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Research confirms steel has less on-site environmental impact

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nEnvironmentMay14A study comparing the onsite impacts of steel and concrete structures for the same inner city, multi-storey commercial project has confirmed steel construction has a lower environmental impact than in situ concrete systems.

Carried out on behalf of the British Constructional Steelwork Association, the Steel Construction Institute (SCI) compared the onsite impacts of a composite, steel cellular beam structure against a post-tensioned concrete solution.

The weight of materials used to construct the concrete superstructure was found to be 282% greater than materials required for the steel building. This confirmed that steel is more effective in terms of resource efficiency and from an end-of-life waste perspective.

The steel solution had a lower embodied carbon impact than the concrete option, while other sustainable benefits of steel construction included a reduced number of deliveries to site, less waste generation and less transport of waste, and a requirement for less onsite labour.

Dr Graham Couchman, CEO of the SCI said: “The steel sector advocates a whole life, cradle to grave approach to quantify the environmental impacts of buildings. Although the sector has good data on steel production, much less was known about the onsite construction impacts of steel based construction systems.

“As an essentially prefabricated system, steel construction may be expected to have a lower onsite environmental impact than equivalent, in situ concrete systems and the results of this study bear this out.”

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