Sustainable construction

Share on
Facebook Twitter Linkedin
Contact us

Meet the sustainable construction challenge: ArcelorMittal steel solution benefits

As society makes determined moves towards sustainability, construction has a very important role to play within this new agenda, not only because of its economic and social contribution, but also because of its impact on the quality of our lives, our comfort and safety. While the building industry provides 5% to 10% of worldwide employment and generates 5% to 15% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the built environment accounts for 40% of energy consumption, 40% of CO2 emissions, 30% of the consumption of natural resources, 30% of waste generation and 20% of water consumption.

The future global challenge for the construction industry is clearly to meet the world’s growing needs while at the same time limiting the impact of its burdens by drastic improvement of its activities.

In construction, steel has developed as a material of choice and offers a wide range of solutions that can make buildings more energy efficient, less costly to operate and more comfortable.

We in ArcelorMittal strongly believe in steel’s values for green building and are committed to helping deliver the benefits that our solutions bring to our customers, buildings and the buildings’ owners.

Issues and responsibilities in respect of sustainable development

The building sector plays a key social role, providing housing for 6 billion people worldwide!

As a large economic sector it accounts for about 10 to 15% of direct employment.

It also has a strong impact on the environment, with
- 40% of energy consumption
- 40% of CO2 emissions
- 30% of consumption of natural resources
- 30% of waste generation
- 20% of water consumption

and on living conditions: the population – at least in the case of industrialised countries - spends 90% of its life inside buildings.

Steel construction is an ideal solution to meet these concerns.

Different phases of a building's life


Sustainable construction: the advantages of steel construction at each phase of a building´s life.

Efficient steel solutions
When evaluating the sustainability of a building, the life cycle approach is required, taking into account all phases of a building's life, including materials production, transportation to the construction site, the construction operation itself, operational use of the building, demolition or deconstruction and end of life.


Steel - the most recycled material in the world

Steel is 100% and indefinitely recyclable, without any quality loss. When reclaimed, it is 100% recycled. The recycling rate is the percentage of materials being taken out of service, reclaimed and reused. This rate is very high for steel, but it varies from product to product. In construction, for example, it reaches particularly high levels: 98% for beams, 65-70% for reinforcement bars.

For each tonne produced, the steel industry is storing sustainability for future generations, which will not have to produce it.

Recycled steel represents 40% of the steel industry ferrous resource in the world. ArcelorMittal is the world's largest scrap recycler: 1,2 tonnes of steel are recycled each second!

The Recycling Loop

Steel recycling is a sustainable process: the recycling loop is ensured by the intrinsic economic value of steel.


Economies de matières premières, préservation des ressources

Carbon footprint reduction
Recycled steel represents 40% of the steel industry ferrous resource in the world.

- Recycled steel is mainly used in the electric furnace processes (31.7% of the world steel production), but also in the other steel production processes (blast oxygen furnace).
- The steel industry's good performance level is very close to its theoritical limit (50%). Because of steel products' long life cycle and  former production levels, the current availability of scrap cannot cover the high demand for steel.

Raw material savings
A product's recycling rate is a key parameter of its sustainability.
When assessing their performance through LCI methodology, the high recycling rate of the steel beams makes it possible to reduce their carbon footprint and more generally their environmental impact by 40%!
A huge reduction in environmental impact in the manufacturing process

Over time, the steel industry has achieved a lot of progress: waste generation, water use and air emissions are continually decreasing.

By the year 2007, 80% of ArcelorMittal production sites had achieved the ISO 14001 certification, the international standard for environmental management systems.

CO2 and energy

In Europe, CO2 emissions per tonne and energy consumption per tonne have been halved over 30 years.
In Canada, industry can demonstrate 30% savings in CO2 intensity within 20 years.
Technical processes are now very close to their technical limit; further progress can only come from breakthrough technologies evaluated in the Ulcos project led by ArcelorMittal.

