Recycled steel is one of the leading sustainable building materials in use today.
Steel recycling promotes a circular economy that slows the use of natural resources, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and conserves between 60 and 74% of steelmaking energy.
So, it’s a far more sustainable material to use in construction than virgin steel, but what are some examples of recycled steel building materials to use in your next project?
Beams, columns, sheets, and studs are examples of recycled steel building materials you could utilize in your projects. Recycled steel is just as strong and durable as new steel made from iron ore, so these materials have high tensile strength and durability, guaranteeing value for your money.
In this article, I’ll discuss some examples of recycled steel building materials commonly used in the industry. I’ll cover the uses of each product in construction and their benefits to help you choose wisely. Keep reading!
As the world grapples with the devastating effects of climate change and habitat loss, the construction industry is making strides to reduce its adverse environmental impact. Among the steps being taken is shifting to green building materials like recycled steel.
Virgin steel significantly contributes to environmental degradation, greenhouse gas emissions, and excessive energy consumption. So, to reduce the impact of structural and other uses of steel in your project, shift to the following recycled steel building materials:
1. Recycled Steel Beams
Beams are essential in many construction projects. They prevent overloading concrete slabs by supporting the walls and reinforce columns by ensuring sufficient distribution of the bending force, maintaining the structural integrity of columns.
Steel is the primary material used to make construction beams, and recycled steel beams are excellent at providing structural support for a building, thanks to the fact that recycled steel retains its physical properties even when recycled multiple times.
You can even reuse steel beams from one project without remelting and reprocessing if they are the right specification and can be demounted safely without damaging them – so-called salvaged steel.
Reusing steel members in this way can save you money that would otherwise go into transporting the material to the recycling facility, not to mention the energy saving from avoiding the need to remelt the steel to recycle it, which further reduces the carbon footprint of salvaged steel.
2. Recycled Steel Columns
Columns are vital to a building’s stability. These structural components transmit loads from a building’s slabs (including the roof and upper floors) to the foundation and, thus, the ground beneath. Therefore, they must be as strong as possible to withstand compressive and deformation forces from vertical loads.
Recycled steel makes some of the strongest columns. With tensile strength ranging from 1,000 to over 1,600 MPa, recycled steel makes high-strength columns to withstand deformation and compressive forces.
Excellent tensile strength means recycled steel columns will help to ensure your structure’s integrity and safety. The material’s outstanding durability guarantees value for money since the building will last longer, saving you from costly repairs and new constructions.
3. Recycled Steel Sheets
Sheets are essential for roofing and siding applications. Construction sheets are made from different materials, including steel, asbestos, asphalt, and even plastic.
Steel is light, durable, and versatile, making it excellent for building sheets. Its lightweight nature lets you lift it to a given height without relying on heavy machinery.
Moreover, its versatility makes it easy to work with — you can shape it into different forms to fit your space and aesthetics.
Compared to virgin steel, recycled steel sheets are much more eco-friendly materials that help mitigate the construction industry’s adverse environmental effects.
Besides, recycled steel sheets are highly weatherproof. They withstand heavy rains, wind, fire, and snow. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about water leaking into your house due to ineffective or easily damaged roofing sheets.
4. Recycled Steel Studs
Studs are crucial construction components that are used to form walls. Depending on their design, they are capable of distributing vertical structural loads but are also ideal for non-load-bearing sections like partition walls.
Studs are also essential for holding together the following components:
- Interior finishes
- Exterior sheathing or siding
Recycled steel studs are lightweight, durable, and easy to work with. Furthermore, they’re resistant to mold, rot, and termite damage. Therefore, using them in your construction will serve you longer, saving you money.
5. Recycled Steel Reinforcement Bars (Rebar)
Rebar (or rebars) is another very common recycled steel building material to use in your sustainable construction project.
Rebar is crucial in reinforced concrete structures and provides tensile strength to a structure that complements the concrete’s excellent compressive strength.
By reinforcing concrete with high-tensile-strength steel, recycled steel reinforcement bars strengthen the building enough to withstand bending, tensile, shearing, and torsion loads.
In a nutshell, you need rebar to create sturdy columns, foundations, and other structural elements formed using concrete.
6. Recycled Steel Mesh
Mesh creates firm foundations for concrete by providing the necessary reinforcement, without which the structural integrity of the building could be compromised.
The mesh is placed within the formwork before the concrete is poured to form a reinforced concrete slab. The steel mesh firmly adheres to the reinforcement mesh as it sets, creating a stronger foundation that can withstand higher tensile forces thanks to the steel’s high tensile strength.
Building with recycled steel mesh contributes to your sustainability goals by avoiding using virgin steel and will enhance the project’s strength and durability.
7. Recycled Steel Trusses
Recycled steel trusses support a roof by transferring the load to the walls and columns. Because they make longer spans possible, they offer design flexibility, cost efficiency, and durability.
Recycled steel trusses are lighter and easier to work with than their wooden counterparts. They will also help minimize deforestation and save the energy of making primary steel trusses because making recycled steel uses much less energy than virgin steel production.
The table below summarizes the seven examples of recycled steel building materials and their uses:
|Recycled Steel Building Material||Uses|
|Beams||Supporting the wallsPreventing concrete slab overload|
|Columns||Supporting arches and beams|
|Studs||Creating wall structuresCommonly non-load bearing partitions|
|Rebar||Increasing concrete’s tensile strength|
|Mesh||Creating firm foundations for concrete|
|Trusses||Supporting the roof|
Table 1: Recycled steel building materials and their uses
The benefits of using recycled steel in construction include:
- Energy conservation: Building with recycled steel saves between 60 and 74% of the energy used to produce primary steel.
- Durability and strength: Steel retains its structural properties after being recycled. Therefore, it has excellent tensile strength, just like its virgin counterpart, and provides excellent durability for any structure.
- Waste reduction: Building with recycled steel reduces the amount of construction and demolition waste that gets into landfills, lowering pollution. For instance, recycling a ton (2,000 lb) of steel diverts approximately 1.28 tons (2,560 lb) of C&D waste from landfills.
- Natural resource conservation: Recycling steel conserves natural resources like iron ore and coal that go into virgin steel production.
- Design flexibility: Recycled steel is highly versatile; thus, it can be shaped into different forms to fit almost any construction requirement. Consequently, it guarantees design flexibility for engineers, architects, and builders.
- Green building certification: Using recycled steel in construction contributes to earning points toward green building certifications like LEED. Such certifications often increase a home’s value.
It’s our responsibility to conserve the environment by reducing the environmental footprint of our construction projects. Shifting to eco-friendly materials like recycled steel is one of the ways to achieve that.
Now that you’ve seen these examples of recycled steel building materials, choose some that suit your construction project and start building.
Using these materials will ensure you play a crucial role in environmental conservation while building a strong house.