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Steel undergoing technical transformation

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Questions have inevitably been raised about how strongly commitments to achieving net-zero carbon targets will survive new and growing, and perhaps more obviously immediate, economic and other pressures.

Attention has recently shifted from pandemic-related problems towards the humanitarian tragedy of the war in Ukraine, rising energy costs and other inflationary pressures, so fears can be expected to grow that the climate change battle could be left behind. The path towards achieving radical policy objectives like combatting climate change is never entirely smooth, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be achieved.

Wars eventually end, as do pandemics and periods of inflation, but climate change is one problem that cannot comfortably be shelved while we deal with other matters. Many individuals have taken the climate struggle on board and are making many adjustments to their behaviours to minimise their own carbon footprints. So have many companies, as have industries.

The steel sector is certainly making a leading-edge contribution, such as the efforts of ArcelorMittal that feature in this issue (p10). The company says that decarbonisation is the most important aspect of its long-term strategy, and it has committed to reduce European steelmaking CO₂ emissions by 35% by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050. Along with other steel manufacturers, ArcelorMittal is at the forefront of technical transformations needed to decarbonise the steel used in construction.

Across the steel industry many decarbonisation projects are underway, underpinned by an industry’s shared determination to ensure that designers and constructional steelwork contractors always have low embodied carbon solutions to offer an increasingly sustainability-conscious world. Good examples of the high sustainability projects already being provided can be seen in this, and every, issue of NSC.

The industry’s intention is to maintain a steadily improving trend towards ever more carbon neutrality, from an already impressively high level. For example, we have a report on a project at 4 Angel Square in Manchester, that faces the steel-framed 1 Angel Square, which was the first office building to achieve BREEAM ‘Outstanding’. The aim at 4 Angel Square is operational carbon neutrality – earning it a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating – which will increasingly be a demand of tenants with an eye on their own carbon credentials.

In Reading we visit another project aiming at BREEAM ‘Excellent’, in a new Leisure Centre. We quote a local councillor confirming that taking action on the climate emergency is a ‘top priority’, which will be a priority shared with users of the Centre. We can only expect to see these sustainability ambitions growing across both private and public sectors.

The latest sustainability boosting initiative from the BCSA is release of a new Model Specification for the purchase of reclaimed steel sections (see News). Steel has an almost unique capacity for being reused when a structure that it was originally used to create has reached the end of its useful life, and the new specification will help increase awareness of the benefits of using it.

Most, possibly all, of the original benefits including the sustainability-related ones, will still reside in the reclaimed steel. Whatever pace of progress towards achieving net-zero carbon is achieved, steel will be playing a sustainable role in driving these ambitions forward.

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