Blog: The role of steel in reducing operational CO2 emissions in buildings

Terrence Busuttil
Head, Construction Coalitions, worldsteel

12 December 2019

Between now and 2050, the world’s population will increase by 2 billion people to over 9.5 billion and the share of the population living in cities will increase by 10 percentage points to 68%. These demographic megatrends will continue to underpin the buildings and infrastructure sector and steel demand.

Given these megatrends and the support this will require from construction, it is essential to keep in mind that today the operation of buildings accounts for 28% of global CO2 emission.[1].

These emissions must be significantly reduced as buildings become net zero operational carbon by 2050.

Steel’s role is at the core of the transition to net zero energy buildings.

Here are four reasons why steel has its place in the transition toward net zero:

  1. Energy Efficiency – steel’s role in energy efficiency is its ability to harness and transfer renewable energy. Examples include the steel mountings of roof solar panels, roof- integrated solar heat collectors and geothermal energy piles.
     
  2. Thermal mass – steel can quickly store/release heat when needed. For example, phase change materials (PCMs) can be used in floors, walls or ceilings to capture and store thermal energy, enabling a constant room temperature with less energy demand.
     
  3. Airtightness - steel sandwich panels and windows contribute to maintaining a building’s airtightness, thereby reducing heat losses and contributing to energy savings.
     
  1. Sustainability – steel’s ability to be pre-fabricated in specific dimensions or modules in a factory means that components are made available on-site when needed. The ability for steel to be designed for deconstruction and alternative use implies that the potential to create new future steel is less of a necessity. Being non-organic, steel’s ability to be recycled again and again without loss of quality means there will in the future be less demand for virgin raw materials.            

     

Source: Life Cycle Cost-Efficient Near Zero Energy Hall Building for Nordic Climate, Jyrki Kesti, WBC2016


constructsteel – worldsteel’s steel construction market development programme aims to disseminate these benefits and engage with stakeholders in the construction industry. POSCO’s INNOVILT and ArcelorMittal’s Steligence construction programmes are two good examples of how  our members are spreading the positive message across to our stakeholders. 

We are confident that steel has a role to play in making buildings net zero operational carbon by 2050. Please consult constructsteel.org for regular updates of constructsteel. I look forward to your comments.

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[1] Buildings are currently responsible for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions: 28% from operational emissions, from energy needed to heat, cool and power them, and the remaining 11% from materials and construction. (https://www.worldgbc.org/embodied-carbon)

Add your comment here:

  • 1

    The article displayed various roles that can be undertaken by steel, as far as I am concerned I am trying to understand why the role of steel is limited in renewable energy sector? Are there any limitations which are inherent in steel that can't be changed for its usage which you can think of. I would like to have some literature so that I could work on.

    avatarB Pradeep ReddyJan 17, 2020, 2:59:32 AMReply

  • 2

    Thank you for the question, Mr Reddy. The role of steel in ZEB’s concerns the role of passive and active technologies; its role is not constrained to the production of renewable energy only. The key issue for a ZEB is energy conservation (e.g. thermal insulation, airtightness or energy efficiency) and energy production (e.g. renewables). Indeed the technologies of energy conservation, including thermal insulation (e.g. sandwich panels) and airtightness (e.g. metal window systems) are all examples of steel applications that do not contribute to the generation of renewable energy but help in reducing energy costs and CO2 emissions.

    avatarTerrence BusuttilJan 30, 2020, 11:20:33 AMReply

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