Something is sustainable if it has the optimal balance between social, environmental and economic (SEE) dimensions across its entire Life cycle. This can be expressed simply as SEE-Life.
Social, Environmental and Economic (SEE) sustainability is sometimes referred to as People Planet Profit or the Triple Bottom Line (TBL). Environmental sustainability may also be referred to as ecological sustainability.
A Life cycle can be segmented in various ways. To keep it simple BlueScope have broken it up into four phases; Get, Make, Use and Next.
|Get||Virgin materials extraction, materials production and transport.||Mining, Steel Production|
|Make||Design and construction; or||Building, design and construction|
|Design, manufacture and transport to consumer; or|
|Design, manufacture, wholesale and/or retail.|
|Use||Product is utilised for its intended purpose and maintained.||Occupancy of building|
|Repairs, alterations and additions|
|Next||End of life scenarios including reuse, recycling, down cycling or disposal to landfill.||Demolition|
|Reuse and/or recycling|
A good definition of sustainability is ‘the ability of current generations to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. (Report of the Brundtland Commission, 1987).
When we talk about sustainability we can be referring to ecological, economic or social sustainability, or a combination of all three. It is generally accepted that sustainability implies a minimization of impact over time.
Building construction consumes 32 per cent of the world’s resources. At the same time, approximately 40 per cent of waste to landfill in OECD countries is generated from construction and deconstruction of buildings. These statistics underline why the ecological sustainability of building materials is so important. Ecological sustainability, in the context of our built environment, is about ensuring the minimum environmental impact from human activities.
– energy efficiency, greenhouse gas generation and depletion of fossil fuels
– water conservation and water quality
– waste generation
– resource depletion
– land degradation
– conservation of biological diversity
– human and ecological health
Durability. Steel products have a long life. By using durable building products, such as steel, we can conserve resources and reduce energy consumption that would otherwise be spent on manufacturing products with shorter life spans.
Reusability. Steel doesn’t rot, split, warp, twist or burn. This means many existing steel products can be reused without reprocessing, again saving on energy and resource use.
Recyclability. At the end of its useful life, steel can be recycled. In fact, steel is 100 per cent recyclable and is the most recycled material in the world.
Strength-to-weight. The high strength-to-weight ratio of steel means you can have long, column free spans and lighter structures that use minimal framing material.
Reduced cost and impact of transportation. The more material a truck can carry to a building site, the fewer the total number of deliveries. This, in turn, saves on fuel and greenhouse gas emissions. High strength-to-weight ratios also mean that less material is required to construct the building, minimizing resource use.
Designed for adaptability and disassembly. Many steel products are designed and made in such a way that they can be disassembled and reused in their current form for any number of applications. This saves the cost and energy of making new products or the costs associated with recycling products.
Prefabrication. Many steel structures and building materials can be prefabricated — that is, manufactured and/or preassembled (usually in a factory) ready for fast and easy assembly on site. This helps minimise wastage and create safer building sites.
When considering the environmental impact of building materials, we need to take into account the function that is being fulfilled, the value that is being created, and the need and aesthetics of particular applications. BlueScope Steel supports the development of consistent methodologies and tools that can be used to compare or define the environmental performance of building materials, building components and whole buildings.
Green Star™ is a voluntary rating system developed to evaluate the environmental design, efficiency and performance of Australian buildings. Currently, it is most commonly applied to larger commercial or high-rise building structures. BlueScope Steel products have a significant role to play in both new building design and rebuilding of existing structures, and can help achieve Green Star™ ratings.
The use of recycled steel scrap continues to be integral to our steel manufacturing process. All our steel products have recycled content. From a resource recovery and materials stewardship perspective, the proportion of a building material that can be re-used or recycled at the end of its life (i.e. recyclability) is more relevant than the recycled content of the material.
A Life Cycle Assessment (also known as Life Cycle Analysis) is a means of quantifying the impact on the environment of a given product or service throughout its lifespan. An LCA can be used to compare the environmental performance of products and services so as to choose the one with the least impact. Embodied Energy (EE) figures have until recently filled this role; however, there are several limitations to the use of EE figures for comparing the sustainability of building materials. BlueScope Steel supports the development of a standard methodology for LCA and is currently in the process of developing its Life Cycle Analysis data.
Report of the Brundtland Commission (1987) Our Common Future (UN World Commission on Environment and Development)
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2003) Environmentally Sustainable Buildings: Challenges and Policies
Green Star™ is the registered trademark of the Green Building Council of Australia www.gbca.org.au
International Iron and Steel Institute (IISI) www.worldsteel.org
BlueScope & Green Star Rating
BSL Sustainability STB1 Zero Carbon & Carbon Neutral
BSL Sustainability STB2 Urban Heat Islands
BSL Sustainability STB3 Voluntary Ratings Tools
BSL Sustainability STB4 Recycling
BSL Sustainability STB5 Mandatory Sustainability Requirements
BSL Sustainability STB7 Thermal Mass
BSL Sustainability STB8 Sustainable Buildings
BSL Sustainability STB9 Extreme Weather