New guidelines to help promote the re-use of steel in construction have been launched by the Steel Construction Institute (SCI).
The 46-page guide aims to help the construction sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from structural steel, while also saving money. It provides guidance on the procedures and processes for reclaiming steel used in existing structures, and for utilising surplus steel, such as from cancelled projects.
The protocol recommends data collection, inspection and testing to ensure that surplus steel or reclaimed structural steelwork can be reused with confidence. It is limited to steel erected after 1970; in applications where the steel was not subjected to fatigue, such as bridges; and also excludes steel damaged by corrosion, fire or high impact.
Michael Sansom of the SCI said: “There is growing pressure on the construction industry to be more resource efficient and to lower its greenhouse gas emissions. Increased reuse of steel will support both of these aims and stimulate new business opportunities in the UK - in particular by substituting steel imports.”
Most steel reclaimed from buildings is currently sold as scrap and melted down. Lifecycle analysis by consultants Giraffe Innovation, however, found that using surplus steel from cancelled projects can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 96% compared to using newly-milled steel – and is more environmentally friendly than sending steel back to the mill for recycling.
Tom Hay, director of Pluton Engineering and a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers’ sustainability panel, said: “The construction sector has been crying out for proper guidance on how to safely and effectively reuse structural steel. These protocols from the SCI should help the industry to be more sustainable and embrace the circular economy in a way it has been unable to do so due to a lack of clarity in the existing regulations. Hopefully the SCI’s approach will be adopted at a national and European level.”
Cleveland Steel & Tubes Ltd supported and contributed to the report. The company specialises in supplying surplus steel for re-use in major construction and infrastructure projects. Typically it purchases surplus pipe from oil and gas projects.
Roy Fishwick, managing director of Cleveland Steel & Tubes, said: “These protocols should help to remove the shackles and allow construction contractors to purchase reused or surplus steel with complete confidence in its structural integrity. It is an environmentally friendly solution as well as a cost-effective one.”