3 great tips to construct Greener Buildings with Steel Framing

Numerous industries worldwide are placing greater emphasis on greener buildings and sustainability, with both manufacturers and end-users also aiming to produce or use materials which are carbon neutral or can achieve a “net zero” rating.

However, as the construction of buildings and their subsequent operation account for nearly around 40% of all carbon emissions, things really have to change—otherwise the sector will remain as one of the major environmental polluters on a worldwide basis. As it stands, the manufacture and transport of building materials to construction sites, as well as actual construction processes, account for some 11% of total global emissions.

Doing its part, the steel industry is actively establishing an array of partnerships and working on advanced technologies in clean energy, efficiency advances and new production techniques. The aim being to lower the carbon footprint of multi-family and non-residential buildings.

In addition, industry participants such as main contractors are seeking improved construction methods to develop more socially responsible structures. As a result, more and more developers and contractors are turning to cold-formed steel (“CFS”) framing to reduce carbon emissions and construct greener structures.

Some key benefits of using steel

To recap there are several major benefits of using steel in construction, not least of which is the fact that the recycling rate for steel used in general construction, which includes recycling cold-formed steel scrap material, is around 74%.

Overall, steel has greater strength and a longer lifespan than other commonly used materials; it is also cost-effective and sustainable

So let’s have a look at 3 great tips for creating greener buildings with cold-formed steel framing:

3 great tips for Greener Buildings

As early as possible in the procurement stages, contractors can begin to consider sustainability for a project.

Once materials are being selected, if there is close collaboration and engagement between all concerned parties in the supply chain, the project can take its first steps towards being more sustainable.

Tip 1: The “three R’s”, namely Reduce, Repurpose or Recycle Materials

At the outset, an inventory plan for all proposed project materials can be compiled, with low or low- or zero-carbon options being chosen wherever possible. Workable targets for reducing, repurposing and recycling components can be set with a practical set of measures against such targets

When working with CFS, contractors can quite easily reduce waste by streamlining the manufacturing and installation processes. For example, by using off-site prefabrication, CFS panels can be delivered to construction sites, being ready to assemble with little to no waste in time and on site working hours. Material waste is further reduced as components are fabricated beforehand to precise specifications..

Steel’s sustainability can not only save money but also generate revenue as redundant CFS can be sold to be recycled into more steel products. This allows contractors and sub-contractors to either generate extra revenue or pass on the savings to the project owner.

Tip 2: Sustainability planning

It’s important to have a plan for sustainability practices even before any works begin on site.

Planners, architects and other involved professionals can collect background data to create a solid base for sustainability practices, and make assessments about which materials will be most suitable having regard to climatic conditions such as exposed locations, flooding and/or fires.

With such a focus on performance, it’s possible to identify a number of material characteristics and performance attributes to enable a building to withstand the demands on a structure of various weather conditions over long periods of time.

Cold-formed steel framing is high on the list of such types of sustainable materials with its ability to withstand and recover rapidly from extreme events in a safe and cost-effective manner.

Another desirable key characteristic of suitably resilient building materials is the so-called “strength-to-weight ratio”. This compares the merits of different materials by dividing the maximum imposed load by the weight of the material.

Compared with many of the most commonly used construction materials, steel has the highest strength-to-weight ratio by far. When CFS is made into a C-shape, the bends in the steel increase the strength of the material dramatically, providing a strength-to-weight ratio which can be up to seven times greater than that of wood.

Exterior insulation is necessary in all climates for any framing material and CFS provides excellent insulation plus helps reduce the chance of moisture problems, as well as eliminating thermal bridging.

Tip 3: Energy efficiency from the outset and meeting international standards

Energy used to operate and run buildings accounts for 28% of all emissions worldwide and it’s vital, therefore, to implement energy efficiency throughout the different phases of the project, all the way through the design and construction phases, to the actual operation.

CFS has a well-established record of providing energy-saving and sustainability benefits for all sorts of buildings irrespective of shape and size. Indeed, CFS framing can often be used as the primary structural element in mid-rise construction as it meets the exterior insulation requirements set by a wide variety of recognised entities such as IECC, ASHRAE 90.1, ASHRAE 189.1, IgCC and LEED.

In North America, there is also the AISI S250-21, a set of CFS thermal transmittance standards published by the American Iron and Steel Institute. This provides a single source for calculating the thermal transmittance (“U-factors”) of walls and ceiling/roof envelopes which have been constructed with CFS.

In addition, the Steel Framing Industry Association (“SFIA”) has recently implemented a new Environmental Product Declaration for Cold-Formed Steel Framing, for use by contractors, building owners, architects and other professionals working on advanced building designs, all of which meet the latest LEED and other sustainable rating systems, programmes and standards.

So, in short, CFS meets the highest sustainability requirements set in all major green building standards and rating programmes, including LEED, the Green Building Council, the National Green Building Standard (“ICC-700”) for residential buildings, ASHRAE Standard 189.1 for commercial construction and the International Green Construction Code (“IgCC”).

On a global basis, the number of green building projects is expected to continuously  grow on an annual basis for the foreseeable future. A recent publication entitled “World Green Building Trends 2021” by Dodge Data demonstrates the importance placed upon green buildings by governments, corporations and institutions.

CFS is very much to the forefront of materials likely to be used as it contains a minimum of 25% recycled steel and is continually and completely recyclable and, perhaps, most importantly, can be remade into similar or type of products without any loss of quality. This contrasts with many other building materials which can only be recycled into lower-quality products.

A final key point is the major reduction in waste from using CFS, both in terms of time and waste of actual materials.

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