From an environmental viewpoint, the use of steel in housing makes good sense. Simply stated, steel is one of the most recyclable materials on the planet. In Australia today, more than 72% of all available steel scrap is re-cycled - and the figure is growing. Bluescopes Rooty Hill mini mill, in Sydney, feeds exclusively on scrap steel, consuming up to 300,000 tonnes a year.
Bluescope Steel has adopted a model to analyse the true environmental cost of its products and processes 'from cradle to grave'. We call this study true life cycle analysis. Unlike many studies which only look at materials from cradle to factory gate, Bluescope looks at the overall environmental impact - from mining the raw materials through to processing, use and finally re-cycling.
It's allowing us to review our processes and see how we can improve them to reduce the overall environmental impact of what we do.
In the context, re-cycling is very important. It takes at least 60 percent less energy to produce steel from scrap than it does from iron ore. Life cycle analysis is not unique to Bluescope. More and more manufacturers are adopting it. Inevitably, it will impact on consumers. For example, the day is imminent when a homeowner will choose designs, materials, fittings and appliances based on their true energy cost established by life cycle analysis.
However, in the context of environmental impact, it's worth remembering that currently, the energy cost of the materials of construction typically account for only about two and a half to five percent of the total energy consumption of a building over its life. Before condemning a material, its energy cost should be measured over the life of the building. It may be better to pay an energy premium at the time of construction to reap the total life cycle benefits that steel offers.
Other Environmental Advantages
Steel structural members eliminate the need to use toxic pesticides as a termite barrier. Steel flooring systems eliminate the need for cut and fill, thus leaving the soil structure intact.
Today's truss and wall frames incorporate lighter gauge steels. Higher strength to weight ratios have been achieved through advanced chemistry steels and sophisticated rollforming techniques.
One of the most recent and exciting developments is the advent of fully nailable sections.
Entrenched attitudes about steel framing from within the building industry are changing. Bluescope Steel has long been a supporter of industry associations like NASH, the National Association of Steel-framed Housing. NASH has been instrumental in introducing training modules on steel framing into TAFE carpentry and joinery courses.
NASH also conducts seminars/exhibitions around the country, aimed at everyone from builders and architects to council officers and homeowners. These attract audiences in excess of 500 people.
The number of tradespeople able to build steel framed homes is increasing rapidly with these training initiatives, enabling the industry to keep pace with the continually growing demand for steel-framed housing.
For more information regarding Steel House Framing courses and Steel House Framing in general contact:
The National Association of Steel-framed Housing
LEVEL 13, 99 MOUNT STREET,
NORTH SYDNEY, NSW 2065.
PHONE: (02) 9957 1177
FAX: (02) 9955 5406