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Research Focus Issue No. 44 FEBRUARY 2001 PROMOTING THE APPLICATION OF RESEARCH IN BUILDING AND CIVIL ENGINEERING


IN THIS ISSUE Buildings


Adaptable buildings Cladding interfaces


Improved fenestration and cladding From research to application


Coastal & river engineering Managing mixed beaches


Coastal and river defences


Construction process Impact on the community


Retaining facades


Flat slab reinforcement Drainage


Setting new standards


Environment & sustainability CEEQUAL progress


Sustainability indicators Impact on the community


2 4 6


11 7 12


6 9


10 8


2 3 6


Sustainable highways reinstatements 9 Highways


Sustainable highways reinstatements 9 Reflection cracking


11 Innvoation DETR research report Fifth framework programme


Managing construction knowledge From research to application


Materials Cladding interfaces Better use of composites


Water engineering Urban irrigation in Africa


4 4


Sustainable highways reinstatements 9 Flat slab reinforcement


10 5


3 8 7


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Life-cycle assessment for steel construction


Historically, the production of steel has had a poor environmental image. This is now changing as a result of improved production techniques and a better understanding of the life-cycle environmental impact of steel products.


s part of the growing appreciation of the importance of sustain- able construction, The Steel Construction Institute (SCI) is co-ordinating a European Union-funded research project to accurately determine the environmental impacts of steel construction products. The research, being undertaken jointly by Corus and steel construction institutes in The Netherlands, Sweden and the UK, involves the quantification of the environmental impact of all activities from the winning of raw materials to the end-of- life of steel construction products. The project is concen- trating on generic products common in Western Europe, including structural sections and tubes, cladding, decking and light-gauge steel products. The study builds upon an earlier life- cycle assessment project, which investi- gated the environmental impact of steel production. It extends this assessment ‘downstream’ to include all sectors of the steel construction supply chain. Particular life-cycle phases being investigated include:


A Modular steel units can be disassembled and re-used


• steel production; •fabrication and manufacture of steel construction components;


•transportation; •erection and product assembly; •in-use maintenance and repair; •end-of-life scenarios including demolition, re-use and recycling;


•scrap processing.


For each sector of the supply chain, SCI is undertaking audits of the environmental impacts of the processes involved, through site visits, interviews and the completion of detailed questionnaires. The data will be aggregated to provide national and West European averages for each product studied. Currently, the SCI is concentrating on data collection from structural steelwork contractors and component manufacturers. Although aware of the importance of environmental issues in relation to their products and opera-


Research Focus NO. 44 FEBRUARY 2001


tions, many companies are finding it difficult to gather the necessary environmental data. The fate of steel construction products at the end of their useful life can involve re-use, recycling or disposal. The SCI is collecting data from demolition contractors, scrap merchants and Corus to determine the recycling rate for steel construction products. Accurate quantifica- tion of the recycling rate of long-lived construc- tion products is a significant challenge and little data currently exists. The recycling rate has a significant impact on the environmental profile of steel construction products.


The results of the study should be available in early 2002. Data and information will be disseminated by the SCI to enable designers, legislators and LCA practitioners to accurately determine the environmental consequences of using steel in construction.


The SCI is keen to hear from organisations within the steel construction sector who are willing to provide information for this project. Data will be treated confidentially and may be used by participating companies towards the implementation of their own environmental management system.


For further information please contact Dr Michael Sansom at The Steel Construction Institute (01344 623345; fax: 01344 622944;. E-mail: m.sansom@steel-sci.com).


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