Sustainable design practices are integral to the construction industry today with architects, engineers and builders seeking innovative design solutions to meet project demands on time and on budget.

A development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs can be described as truly sustainable. Buildings must be designed for long-term operational efficiency, given how energy consumption currently accounts for more than 90 per cent of the total cradle-to-grave impact of the building.

Structurally efficient buildings not only reduce the use of resources by using materials efficiently and maximising usable space but also make the structure more adaptable, helping deliver greater value by accommodating changing requirements over time.

The sustainable design attributes of steel products are considerable across reinforced concrete, steel and concrete composite, and structural steel designs.

Steel's high strength-to-weight ratio offers opportunities in sustainable design through lighter structures and foundations. Steel-framed buildings can also be efficiently modified and extended due to the inherent adaptability of steel and steel connections. The use of prefabricated steel in construction delivers multiple benefits to the project including cost savings on both labour and material, in addition to environmental benefits from minimal on-site waste generation.

Steel can be easily manufactured off-site and delivered to site cut to length, drilled and fabricated, saving time. Accurate off-site manufacture and less energy-intensive construction can fast-track the building process while also eliminating on-site storage, thus improving site logistics. Any steel waste produced during manufacture such as off-cuts or turnings can be recycled into new steel, further supporting the environment.

Steel constructions are low maintenance

Proper maintenance extends building life and reduces operational costs with steel construction offering many opportunities for low maintenance solutions. Corrosion protection on weathering steels and metal-coated or painted steels help safeguard steel facades from continuous weather exposure. Buildings designed with steel also allow easily accessible servicing.

Designing for deconstruction

OneSteel Market Mills believes that a structure should be as easy to deconstruct as it is to construct – a concept essential to sustainable design so that buildings can be deconstructed for material reuse or recycling.

The reuse of steel in construction saves energy and reduces greenhouse effects compared with the option of re-melting components into new steel. Steel elements can potentially be demounted and used in another building, or in a different location in the same building.

Once all reduce-and-reuse options are exhausted, steel building materials can be recycled and used again. Scrap steel is 100 per cent recyclable and of high value, making steel the most recycled material in the world by weight.