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Steel Stands Out
Steel’s sustainable qualities add up to long-term value b y M a r i b e t h Ri z z u t o
The steel structure of the NASA Astronaut Quarantine Facility at Johnson Space Center helped Morris Architects achieve a sustainable design and gain credits toward LEED-NC certification.
In a report to the United Nations nearly 20 years ago, sustainability was defined as “progress that serves the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (“Our Common Future,” Brundtland Commission to the United Nations, 1988) Never before has awareness and interest in environmental conservation been as high as they are today. And nowhere is this more evident than in the construction industry, where sustainable building practices have become as important to the success of a project as quality construction and good design. But since 54 percent of U.S. energy consumption is directly or indirectly related to buildings and their construction, this heightened sensitivity to “green building” promises to have long-term positive benefits for the earth. An escalating population, depleting natural resources and recognition of changes in climate patterns are all driving architects, builders, designers, owners, and consumers to demand products that use resources wisely. With a minimum of 25-percent recycled content, steel meets the tests for an environmentally responsible material and can be an important addition to any project where sustainable construction and design
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is a critical requirement. As a recognized green building material, steel framing projects can also earn credits or points for green building rating programs as well as other government incentives. While many agree that steel’s recycled content is its hallmark environmental attribute, few are aware of steel’s many other green benefits.
Steel is 100-percent recyclable Steel is the world’s most versatile material to recycle – from old cars, buildings and bridges to appliances and soup cans. Steel is also the most highly recycled material in the world – more than aluminum, paper, glass and plastic combined. Each year, nearly 68.7 percent of all steel scrap in North America is recycled.
Steel projects are built to last Steel is highly durable, non-combustible and won’t contribute fuel to a fire. Furthermore, its galvanized zinc coating (a natural element) prevents corrosion. This means the life of a structure framed with steel can last hundreds of years, which also reduces the need for future building resources. continued on page 74
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Photo by Joe Aker, Aker/Zvonkovic; courtesy Morris Architects
Adapted with permission from the Steel Framing Alliance, this article originally appeared in the December 2007 edition of Metal Construction News.
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