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Steel, a key material in ecological construction

sulu steel-building

Steel is not strictly speaking a new material, mastered by man since the Iron Age. Amplified during the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution, the use of steel has continued until today, remaining one of the most widely used materials for construction by developed countries. And, unlike concrete, it did not draw the wrath of the ecological transition at the turn of the 21st century. In fact, steel has excellent properties in terms of sustainable development, making it an excellent eco-material.

An eco-material in favor of sustainable development

Steel is a predominant element in construction. According to data from the OECD, this is the first sector in which steel is used (50% of total consumption). Two-thirds are captured by the most industrialized countries, including 88% for Europe, the United States and Japan. These impressive figures made it easier for steel to weather the rise in material prices following the 2008 crisis, remaining little affected by the global turmoil.

This is because steel has solid arguments to appeal to the major industrialized nations. An alloy mainly composed of iron, steel is an extremely resistant material capable of withstanding high loads, which allows significant space savings. Very malleable, it is easy to work with and blends easily with other materials. The addition of anti-corrosion alloys also ensures remarkable longevity, the steel becoming theoretically stainless. It is thus most often used for the framework of buildings and the reinforcement of concrete, but also as the main material for large architectural works and functional buildings.

All these parameters, so useful pragmatically in construction, also make steel an excellent eco-material, conducive to sustainable development. From implementation to disposal, steel does indeed present few environmental constraints. Coming from the dry sector, it does not consume water on sites, and generates few inconveniences (dust, noise, etc.).

Very easily associable with all existing acoustic and thermal insulation solutions, steel allows serious heating savings and correlatively limits energy losses, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions. Its excellent longevity ensures buildings an optimal lifespan, thus contributing to sustainable development. On the same principle as construction, deconstruction takes place much cleaner than concrete structures. Finally, steel has the superior advantage of being 100% recyclable.

Build your house all in steel

While steel as the main material is often associated with business buildings and large architectural works, it is also commonly used in private construction. Steel houses have even been particularly trendy in recent years, surfing both the need for sustainable development and the advantages offered by steel.

Like wood, with which it shares many performance characteristics, the malleability of steel offers a support of choice to the imagination of architects, ensuring completely original achievements. Its lightness also ensures a certain aestheticism to the buildings, while reducing to a minimum the extent of the foundations, and lowering the duration and the price of the construction. In addition, steel blends easily with other materials, the exterior cladding (plaster, aluminum, wood, green wall, etc.) is carried out efficiently, again promoting thermal and acoustic insulation.

The future of steel in the world seems to be promised. Global construction growth should reach 67% by 2020. China alone could absorb more than 20% of this growth, while India would take third place as the largest builder in 2018.

Thus, not called into question by the perspective of sustainable development, and driven by the rise in strength of the great emerging powers, steel should remain essential in the coming decades. However, and although theoretically infinitely recyclable, its exceptional longevity also represents a limitation to its availability, which could dry up in the face of the enormous demand from Asia, and in turn increase prices.

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