SCI has recently completed two Innovate UK projects exploring the opportunities for steel and the circular economy focussing particularly on structural steel reuse.
Working together with the University of Cambridge, we have explored why steel reuse isn’t more commonplace and what steps could be taken to change this.
Reusing, as opposed to the current practice of recycling by remelting, makes good environmental sense, saving significant carbon emissions. It also retains more economic activity within the UK since currently around 70% of steel scrap is exported.
Our research has found many technical barriers to steel reuse throughout the supply chain. None of these is insurmountable but additional cost and programme, compared to using new steel, can be significant. Our cost assessment shows that the differential between the average price of new and scrap structural steel over the last 16 years is over £300 per tonne; there is certainly an opportunity for the right business model. What is missing is any real legislative push to incentivise steel reuse.
As part of our work we have developed a prototype website to trade reclaimed structural steel. We have also looked to the future and explored how we can upload, store and retrieve structural steel BIM models to facilitate future renovation and reuse of steel buildings. This represents a great opportunity for the steel construction sector and something we should do.
We disseminated our findings at an event at the Building Centre in London in November and are continuing our work on steel reuse and design for deconstruction, through the EU-funded project REDUCE which will run until 2019.