For those looking for cost-effective and durable green building options, pre-engineered steel building systems are a great starting point. They are more than just a low-budget option — they’re arguably the most sustainable framing material available. And by working with your manufacturer to outfit your building for maximum energy performance, you stand to glean energy efficiency savings for decades to come.
For contractors, building green comes as a point of pride and a major selling point to the owner. For owners, it is a way to showcase their corporate or personal commitment to the environment, earn tax incentives for green building and reduce operating costs over the lifespan of their building.
This article will cover a lot of ground, exploring the many ways in which metal buildings can contribute to energy savings, including:
- How all-steel buildings can be designed for optimal energy performance, reducing long-term operating costs.
- How steel stacks up against other building materials in terms of sustainability.
- How steel building systems contribute toward earning green building certifications.
- Where to find financial incentives, tax breaks and financing options for your green building.
Throughout the way, we will discuss how metal buildings reduce a building’s environmental impact but focus on what really matters: Your bottom line.
Lower operating costs due to energy efficiency savings
While reducing the environmental impact of a building is attractive, the most notable benefit of an energy-efficient metal building is the long-term cost savings. This is attractive to owners — and a key opportunity for general contractors to educate clients on the benefits of metal buildings and close the sale.
For example, you can fit your building with skylights and thermal windows to provide natural lighting and reduce electricity needs. And while you need to insulate any building according to the minimum requirements of energy codes such as ASHRAE 90.1 or IECC, you can choose to exceed the code, earning LEED v4 points and further reducing your long-term heating and cooling needs.
Simply adding natural lighting and upgrading a building’s insulation will greatly reduce heating, cooling and lighting needs. According to Metal Construction News, these upgrades result in immediate savings by reducing the number of HVAC units a building will need. And over time, the reduced utility usage will help the owner earn thousands in energy efficiency savings. It’s a win-win-win for the contractor, owner and the environment.
Steel bests other framing materials in sustainability
A study commissioned by AISC compared concrete and steel building systems in terms of their lifecycle environmental impact. It looked only at the impact of the framing components —excluding other elements such as the building envelope and finish work— comparing the materials based on factors such as material production, fabrication, landfill burden and construction.
Steel bested concrete in almost every category. But perhaps the most interesting insight of the study is the impact the design of steel building systems has on sustainability. Since your steel building distributor will optimize the design of the building to exactly meet the needs of the application, steel building systems tend to make more efficient use of materials. This means steel tends to be the greener choice both in terms of upfront material usage and long-term sustainability.
More recyclable than other building materials
The structural steel used for metal building systems comes from 93% recycled content, according to the AISC. Steel’s durability contributes to its recyclability after use as well, with as high as 98% of steel framing being recycled. This is higher than any other material option.
Minimum waste during construction
Pre-fabricated steel building systems minimize waste during construction, as all components and members are manufactured off-site under rigorous quality control precautions. Not only does this prevent quality issues — it reduces material costs and waste as each part of the building is made with precisely the amount of steel needed to fit the application.
Earn points toward green building certifications
Putting this into perspective for your project, using steel can contribute to green building certifications, which is required or desired on many new construction projects. In fact, metal building systems count toward a number of credits for LEED v4 certification, the industry standard for green construction. For a summary of the LEED v4 credits a metal building system can help you earn, click here.
Take advantage of financial incentives for using a sustainable metal building system
Beyond environmental motivations, owners choose greener building methods because of the tax credits, financial incentives and special financing programs put in place to stimulate greener construction. Because these incentives can vary by state and municipality, it’s good idea to consult the Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency® (DSIRE®) to get an idea of what programs are available in your area.
The owner can seek these options out on their own, or the contractor can search the database for cost-reducing opportunities to more easily close the deal. From loan programs to grants, rebates and corporate tax credits, there are plenty of opportunities to ease the expense of residential, industrial or commercial metal buildings meeting a high level of energy efficiency.
As metal buildings continue to grow in popularity and design versatility, it is important to partner with a reputable and knowledgeable distributor to remain competitive. We can help. At Searcy Building Systems, customer commitment is at the core of everything we do. General contractors and owners partner with us when they need a partner they can trust to get it done and get it done right.
Download our guide to capturing value with your building purchase to learn more about how a metal building system can save owners thousands in the long term, and how contractors can leverage this information to close more sales.