Steel is the Future for Sustainable Construction

Read the multi-faceted ways in which steel can help make the construction sector a greener one

Fractional C02 Emissions in Buildings:
Steel Curbing It Right


By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9.5 billion, and the population of cities will increase by 68%. Given these macro trends and the construction sector support they will require, it is essential to remember that buildings today are responsible for as much as 39% of global carbon emissions. Out of these 39%,28% comes from operational emissions, i.e., the energy needed to heat, cool and power them and the rest from materials and construction.

The construction sector is another major source of pollution: it accounts for around 4% of particulate emissions, in addition to causing high levels of noise pollution and more water pollution incidents than any other industry. For better preservation of the environment and averting the ecological damage caused by injudicious construction, these emissions must be reduced significantly for buildings to become net zero CO2emitters by 2050. It is time we shifted to cleaner and greener resources in construction.

One important way to cut down CO2 emissions from buildings is by replacing conventional construction materials like bricks and mortar with steel. Steel is a highly versatile material that can be adapted to any colour, texture or pattern you want. It has high tensile strength and corrosion resistance. According to Terrence Busuttil, who heads Construct steel at World steel Association, the following are four reasons why steel is at the core of the transition to net zero energy buildings.

Energy Efficiency: Steel has the ability to harness and transfer renewable energy. Examples are the steel mountings on rooftop solar panels, roof-integrated solar heat collectors and geothermal energy piles.

Thermal Mass: Steel can quickly store as well as release heat as required. So, phase change materials (PCMs) of steel can be used in floors, walls or ceilings to capture and store thermal energy, enabling a consistent room temperature with less energy demand.

Airtightness: Steel sandwich panels and windows contribute to maintaining a building’s airtightness, thus helping it cut down its heat losses and contribute to energy savings.

Sustainability: As steel can be prefabricated in specific dimensions or modules in the factory, the components can be made available easily on-site when required. Being non-organic, steel’s ability to be recycled again and again without loss of quality implies that the requirement to create new future steel would be less.

Buildings made with prefabricated steel structures have quick construction timelines. Consequently, machines work for lesser time, which helps in reducing noise and emissions from the equipment.

Furthermore, steel mills have cut down emissions significantly in the past few decades. Production of steel requires less amount of water and emits fewer gases into the atmosphere. In cities like Delhi, where construction has been prohibited during the winter months in the last few years to curb pollution, steel can prove to be a boon for construction activities.

Steel structures tend to be significantly lighter in weight than their concrete equivalents, and they thus require less extensive foundations. This reduces the environmental impact of the building and its construction. Lesser and lighter materials mean they are easier to move around, thereby reducing transportation and fuel consumption. What's more, steel pile foundations can be extracted, recycled or reused at the end of a building’s life, if required, leaving effectively no waste material on site.

Hence, it is quite evident then that steel has significantly reduced the pollution caused due to construction activities, in multifarious ways, paving the way for a cleaner, greener and sustainable environment.

Information sources: World Steel,Volta Greens