The slowly returning market for new building has brought with it a renewed appreciation of the environmental risk factors involved with construction. Coupled with rising concerns about sustainable practices, and a more eco-friendly building environment, it is easy to understand why steel buildings have boomed in popularity over the last two decades.
Limited Resource Requirements
Building a standard-sized American home can require anywhere from 10 trees to an entire acre’s worth of forest. With the US Census Bureau estimating that nearly 650,000 new homes were completed in 2012 alone, even at the low end of the spectrum 6.5 million trees. Not taking into account the heavy environmental side-effects associated with massive deforestation projects, the loss of trees may directly contribute to climate change and its related threats. Trees work to produce oxygen by scrubbing carbon dioxide (CO2) during photosynthesis. While there is already too much CO2 in the air, cutting down trees en-masse means more greenhouses gasses are released, meaning more pollution and more climate change.
By comparison, steel buildings feature metal that is being increasingly produced at plants featuring net-zero CO2 emissions. Both the water that is used to produce the steel, and the steel itself, can and often are recycled, increasing the eco-efficiency of the production process. More than 80% of steel used in construction of these buildings is recyclable. In the case of pre-fabricated buildings, the ease of recycling is as simple as disassembly, refurbishment, and erecting the equivalent of a brand new home.
In and of itself, the construction process is yet another aspect of steel-building’s eco-friendly nature. Traditional construction can draw out the process of building a new structure over the course of months. The resulting manpower, noise, dust, wood-waste, and fiberglass produced or leftover by these construction sites is often obvious from the get-go. Conversely, many steel structures are pre-fabricated, vastly cutting down the amount of time and energy needed to finish the process.
The eco-friendliness of a steel structure does not end with the construction process. Instead, steel framed house are known as massive energy savers, often reducing heating and cooling output up to 40%. Since heating and cooling efforts are one of the largest consumers of energy and money, there is a huge benefit of reflective metal surfacing and thick steel-paneled walls able to support multiple layers of insulation. Moreover, since steel does not emit volatile organic compounds, humidity levels and air flow are also easily regulated without costly, energy-consuming extra devices.
The high-quality steel used in production presents a number of other benefits to potential occupants. To begin, steel frames are resistant to many of the major challenges faced by typical homes including mold, rot, and termite infestation. Similarly, steel is an extremely durable material that can provide protection against many natural disasters including fire, earthquakes, and even 100+ mph winds. Built to stand the test of time, pre-fabricated steel buildings are well known for avoiding the costly and eco-stressing renovations that standard wood or brick structures face.
Although the last ten years saw a drastic drop in the number of new homes built each year, the one possible silver lining may be the steadily growing marketplace for steel building construction. Saving money in the short term and saving the environment in the long term, steel buildings offer consumers a choice that presents the best of both worlds.