Materials | Structural Steel


Commonly used for interior partitioning of commercial buildings, light-gauge steel framing is increasingly being used in residential construction.  Compared to solid wood, steel studs are lightweight, dimensionally stable, resistant to insect damage, and of consistent quality.  Cold-rolled steel framing typically contains 20-25% recycled material (10-15% post-consumer content), though some manufacturers have in excess of 90% recycled content.  Steel studs are also recyclable at the end of the building’s useful life.  Despite the advantages of light-gauge steel, its use can cripple a building’s energy performance when improperly used in exterior wall applications because of thermal bridging through the highly conductive steel.  Foam insulation is often recommended on the inside or outside surface of a wall to address this problem.  Products listed here have high recycled content or are designed to help minimize thermal bridging.

Steel is both the most energy-intensive framing material, on a pound-for-pound basis, and the most recyclable.  Overall, the steel industry’s recycling rate is over 60%.  Heavy-gauge structural steel framing members, from almost all sources, commonly have greater than 90% recycled content.  The embodied energy of steel averages about 19,200 Btu/lb; manufacture of structural steel from recycled materials conserves 5,450 Btu/lb.  In addition to having lower embodied energy, high-recycled-content steel results in lower impact associated with mining waste and pollution.  Products listed here contain at least 90% recycled content.