Steel is a highly efficient material and, once galvanized, is ideally suited to the construction of durable and reusable structures. Galvanizers Association recognises that once galvanized, a steel component can last a lifetime. In fact, galvanized steel is one of the lowest maintenance, most robust materials in the construction portfolio, making it a good option when designing demountable structures. Overall, it is a useful solution for resilient, carbon efficient design.

Recently GA alongside European counterparts EGGA, the European General Galvanizers Association, produced a publication which shows how construction across Europe is beginning to embrace circular thinking. Galvanized Steel And Sustainable Construction: Solutions for a Circular Economy showcases the best of sustainable design from across the continent and the UK. From contemporary structures designed to be repurposed in component form, to a galvanized steel, football stand which has been relocated in its entirety, it illustrates how ideas around reuse are informing projects today.

When we talk about reuse, we include options such as:

  • Designing demountable structures which can be reassembled in entirely new surroundings, when no longer required
  • Reuse of standardised components
  • Repurposing of entire buildings in situ

All are circular approaches to sustainable construction and help optimise the use of raw materials and built components, keeping them in an endless loop of use.

Garsington Opera Pavilion was designed to be demounted annually within 3-4 weeks, leaving no permanent trace when removed. Image © Dennis Gilbert.

Increasingly, we see entire structures designed with disassembly in mind and multiple use as part of their specification. In the UK, Robin Snell’s Garsington Opera Pavilion was designed to be disassembled after each season, and The Hill House Box by Carmody Groarke in Renfrewshire offers a stunning temporary museum casing, around an entire listed building, whilst it is being restored. Both projects show how it is possible to break the mould with grid like constructions and standard sized components.

Reuse has economic benefits. An EU study from 2020 on the provision for greater reuse of steel structures, (European Recommendations for Reuse of Steel Products in Single-Storey Buildings – EU RFCS ‘PROGRESS’ Project 2020)[1] calculated that a 480m2 single storey steel-framed building with a combination of reuse and recycling after first lifecycle would save 98 tonnes CO2 in next lifecycle and had a lifecycle cost benefit of €24,000. The report also stated ‘Galvanized steel solutions are preferable for structures with possible multiple assembling and dismantling cycles’.

Steel Portal Frame

Whilst optimising use of existing components offers cost savings, it is also an important part of reducing carbon footprint too. Work on the classification and storage of existing structural steel components is currently being undertaken, and the UK steel industry has suggested that there is ‘no technical reason why nearly all of the structural steel building stock should not be regarded as a vast ‘warehouse of parts’ for future use in new applications’[2]. This is because in addition to being suited to standardization, galvanized steel can withstand multiple lifecycles without degradation. You need only look at the versatility of items like scaffolding poles to realise that galvanized steel will take a lot of repetitive usage without the need for costly maintenance or repair.

Much needs to happen before we get to a truly reliable ‘warehouse of parts’, although without doubt the thinking and desire is there and the work has begun. As the construction sector continues to explore ideas, and the potential of modular design and the carbon savings of reuse become more visible, Galvanizers Association looks forward to being part of the conversation.

For more information, visit Galvanized Steel in the Circular Economy
The guide, Galvanized Steel and Sustainable Construction: Solutions for a Circular Economy, is available as a download or in a printed format

1 www.steelconstruct.com/eu-projects/progress

2 https://www.steelconstruction.info/Recycling_and_reuse

Posted by Grace on 23rd July 2021

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