Attempting to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle in St. Louis

Environmentally friendly decisions are tough

Is steel construction green? November 23, 2007

Filed under: General Green 2.0,Green Rehab,Live Green 2.0 — budint @ 4:53 am
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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)
steel beam

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3 Responses to “Is steel construction green?”

  1. Kyle Says:

    Modern structural steel is over 99% recycled material. Steel processing does take a lot of energy, but in the last 10 to 15 years the amount of energy has dropped dramatically due to technological innovations (e.g. electric arc furnaces). If you are interested, you should check out the American Institute of Steel Construction at their website http://www.aisc.org/sustainability.

  2. I would like to buy 1, 12″ x 18′ beam for my house .
    please let me know how much it will cost ? thanks .

  3. […] follow their journey, read here or click on the […]


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