One of the biggest products used in construction is steel. Although it is an essential product, it is also cited as one that is ‘critical’ in the move towards a sustainable future. The World Steel Association has published a report documenting how steel cannot be recycled by taking items that are the end of their life cycle to make new products; simply because the demand for steel around the world is too high.
A number of policies have been put in place with member organisations (the largest steel producers in the world) as well as government bodies to move the sustainable focus forward in the industry. Energy consumption in steel production has reduced dramatically and consequently, major improvements from that are less likely because of technology.
Another way in which carbon footprints are being reduced is by minimising the weight of the steel used in construction. With correct engineering, the weight of the steel is less relevant to the load bearing as the design will have a greater impact. In fact, some steelwork components actually become more efficient through their design, in conjunction with increasing sustainability and reducing costs.
BIM is also another tool that can be used to fight against the growing carbon footprint of developments around the world. Making sure a building is error free and efficiently erected means that there is less wastage. In this sense, wastage refers to travel as much as it does in materials. All in all, the impact on the environment has been diminished as a result.
In a strange twist, modern communication such as social media can also be used in the sustainability fight: Notably, in saving or recycling buildings that need to be knocked down. Social media documents things as they happen, making it real and highlighting how much work there is in demolishing a building at the end of its lifecycle. Moreover, the images are often hard hitting.
This illustrates the demolition of a car park – from the point of view of the car park. Not only does this evoke public action but it also brings to the fore that there is space, design and buildings that can be re-used and recycled in a bid to bring sustainability into the construction industry.