As previously mentioned we’re waiting for the steel to be fabricated for our project, or more precisely, waiting for the steel shop drawings to be completed. As I wait, I wonder, “Is steel construction in residential design very green?”
If you do some searches on ‘steel construction’ and ‘green, environmental or sustainable’ then you’ll find lots of steel companies talking about steel being an environmental friendly material. However, you have to wonder what they’re comparing steel too.
Presumably, FSC timber would be better, right? No smelting, iron ore digging or energy sucking factories. The wood would have been harvested in a sustainable manner. The problem w/ timber however, can be its structural limitations, such as in our case. We have a need for long, load-bearing beams and timber is simply not feasible. Plus, there’s a unique design aspect to using exposed steel beams. A huge downside to steel is the cost. You could buy a couple nice solar panels with the cost of fabricated steel. 😦
Should designs be reconfigured to work within the limitations of timber design? Do steel’s benefits such as containing recycled content, longer lasting, zero site waste and faster erection time outweigh the drawbacks?? What about the savings from having exposed steel and not needing framing and drywall around it?
To me there’s no clear answer, which is why I skew towards the better design. Below is an example of an exposed steel beam and you can see that one can’t deny the design appeal. Try replacing those with glue-lams, not the same impact. (picture is courtesy of Pre-fab Modern, Herbers)