Steel is one of the dominant materials in the construction industry. It is a strong and versatile material that is used for many applications including the construction of buildings and other structures such as bridges and railways. But is steel sustainable? 

Steel has been used in construction for over 100 years. Other popular materials of the last century have decreased in popularity due to their negative impact on the planet and contribution to global warming. However, steel remains a popular choice to this day. We’ll take a look at what makes steel such a good construction material and whether or not it can be considered a sustainable material.

How Did Steel Become Popular?

When initially discovered, steel was primarily used to make sword blades and other weapons because of its strength and durability. The production of steel was popular yet remained expensive and hard to produce on a large industrial scale until the nineteenth century. Steel production was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, with the first steam engine being constructed of the material, and paved the way for the rapid development of modern architecture and engineering.

How Is Steel Made?

The method for producing steel on a large scale was first discovered in the 1850s by British inventor Sir Henry Bessemer. His newly developed process for making steel made it possible to produce enough steel to use commercially as a building material. His method involved blowing air through molten ‘pig iron’. This was a quicker way to produce steel while also being cheaper and easier to manufacture. The Bessemer converter would soon go on to become the primary method of commercial steel production in the nineteenth century.

The Bessemer converter method of steelmaking is now referred to as primary steel making after a new method was introduced in the mid-twentieth century. Electric arc furnace (secondary) steelmaking works by melting scrap iron which is then mixed with carbon to create steel. 

When the company was originally formed by Mr P A Mudd in the early twentieth century, Lionweld Kennedy (as it is now known) was one of the first in Britain to join metal by means of an electric arc.

Benefits of Using Steel for Construction

Steel has many great qualities, its strength predominantly, but there is more to what makes steel such a beneficial construction material. Compared to other building materials, steel is:

  • Safe 
  • Cost effective to produce
  • Easy to construct
  • Adaptable to different industries and applications
  • Sustainable
  • Durable with a high tensile strength

These properties are what make steel such an excellent choice in construction. Having a high quality durable product that is also cost-effective and efficient to produce makes it the go-to material in the construction, automobile, and aerospace industries.

What Are the Different Types of Steel?

Steel is manufactured in different grades, each with completely different chemical, physical and environmental properties that make them suited to different projects. Modern steel is now much lighter than that which was produced in the last century. It is continuously changing and developing, helping it to withstand changes in engineering.

Steel Grading 

The four main categories of steel are:

  • Carbon steel – the most popular grade of steel composed almost entirely of carbon & iron.
  • Alloy steel – reinforced with elements like nickel & aluminium for enhanced strength and durability.
  • Stainless steel – corrosion resistance makes it ideal for cutlery & medical equipment. 
  • Tool steel – increased heat resistance makes it good for cutting, drilling, etc.

What Makes Steel Sustainable?

There are more than just construction benefits when it comes to steel. This material is widely considered to be one of the most sustainable building materials for two main reasons. This can be confusing as steel is not considered to be a renewable resource. This is because it is not found naturally, but rather, made out of a combination of two natural elements, carbon and iron. So, what is it that makes steel so sustainable?

Steel Is Fully Recyclable

Over 500 tonnes of steel is recycled each year, making it the most recycled industrial material in the world. One-hundred percent of scrap steel generated in production is collected and recycled. This creates a zero-waste production line. At Lionweld Kennedy, all of our scrap steel is recycled, keeping our waste steel output very low. Not only that, but we consider manufacturing efficiencies across our range and use the latest technology to ensure the manufacturing processes for our steel access products are optimised and scrap levels are kept to a minimum when manufacturing and fabricating complex shapes, sizes and angles.

Steel Is Certified Green for Sustainability

Under the Green Building Rating System, steel is listed as a certified material. This is a certification of sustainability due to the consistent reusing and recycling of steel, along with the low-carbon, energy-efficient methods of production that are developing.

Lionweld Kennedy is the UK’s only manufacturer of steel access products, including flooring, stair treads, handrail systems and structures. As an organisation, we are committed to becoming carbon Net Zero by 2040 and, as part of this commitment, we are continually looking for ways to reduce our carbon emissions. A key part of this is the manufacturing process of our range of steel products. Design changes to our Safegrid steel grating products have seen a reduction in raw material requirements – whilst continuing to meet the ball proof requirements of the British and European standards – further contributing to our reduced carbon usage.

The Use of Steel For Sustainable Safety Flooring

A common use for steel is for the steel flooring and access products, like those that we produce. Compliant steel grated flooring is fundamental in ensuring the safety of personnel by providing a safe, slip resistant walkway or staircase. Lionweld Kennedy are proud to produce the most efficient and sustainable flooring specifications possible that meet the British and European Standards for ball proof requirements.

If you are looking to learn more about how our steel grating products can benefit your project contact us today for more information about your specific to your project requirements. You can also find out more about our ESG and sustainability commitments.

Safegrid Sustainability

Our main runner, Safegrid steel grating, became the world’s first steel grating to receive an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). We transparently declare the embodied carbon within our Safegrid steel grating, having  the lowest embodied carbon of any steel grating with an EPD. If you would like to learn more about our EPD and download our certificate, learn more here.

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