BLOG: Reusing steel: how do you know what your second-hand steelwork is going to look like?

News Detail







Elliottwood’s, Director & Head of Sustainability, Penny Gowler discusses what the second-hand steelwork market could look like moving forward, and what built environment professionals should expect.

As we transition into a world where use of second-hand materials becomes the norm, specification of these materials needs more thought than specifying new. Second-hand materials vary in their material properties, their aesthetics and the certification or provenance they come with. Steel is no different. 

Reuse of steelwork in the construction industry is seeing a rebirth now. Business as usual involves recycling steel, smelting it down and turning it into another steel product, expending huge amounts of energy and emitting carbon into the atmosphere. Reusing steelwork avoids this energy intensive recycling process with significant carbon savings. Informed progressive clients are now pushing to use second-hand steelwork to deliver lower carbon structures. 

Learn more about the difference between reuse and recycling for building materials here

By its nature second-hand steelwork is variable. Some of it has been used in a building for years with plates welded to it and holes drilled through it. Some has been stored outside for months and may appear ‘rusty’. Other steelwork is actually as good as new, resulting from cancelled orders where the steel has already been fabricated for a new project, it’s certified and we know exactly where it’s come from.   

As a client, designer or contractor, how do you know what type of steelwork you’re getting when you specify second-hand material? Structural properties are a pre-requisite and easily covered by investigations and alignment with Eurocodes. But how do you know what it looks like, where it’s come from, whether it’s twisted or deformed?  

More info

Want to stay up to date?

Sign up to our mailing list to receive regular updates on the most exciting news, research, case studies, and events related to sustainable design.