Steel as an Environmentally Responsible Design Solution

Steel as an Environmentally Responsible Design Solution

Steel's strength, lightness and durability combine to enable sustainable construction solutions. The structural solution in steel means less weight on foundations, longer spanning spaces, simplification of design, ease of construction and minimal site waste.

Whether it is structural efficiency, futureproofing or design for deconstruction and reuse, steel has an environmentally responsible design solution.

Steel provides product and structural designers with the ultimate opportunity to configure solutions around the 4 Rs of the circular economy:

More than 50% of all steel goes into buildings and infrastructure. Aside from advantages in relation to design for deconstruction and reuse, steel offers these specific opportunities:

Structural efficiency

Structural efficiency is enabled through:

  • inherently efficient steel using less material to satisfy the building requirement. Steel-framed buildings are in the order of 20% less weight than the equivalent design concrete building
  • using higher-strength steel means less material.

Structural efficiency for steel means less weight on foundations, longer clear-spanning capability, simplification of design and ease of construction.


Steel allows buildings to be adapted, reused and extended. From a sustainability point of view, primary environmental efficiency is created by reusing a building and extending its life, rather than the energy, waste and extra materials required for knock down and rebuild.

Specific mechanisms include:

  • strengthening: of areas to take additional floor loads, conveniently implemented through adding extra steel members or strengthening in-situ with welded additions
  • reconfiguring: new penetrations and floor cutouts facilitated through local strengthening where required
  • ‘topping’: adding extra floors on top of a building, enabled through the structural weight saving of steel and the capacity for strengthening afforded by steel.