Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Life Cycle Assessment of Steel Framed Homes

One of the key sustainable attributes of steel is its ability to be recycled without the loss or degradation of its inherent material properties. The recyclability of steel allows for it to exist for potentially an infinite number of product life cycles.

Steel benefits from the most comprehensive and accessible collection infrastructure of any material, and not just in North America, but around the world. Steelmaking practice ensures that there is a minimum of 28% recycled steel content in every ton of steel produced. Economic and environmental considerations have driven technological advances in electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking technology. EAF technology utilizes a 100% recycled steel charge.

Life Cycle Assessment

Life cycle assessment, or LCA, is a tool for comprehensively measuring and accounting for the resource consumption and environmental burdens associated with a product over its life.

The life cycle of a product typically represents a number of distinct phases. In the construction context a condensation of the major phases includes:
  • Raw Material Extraction and Manufacture - the resource consumption and burdens associated with the conversion of raw materials from the earth to finished building components;
  • Construction - the resource consumption and burdens associated with the fabrication of the home; 
  • Use - the utilization of the home for its intended purpose; 
  • Post Use - the demolition, recycling/disposal of base materials. 

LCA is methodologically rigorous, requiring the completion of four steps. The steps are:

  1. Goal and Scope Definition - the demarcation of the physical boundaries round the product system which is to be examined; 
  2. Life Cycle Inventory, LCI - the data collection phase, consisting of the measurement and accounting of all material and energy inputs, outputs, and emissions; 
  3. Life Cycle Impact Assessment, LCIA - the categorization of the various emission types into common environmental themes expressed in a uniform metric; 
  4. Interpretation - the evaluation of each environmental theme as a potential environmental impact.
Download the PDF of our Lightweight Steel Framing Technical Bulletin Volume 3, Number 1: Life Cycle Assessment of Steel Framed Homes to learn more.


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