How Cold-formed Steel Benefits Both Investors and the Environment

If you’re building an investment property, making sustainable choices from the start can produce long-term cost savings.

For example, you could choose energy-saving lightbulbs over regular bulbs.  They’re more expensive, but they last longer and use much less power.  Larger-scale options, like window tinting, can also be beneficial – tinted windows cut down air con costs and improve the internal climate of a building.

But what about prioritising sustainability during the design and construction stages?  

Cold-formed steel is a type of steel that can be used for building framing, and has a number of benefits over alternatives like regular steel and wood.  

In this article, we’re going to look at how building with cold-formed steel can help:

    • Reduce costs
    • Improve sustainability
    • Enhance building longevity
    • Increase air purity

Cold-formed steel (CFS) is any type of steel product that uses shaping at or around room temperature to achieve its final form.  It’s the opposite of hot-formed steel, which is shaped at temperatures of over 900 °C.

Both CFS and hot-formed steel have been in use for decades; most modern builders use hot-formed steel in construction, because it’s significantly cheaper than CFS.

As with most things, though, you get what you pay for.  CFS has a number of advantages over hot-formed steel, including:

    • More precise dimensions.  Hot-formed steel can warp slightly during the cooling process, leading to slightly sloped or deformed shapes.
    • Cleaner, smoother surfaces.  Hot-formed steel often has scaly surfaces as a result of its high-temperature shaping.
    • Better strength and hardness.  CFS undergoes processing on cold reducing rolls, which increases its strength and hardness by deforming the grain texture and structure.  In order to remedy these deformations – but preserve the increased strength and hardness – all CFS used in construction should be stress-relieving annealed steel (in other words, CFS that has been heat-treated to reform the grain texture and structure).

Cold-formed steel isn’t just stronger and tougher than hot-formed steel – it’s also better for the environment.  Here are five reasons why cold-formed steel is one of the best sustainable building materials out there. 

Durability

CFS is one of the most durable building materials in the world.  

According to the Steel Framing Industry Association, “with the proper coating and construction techniques, the [corrosion-resistant] barrier over cold-formed steel will last nearly 700 years, even under extreme conditions such as near aggressive salt-laden waters”.  CFS also doesn’t absorb water during flooding and heavy rain, making it ideal for building in regions with wet seasons.      

As a solid, metallic material, CFS is termite-proof, so using it for framing can enhance a building’s longevity.  Termites cause around $4 billion in damage each year in Australia alone, and are even more prevalent in countries with warm, humid climates like Indonesia. 

Similarly, mould is a serious threat in places with regular rainfall, but CFS’s inorganic nature means that, unlike wood, mould and mildew can’t feed on it. CFS also doesn’t absorb moisture, which can help damp areas of buildings dry out faster.  

Finally, CFS does not warp, rot, or become structurally unsound over time.

Recyclability

Unlike wood and other building materials, steel is 100% recyclable.  This means that there is no loss of material or function during the recycling process; one steel can could be melted down and reshaped into another, identical steel can.

Most CFS contains some recycled steel.  Additionally, if a building that uses CFS framing is ever destroyed or demolished, the framing can be recycled or even reused in its current form.

Waste Reduction

Unlike hot-formed steel, the industry standard in construction, CFS components are normally manufactured to precise specifications, which minimises on-site labour.  This means faster build times, reduced construction costs, and less material waste.

CFS’s superior strength also means less material is used to accomplish the same functions, which can produce efficiency and cost gains across the production, transport and construction phases.

Healthier Interiors

Sustainability isn’t just about the environment – it’s about improving the health of humans and the planet as a single system.  As such, sustainable building practices should support human health as much as environmental wellbeing, and that’s exactly what cold-formed steel does.

Because CFS is inorganic, mould and mildew can’t feed off it.  This, in turn, makes it less likely buildings will have mould or wall dampness, improving the quality of the interior air.

CFS also doesn’t emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  VOCs are a class of airborne compounds released by different materials, including paint, household chemicals, and wood, and can be toxic to human health.  VOC concentrations are normally around 10 times higher indoors than outdoors, so reducing them by using CFS can improve air quality and reduce the risk of long-term health impacts.   

When creating an investment property, better sustainability shouldn’t be an afterthought.  By using a material like cold-formed steel in construction, you can:

    • Improve building durability
    • Use recycled steel
    • Decrease costs
    • Decrease wastage
    • Create healthier interiors for you and your tenants

To learn more about how Selo Group developments use sustainable design, explore our Selo Footprints program.

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