting materials such as cyanide and formaldehyde.

Wrought iron that has intricate patterns uses iron with carbon content. The lower the carbon content, the more resistant it is to corrosion.

Metal by itself is inert and has virtually no impact on indoor air quality.

We use steel for roofing, structural metal framing, for ornamental metal and many others. We have to appreciate the high value of this green material.

For comments or inquiries, e-mail amadodejesus@gmail.com.

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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