Durability and lasting value
In many applications, where steel is used internally or concealed, the material's intrinsic properties are sufficient to resist corrosion. For applications where steel longevity could be affected by corrosion, ArcelorMittal has developed a large range of products or solutions that considerably improve materials' durability and that make steel the most appropriate material for long lasting applications:

- Stainless Steel, which intrinsically offers a high level of corrosion resistance.
- Metallic coatings such as galvanised steel.
- Organic coatings
Eco-friendly products and coatings

Steel is environmentally inert: in contact with air or water, it doesn't emit or release any compounds that are toxic to the environment or to humans.

Eco-friendly coatings have been developed, offering significantly reduced impact in respect of products but also in respect of processes.

Exposed to high heat levels, organic coated products may release some volatile organic compounds, which are air pollutants. Compared to post-coated products, it has been proven that products coming directly from industrialized pre-coating lines release less VOCs and have a lower environmental impact. 

High degree of prefabrication
All steel products, from simple sections to complex façade components, are manufactured off-site and are delivered to site ready to assemble.

This use of prefabricated elements provides a large range of benefits that contribute to risks reduction during the construction phase:
- Controlled quality
- Easier construction site management
- Quick erection, reduced lead times
- Enhanced safety
- Ease of deconstruction
Benefits of the `dry´ steel construction system

The use of steel construction techniques reduces environmental impacts and neighbourhood nuisance on the construction site.

Water use, waste generation, dust emission, traffic and noise are considerably lower than in traditional construction.

Construction site management is greatly facilitated.
All these advantages are especially appreciable in congested urban areas.
...For more informations on steel and sustainable construction, click here... 

Sustainable development becomes a key challenge in the field of construction. All the citizens of out planet have a duty to ensure, in each of their activities, that they minimise the use of natural resources, save energy and reduce pollution. Steel is assuredly environmentally friendy. It offers numerous advantages to meet the escalating concerns within industrialised societies with regard to safeguarding of the environment. Here are twenty-three of them.


Geography Department, Villeneuve-d'Ascq University. Architects: Legendre, Desmazières & Larrondo.
Steel is safe: majesty and purity
Steel is a natural material. Its raw material, iron, is one of the most abundant elements on Earth and it also forms the core of our planet. It is present in large quantities in the earth's crust. it is also one of te essential constituents of haemoglobin. During the production process, oxygen is separated from the iron. The result is a pure element: a homogeneous material that does not emit any environmentally harmful substance.

Production site.
It is economical: energy savings
For many years, producers have pursued the quest for energy savings throughout the steel production process. At the beginning of the 1960's, steel production consumed almost 50% more energy than today. This energy comes either from coal, the most abudant fossil guel in the world, or from electricity.

Rolling a steel coil.
Il est propre: fabrication épurée
Simultaneously, CO2 emissions have been halved and dust discharge has been reduced by more than 90%. Trapped by filter installations, dust is almost entirely recycled. The continual improvement of the production process also includes a cutback in water consumption which, since 1960, has been reduced by approximately 50%. Moreover, all residual gases are reused to produce energy. Almost half of works steel production now taked place in electric steel plants that operate exclusively with recycled scrap as feedstock and generate no CO2 emissions.

Spreading of fertiliser (steelshop slag).
It does not produce any waste: processing of by-products
The by-products arising from steel production are all re-used. The slag resulting from the production of the pig iron and the steel is employed, for example, as a high-value mineral material for highway construction, as ballast, or for the manufacture of cement. The processing of this blast furnace slag into cement without any additional treatment obviates the extraction each year of 45 million tons of limestone, saves 350 000 tons of coal and reduces CO2 emissions by 2 million tons. All the major European steelmaking plants are now certified to ISO 14001.

Erection of a steel structure on site.
Steel saves time: speed d'execution
Steel permits more efficient progress of the construction project since the majority of components are manufactured off-site. Erection times are short and minimise inconvenience for the neighbourhood. Users are able to occupy their building sooner. This time saving thus reduces investment costs and enables financial charges to be amortised more quickly.

