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January 2005 Steel Takes LEED with Recycled Content TM


steel beams and columns


steel studs


steel roofing steel


decking steel doors ductwork


steel siding corrugated steel pipe


other steel components


Designers and builders have long recognized and lauded steel for its strength, durability, and functionality. Increasingly, however, architects are recognizing steel’s important environmental attrib- utes—especially its high recycled content and high reclamation rate.


For many years, there has been a strong eco- nomic motive to incorporate recycling into the process for making steel, but today's environmen- tal concerns make recycling even more important. Recycling saves money while conserving energy and resources, as well as reducing solid, liquid, and gaseous wastes. Recycling also helps to spread the energy impact of the original extraction and manufacturing of the material over infinite gen- erations of new steel.


The efficiency with which a material is recycled can be measured by either its percentage of recy- cled content or its reclamation rate. Recycled con- tent is a measure of how much recycled material is contained in a finished product. The reclamation rate is a measure of how often a product is actual- ly recycled at the end of its useful life. Steel is an exceptional performer by both measurements. In the construction industry, recent interest in recy- cling has been driven largely by the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design(LEED


TM ) rating system. The


LEED rating system only promotes the use of materials with high levels of recycled content. The equally important reclamation rate of the materials is not currently considered.


Scrap consumption in the United States is maxi-


mized between the two types of modern steel mills, each of which generates products with varying lev- els of recycled content. One type of mill produces much of the steel for light flat-rolled steel products with about 30% recycled content.The other type of mill makes steel for a wide range of products, including flat-rolled, but is the only method used domestically for the production of structural shapes and has about 95% recycled content. (These processes are covered in detail on the fol- lowing pages.)


The amount of recycled content in steel products


varies over time, both as a function of the cost of steel scrap and its availability. As the world-wide demand for steel increases, the available scrap will be stretched between more and more steel prod- ucts, meaning that more raw steel will have to enter the production stream to meet the demand. Fortunately, steel is the country's most widely recy-


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cled material, and as more steel is used for con- struction and other products, more scrap is avail- able for future recycling. About 88% of all steel products and nearly 100% of steel that is used in beams and plates in construction, are recycled into new steel products at the end of their useful life— an amazing reclamation rate!


In addition to recycled content, steel can con-


tribute toward several other LEED credits, either directly or indirectly. Steel is dimensionally stable and, when properly designed, can provide an exceptionally tight building envelope, for less air loss and better HVAC performance over time. Steel is made to exact specifications, so on-site waste is minimized. Material from demolition or construction can be easily recycled, with the mag- netic properties of steel greatly facilitating its sep- aration from other materials. Thus, in addition to steel's outstanding recycled content and an envi- able reclamation rate, steel's other functional prop- erties contribute to the material's solid environ- mental performance.


As with any building process or material, there are areas for improvement. A great benefit of LEED is that it can help the steel industry recover even more scrap as contractors improve their recy- cling collection methods at the job site, so less inci- dental iron and steel scrap escapes to landfills. Similarly, commercial buildings and residential housing can have better disciplined recycling sys- tems for increased recovery.


As steel products reach the end of their useful


life, we want to see even more recycled into new steel products for future service to society.


On-Line Steel Recycling Resources


www.recycle-steel.org Includes detailed information on recycling rates, recycling databases, and the environmental bene- fits of steel for homes building, steel roofing, and bridges.


www.aisc.org/sustainability Includes detailed information on how steel factors into the LEED


TM rating system, steel mill recycled


content documentation, and articles about the use of steel in sustainable projects.


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