The green steel economy and the steel industry are at the core of the green economy, in which economic growth and environmental responsibility work hand in hand. The steel industry believes that sustainable development must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Within this, a green economy delivers prosperity for all nations, wealthy and poor alike, while preserving and enhancing the planet’s resources.
Steel is essential to the technologies and solutions that meet society’s everyday needs. Population growth, urbanization, poverty reduction and mitigation of natural disasters pose some challenges that can only be met by steel. Steel is central to transport, housing, energy, agriculture, water and infrastructure. Steel’s two key components are iron (one of Earth’s most abundant elements) and recycled steel. Once steel is produced it becomes a permanent resource because it is 100% recyclable and has an infinite life cycle. This infinite process of recycling without loss of properties makes steel unique
Successive UK Governments have put sustainable development at the heart of their agenda. Sustainable construction is an important subset of sustainable development because of its contribution to the UK economy and the significant environmental and social impacts that buildings and other structures play in all our lives. Our quality of life, comfort and security, health and well-being and productivity are all linked to our built environment.
In partnership with industry, Government has published a Strategy for sustainable construction  which represents a commitment to deliver a radical change in the sustainability of the construction industry. Launched in 2008, the Strategy sets out a series of overarching targets with specific actions and deliverable s. With around 30% of the construction industry’s output being for the public sector, Government wants to set the example for other construction clients, particularly by procuring more sustainable public buildings.
As required under the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and Display Energy Certificates (DECs) are required for commercial buildings. All dwellings are also required to have EPCs. EPCs, which set out the energy efficiency grade of a building, are required when a commercial building over 50m2 is built, sold or rented.
Example format of an EPC
DECs are required annually for public buildings and those occupied by public authorities, which have a total useful area greater than 1000m2 and provide a public service to a large number of people and are therefore frequently visited by those people. The DEC shows the actual energy usage of a building.
EPCs and DECs are intended to create greater awareness and stimulate demand for more energy efficient buildings.
Planning also plays an important role in delivering holistic sustainable development. Most planning legislation and guidance is relatively ‘high-level’ and does not generally impact upon the detailed design and construction of buildings. Two exceptions to this are Supplementary Planning Guidance and the Merton Rule.
Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) and Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) provides greater detail on the delivery of local development plans. Many local planning authorities have SPG/SPDs relating to the design and construction of sustainable buildings. This guidance can vary dramatically from authority to authority and includes information relating to operational and renewable energy and materials selection criteria, etc. SPG and SPDs are considered in the determination of planning applications.
First adopted by the London Borough of Merton, the (so called) Merton Rule requires all new developments to use renewable energy onsite to reduce annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the built environment. The policy applies to all residential developments of 10 or more units and all new non residential developments above a threshold of 1,000 m2. It is required to incorporate renewable energy production equipment to provide at least 10% of predicted energy requirements. Some authorities have gone further requiring 20%.
Building end-of-life waste from demolition
It is estimated that more than 50% of Local Authorities currently have in place a Merton Rule type requirement and Government has stated that it expects all local planning authorities to adopt a Merton type requirement in their development plans.
BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) is the leading and most widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. It has become the de facto measure of the environmental performance of UK buildings. Although currently voluntary, many publicly funded/procured buildings are required to have a minimum BREEAM rating. Many commercial building clients also recognize the benefits of procuring sustainable buildings and are increasingly using BREEAM to deliver sustainable buildings.