Vehicle inspection building at Savigni-le-Temple, France. Architect: Hélène Fricout-Cassignol.
It reduces the adverse impact of construction sites: clean working
Steel construction entails the assemby od semi-finished products manufactured in a factory, in a controlled environment, limiting open-air operations. Sites are therefore quieter, free of waste, clean, dry and dust-free. Product can be delivered at the required time for on-site storage. In city centres, the adjacent public highways are less congested and there is no disruption to traffic flow, significantly reducing noise.

Private house in Walddorfhaslach, Germany. Architect: Reinhold Andris.
It saves materials: soil preservation
Steel's light weight allows smaller foundations that do not require the excavations that generate spoil and resultant lorry journeys. In certain cases, a few piles are sufficient to raise the building completely from the ground.

Terminal 2F pier, Charles-de-Gaulle airport at Roissy, France. Architects: Paul Andreu / ADP.
It maximises light: lightness and transparency
Steel's hight strength permits lightweight structures with long spans. Lighweight, transparent facades and roofs enable better management of light, facilitating the use of solar energy.

Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt, Germany. Architects: Foster and Partners.
It withstands earthquakes: seismic safety
Steel's natural properties (ductility, strength/weight, ratio, hardness) confer a high level of resistance to unexpected stresses. Many countries are exposed to the risks of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, and steel enables construction in these vulnerable regions whilst safeguarding human lives. The preservation of structural stability following an earthquake also means less waste, less pollutant discharges, easier repairs and increased building life.

Private house in Munich, Germany. Architects: Klaus Ilg & Partner.
Steel is magnetically neutral: isoelectric neutrality
The steel employed in buildings as structural or cladding components does not exert any negative influence on personal wellbeing. The steels employed in construction have no inherent electrical or magnetic fields. Their effect on environmental electrical and magnetic fields is insignificant. Residential buildings with a steel framework and concrete buildings with steel reinforcement have existed for more than a century. Moreover, a steel framework enables simple provision of a path to the ground for the entire building, thus increasing the safety of the occupants.

Glasshouses at the parc de la Tête-d'Or in Lyon, France. Architect: Restoration work by Didier Repelin.
It is enduring: longevity and durability
Today there are many ways of effectively protectinf steel agains corrosion, whether by means of a metallic coating or by means of paint (increasingly applied directly to sheets as an in-line process). Automotive bodywork, particularly exposed to bad weather, is today commonly guaranted for ten years. Indoors, steel does not require protection. When well maintained, it lasts for a long time. This is the case of the Eiffel Tower and many other structures that are now more than hundred years old.

Office Building in Delfi, Netherlands. Architect: Cepezed.
It enables energy savings: insulation and low thermal inertia
Steel facilitates the implementation of external insulation solutions, which are highly beneficial with rgard to the energy balance sheet. Its light weight also permits the construction of buildings with very low thermal inertia, a particularly advantageous solution in the case of buildings occupied during daytime hours such as offices, where heat is in part generated by the occupants themselves, the lighting and the computers. It therefore permits the construction of buildings virtually without heating systems in which comfort during summer months is achieved by means of free circulation of air, as in traditional tropical buildings.

Convention Centre in Bilbao, Spain. Architects: Federico Soriano & Dolores Palacios.
It provides sound insulation: acoustic performance
The principe of sound insulation achieved by the mass-spring-mass effect is the most suitable to intercept all frequences. The incorporation of one or more plasterboards affixed to a light metal framework enables highly effective insulation of cinema auditoriums or of recording studios. The insertion of an absorbent material into the central void further increases its effectiveness.

Exhibition hall in Leipzich, Germany. Architects: Von Gerkan, Marg + Partner.
It gives more room: a greater sense of space
Slender columns, slim floors and lightweight facades make it possible to gain precious space, which is measured in square or cubic metres. Steel colums can thus offer an additional usable surface area of some 70 square metres in a 1000 square metre office suite. Areas are visually and spartially less cluttered. It is also possible to achieve an extra few decimetres in ceiling height, which increases air volume and enhances the sence of space, or ultimately to use the space saved to incorporate one of more additional storeys without increasing the height of the building.

