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March 2009 – Building towards zero carbon

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Steel and sustainability go hand in hand. The case for selecting the most recycled material in the world for constructing buildings, bridges and other structures is robust; steel can be proven to deliver benefits in all the key sustainability categories – environmental, social and economic.

That steel has always been quietly delivering sustainability benefits is widely appreciated among designers, but there is still a gap between embracing the commitment to improving sustainability and knowing exactly how best to do it. Corus and the BCSA have combined with delivery partners, Faber Maunsell, Cyril Sweett and the SCI to fill that gap with a £1M investment that will provide the data needed to inform sustainable designs of non domestic buildings, including schools, warehouses, offices, supermarkets and mixed use developments.

Called Target Zero, the project is a key part of the steel sector’s support for the government objective of reducing carbon emissions to zero in the construction of such buildings by 2019. Designers who have an interest in achieving the best sustainable performance will take note.

The three-year project will examine these building types with a view to generating fully costed demonstrations of how to achieve the three highest BREEAM ratings and meet the anticipated changes to Part L of the Building Regulations. The first report, due in summer, is certain to spark rather more than a flurry of interest. It shows how schools can be designed with steel frames to generate annual savings that could add up to £165M a year off the national schools heating bill. As well as contributing to an improved environment, that is a sum that could be better spent on bringing modern schools – which have been proven to substantially benefit children’s educational prospects – on-stream years earlier.

Reports on the other sectors will then be released at three monthly intervals, so soon there will be no excuse of ignorance for failing to take full advantage of the sustainability benefits that steel is delivering daily to projects of all types and sizes.

Corus has also invested in developing a new methodology for calculating the embodied energy for steel sections that takes account of the fact that steel is multicycled – which means that it can be recycled over and over without any loss of its original qualities.  Figures for the amount of CO2 per tonne of steel have been calculated for sections and plate.
The outcome will be a new reservoir of knowledge made available by the steel sector to designers that will help them improve operational energy consumption and reduce the embodied energy of structures. When sustainability is the target, the ammunition is steel.

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