Structural Steel

Steel is the backbone of modern society. Steel enables us to reach further, build higher and stay safer—all the while remaining the quintessential green building material. Structural steel is the leading framing material for buildings and infrastructure in North America, with nearly a 50% market share for non-residential and multi-story residential construction. 

Today’s modern mills produce steel using steel scrap to save energy, conserve resources, minimize emissions and promote economics of steelmaking. And, at the end of the long life cycle of a steel structure, 100% of the steel frame can be recycled—making steel the premier choice for environmentally conscious structural projects.

Steel plate is used in the construction of both bridges and buildings and is produced in North America in both electric arc and basic oxygen furnaces. The steel industry has invested billions of dollars in new technologies to increase the efficiency and environmental performance of the steelmaking process. 

The results of these efforts are evident in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings on greenhouse gases, which show that the iron and steel industry reduced carbon emissions by 47% between 1990 and 2005, and achieved the highest overall emissions reduction of any major industry – 67%. 

Industry productivity has also increased significantly over the past 40 years. The average number of man-hours required to produce a ton of structural steel has decreased from 12 man-hours/ton in 1980 to just over 0.6 man-hours/ton today.

The steel industry remains the world leader in the use of recycled material and end-of-life recycling, with the recycled content of the structural steel beams and columns produced at North American mills averaging 90% and a recovery rate of 98%. 

In addition to the recycling benefits, steel’s contributions to material efficiency have far-reaching advantages. Steel offers lower erection costs, being faster and lighter to install than competing materials. Steel is also ideal for short-span bridges because of its durability, ease of maintenance and ease of construction.

Steel is strong, resilient, lightweight, durable, impact-resistant and has long life expectancy. For example, in bridges, a steel girder requires less depth than a corresponding girder of concrete, providing clearance and geometrical advantages. 

Steel is the material of choice for our modern society, and its sustainability ensures that both the structures and conserved raw materials will be available for generations to come. For more information on the applications of structural steel, visit the American Institute of Steel Construction at www.aisc.org

At a Glance

The steel industry remains the world leader in the use of recycled material and end-of-life recycling, with the recycled content of the structural steel beams and columns produced at North American mills averaging 90% and a recovery rate of 98%.