According to the American Institute of Steel Construction, structural steel is the premier green construction material because its recycling rate surpasses any other construction material. At the end of a building’s life, 98% of all structural steel is recycled back into new products, with no loss of its physical properties. Structural steel produced in the US contains an average of 93% recycled steel scrap.
So it makes sense that a green building material like steel would go hand in hand with renewable energy like solar. 173,000 terawatts of solar energy – that’s more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use – hit the Earth continuously making it the most abundant energy resource available. The space industry began to use solar technology to power space crafts in the 1950s and, today, we’ve brought it down to earth where demand for solar is at an all-time high.
Let’s take a moment to cover some terminology since “green” and “sustainable” and “renewable” are words that are often used interchangeably. Green means environmentally-friendly with a reduced impact on the environment. Sustainable means a resource can be maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing ecological damage. Renewable means that energy sources can repeatedly be used, replenished naturally, and have low environmental impact.
When it comes to solar power, almost any flat or south-facing roof can generate electricity using photovoltaic (PV) or solar panels. But it turns out that metal roofs, commonly found on steel commercial buildings, are a great support for solar panels. With a lifespan of up to 60 years, they are an excellent match for the long-lived panels that are typically productive for 20-25 years. Solar systems are also very low-maintenance because they have no moving parts only requiring cleaning to remove dirt, leaves, and debris, so they are an excellent fit for steel construction high-rises.
Steel is a sustainable building material that pairs beautifully with solar energy to reduce the impact on the environment. If you’re interested in learning more about how steel can benefit your next project, please get in touch with one of our experts today.