Steel mesh ceiling.
It has visual appeal: magical textures
Steel supports the architectural revival throughout the world, enabling lightweight structures, visual transparency that promotes natural light and the influx of sunlight. It enables varied forms, readily accommodates interplay with other materials, lends itself to floating structures or to build envelopes with multiple colours or textures, smooth, undulating  or woven. Its visual impact is contemporary, dynamic and futuristic, whilst at the same time having respect for the architectural heritage, with which it combines to perfection, and takes its place with ease in the most diverse environments.

Private house in Munster, Germany. Architects: Gabriele Andreae & Ulrich Kotter.
Steel harmonises with all materials: blending of materials
To use steel is to make a first step towards environmentally friendly construction. Steel structures create the necessary conditions for the use of materials selected on the basis of environmental criteria. When steel adopts the load-bearing role in a building, the choice for the finishing work can be made freely between various materials (glass, wood, bricks or insulating materials).

Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris, France. Architects: Jean Nouvel, Emmanuel Cattani & associés. 
It is flexible: malleability and adaptabiliby
Steel offers numerous advantages for the environmentally friendly design of residential or office buildings. Houses or buildings with steel frames do not require load-bearing walls and offer owners and architects maximum design freedom. The buildings can be easily modified or extended to adapt to new uses or new filestyles.

Tony-Garnier Hall in Lyon, France. Architect: Renovation by l'Atelier de la Rize.
It rejuvenates old buildings: changing with the times
Steel structures can often be easily enlarged or modified and thereby adapted to new requirements. The structures of existing buildings can be altered and brought up to current standards. Even in residential buildings, steel enables the undertaking of additions, projecting balconies, new stairwells. These modernisation works do not only make them more attractive, thay also enable improvements to the quality of the amenities as well as beneficial modifications to or enlargement of the living space.

Baltard Pavilion, Paris, France, 1953, dismantled, transported and re-erected at Nogent-sur-Marne, France, 1971.
It lends itself to relocation of activities: reconstruction without destruction

When steel buildings are no longer required in their current location, they can be dismantled and re-erected elsewhere. This solution has proved itself with historic buildings such as the Baltard Market in Paris but also with modern sturctures such as car parks designed to provide temporary solutions to requirements for parking spaces. The costs of dismantling and re-erection are generally lower than those of new build. Finally, in certain cases steel components can be reused, for example sheep piling, in which moreover there is a rental market.


Crushed steel, Sollac Atlantique plant at Dunkerque, France.
Steel is 100% recyclable: recyclable and recycled
Steel can be recycled indefinitely and in its entirety without losing any of its qualities. More than half of the steel produced in France and in the European Union and 40% of world steel production is thus obtained from recycled steel. This rate is constantly increasing year on year, thus safeguarding resources and the environment. Scrap metal is tomorrox's raw material deposits.

Steel sorting and recycling centre.
It is easy to sort: recovery made easy
Due to its madnetic properties, which are not found in any other material, steel is very easily sorted from waste and household refuse. Moreover, the selective collection of scrap enbles its incorporation into the production processes in an optimum manner. This advantage makes it the most recycled material in the world.

Dismantling of Hammer Bridge at Dusseldorf, Germany.
It does not leave a barren wasteland: safeguarding nature
The usefull life of any building or structure is not limitless. Whether carried out with a mechanical shovel, a sledgehammer et explosives, demolition creates noice, dust, pollution and other adverse effects prejudicial to the local environment. These problems are avoided with steel buildings because they are easily dismantled, safely and cleanly, permitting selective decommissioning. The light weight of the structures prevents deterioration of the ground. When a building is demolished, the weight of materials to be removed is lower and landfill costs are reduced.

In situ sculptures by Eduardo Chilida.
A positive ecological balance sheet: sustainable developement
Life cycle analysis of a steel building in comparison with concrete reveals that a 41% reduction in water consumption is achieved in the construction phase. Steel construction enables a halving of lorry movements to and from the site and results in 57% less inert waste. Throughout the life of the building, through first-class external insulation techniques, steel enables significant energy savings, ease of maintenance and adaptation. At the end of its life, it is easy to recycle. In total, the savings generated during the service life of the building (i.e. 92% of the energy consumed) contribute to a highly favourable ecological balance sheet for steel.