The spring, summer, and pre-fall months of 2023 have brought about unprecedented weather events such as excessive rainfall, torrential flooding, destructive tornadoes, devastating wildfires, hurricanes heralding havoc and chaos, and the meteorological like. It’s as if Mother Nature might be trying to tell us something.
Reusing, recycling, and repurposing are now a part of the 2nd-grade curriculum for schools across the country. The next generation is on its way up, and they more often than not have a conscious concern about what they use and its impact on the planet.
While we love steel buildings for many reasons, one of the main benefits of steel is that it can be energy efficient while being high-performance. As you will learn in this blog, while you may not look at steel and automatically think “energy efficiency,” there are many factors that contribute to steel buildings being an energy-saving investment, including lowered cooling costs, slower heat transfer, and lessened time in production.
Metal buildings help with energy costs and energy savings, heating and cooling costs, overall energy efficiency, energy conservation, and they are—hold onto your hats—almost 100% recyclable. Bet you didn’t see that last part coming.
Let’s dig in.
What You Can Expect: Up-Front Savings for the Planet
The production of any substance necessitates energy; however, the production methods for steel have undergone significant advancements in recent decades.
The energy demand for steel manufacturing has witnessed a remarkable reduction of up to 60% since the 1960s, and this downward trend persists. That’s the simple fact: making steel uses a lot less energy than it used to. By opting for steel structures, you contribute to the reduction of worldwide energy usage in the construction sector. When you can opt for solutions that conserve energy, you help the environment.
But how does choosing steel compare to using other building materials? Actually, great! Steel is notably more energy-efficient than opting for brick or wood due to its higher strength-to-weight ratio, which allows for lighter foundations and reduced transportation energy. Since our steel is prefabricated and shipped to you for the building process, we know that its time on the road doesn’t cost our planet as much as other materials do, and that is something YOU can feel good about.
Steel’s precise manufacturing process also leads to minimal waste, while its inherent durability reduces the need for frequent repairs and replacements, ultimately conserving resources and energy in the long run. Depending on the type of building you are interested in, steel offers you the option of performance in the long run while saving our planet.
Steel For Every Season: The Day-to-Day of Energy Savings
Undoubtedly, the choice of building materials plays a pivotal role in determining the energy efficiency of a structure’s heating and cooling systems. Among the options available, metal buildings have emerged as a frontrunner in energy-efficient construction, largely owing to their remarkable thermal conductivity properties and the benefits they confer upon HVAC systems. Let’s take a look.
Steel buildings offer enhanced energy efficiency for heating and cooling systems primarily due to their excellent properties of thermal conductivity. For us laymen in the back, that means they conduct heat both quickly and efficiently.
Steel’s rate of thermal conductivity is also higher compared to materials like wood or brick, which means it can effectively transfer heat across its surface. But why is that important?
This characteristic allows steel buildings to respond more quickly to external changes in temperature, enabling heating and cooling systems to achieve desired indoor conditions more rapidly and efficiently. Additionally, steel’s thermal properties facilitate even distribution of heat or cool air throughout the building, reducing the likelihood of temperature variations and the need for excessive energy consumption by HVAC systems.
Another consideration for your day-to-day savings should be thermal bridging (when heat easily transfers through materials with poor insulation properties). This can substantially impact a building’s energy efficiency.
Steel buildings, when designed with proper insulation techniques and using insulated metal panels, can significantly minimize thermal bridging compared to structures made from materials like brick or concrete. The versatility of steel allows for the creation of insulated wall and roof systems that offer continuous thermal barriers and reduce air leakage, slowing the heat transfer between interior and exterior environments.
Diminished heat flow translates to less reliance on heating and cooling systems to compensate for temperature discrepancies, ultimately leading to lowered energy consumption.
As mentioned above, steel is also superior in reducing air leakage. While wood tends to warp and twist as it ages, creating tiny gaps in your structure that release your heated or cooled air, steel holds strong for decades to come.
Think of metal buildings kind of like an air-tight, insulated steel thermos; you will get the idea.
Lastly, steel’s inherent reflective surface properties contribute to improved energy efficiency in heating and cooling systems.
Unlike materials such as brick or wood, steel has a higher albedo, meaning it reflects more solar radiation rather than absorbing it. This characteristic can have a substantial impact on a building’s heat gain during sunny periods as you reap the rewards of cool metal roofing.
By reflecting a significant portion of solar heat away from the structure, steel buildings require less energy to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures. This reduced heat absorption lessens the burden on cooling systems, allowing them to operate more efficiently and consume less energy, which is especially advantageous in regions with high sun exposure and warm climates, like the southern region of the United States.
All the attributes of thermal conductivity, thermal bridging, and reflectivity contribute to reduced energy consumption, lower operational costs, and improved indoor comfort, making steel an environmentally responsible and economically viable option for sustainable construction.
Reuse and Recycle: How Steel Fits Into the Bigger Picture…Again and Again
We already mentioned minimal waste in the process of making steel, but now let’s explore what the benefit of steel truly is.
Prefabricated metal and steel buildings are designed and manufactured with a strong emphasis on resource efficiency and minimal waste generation. The precise engineering and fabrication process of these structures ensures that materials are utilized optimally, minimizing waste.
Unlike traditional construction methods, where excess materials often end up as construction waste, prefabricated buildings are produced in controlled environments where leftover materials can be efficiently repurposed for future projects. This not only reduces the environmental impact associated with waste disposal but also conserves valuable resources, making prefabricated steel buildings a sustainable choice for any building type, whether a shop, retail space, or place you call home.
Steel is also one of the most recycled materials globally, with a high recycling rate that minimizes the demand for new raw materials and reduces the energy-intensive processes associated with extraction and production. With metal buildings, energy efficient is the name of the game at every step of the process.
When a steel building reaches the end of its useful life, the majority of its components can be easily and efficiently recycled, diverting substantial amounts of waste from landfills and significantly reducing the environmental impact.
This inherent recyclability not only conserves valuable resources but also exemplifies the circular economy concept, where steel materials can be continually repurposed, which offers a sustainable construction approach and promotes a healthier planet for future generations.
It’s Time to Build Your Steel Building
While we have delved deeper into some of the reasons why steel is an environmentally friendly source of material for building, there are a lot more ways in which steel is the environmental frontrunner that we didn’t even touch upon.
Opting to build with prefabricated steel structures represents a promising trajectory toward the future of environmentally friendly construction. The fusion of energy efficiency, reduced waste, and the recyclability of steel materials encapsulates a holistic approach that aligns with sustainable building practices.
With faster construction timelines, minimized resource consumption, and a lowered carbon footprint, prefabricated metal buildings not only respond to the urgent need for eco-conscious solutions but also set a precedent for a construction landscape that values innovation, efficiency, and the responsible stewardship of our planet’s resources.
Contact one of our design experts today for more information on why choosing steel for your building project is more cost-effective, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly.