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A Convenient Truth on Construction Waste

A Convenient Truth on Construction Waste
Ever since we were kids, we were told to reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s time that this axiom is brought to the forefront of the wasteful construction industry.

Did you know that up to 30% of building material brought to a construction site ends up in a landfill? Or that approximately 27% of the total municipal solid waste disposed of in Canadian landfills is because of the construction industry? Do a search online for ‘construction waste articles’ and you will have an endless list of commentaries on the subject.

If you haven’t heard it enough already, hear it again: the construction industry produces a lot of solid waste – more than any other industry. Yet whenever the topic is brought up in conversation, all that’s heard is ‘something needs to be done’.

The Convenient Truth: ‘Something’ is Being Done

There’s a construction material that’s quickly becoming known as the go-to for residential and commercial construction. It is lighter than wood, easy to handle, lasts hundreds of years, is non-combustible, does not break down, is extremely strong and produces a small fraction of the solid waste of its contemporary.

It is cold-formed steel, and it is reinventing the entire construction industry.

Steel is the most recycled material on the planet – more than all other materials combined – and its cold-formed application has brought many environmental benefits to the industry.

Cold-Formed Steel Reduces Waste

  • Since each piece of cold-formed steel arrives ready to install, and doesn’t need cutting, the amount of waste produced at a construction site is greatly reduced. This also has a secondary benefit of creating a simpler, safer and cleaner construction site, allowing more flexibility in space. Contractors have a responsibility to optimize safety on the jobsite at all times!
  • Each steel floor joist and steel framing component is manufactured with a specific purpose, so no extra material is required to compensate for errors. This can take more time in the planning and design process, but the reduction in waste alone is worth it.
  • The chance of work crews making costly and wasteful mistakes is quite low, since the material is so strong and already cut to size, and has the access holes needed for follow-up trades.
  • By bringing fewer nonessential materials to a job site, many projects experience a significant reduction in transportation and handling costs.
  • There can be a reduction of waste management costs, including disposal bin rentals, disposal fees and associated transportation costs. Many businesses spend money on materials that are quickly thrown away, even before they are used to their full potential. Addressing this issue and stopping it from happening is key to creating the construction industry of tomorrow.

Cold-Formed Steel Recycles Its Own Waste

When cold-formed steel is being formed, stamped and cut for a specific project, pieces of steel remain. Steel’s unused pieces are collected, then sent to a recycling partner to be melted down, leaving very little waste on the production floor. The recycled steel is then given new life.

A finished section of cold-formed steel has only one purpose. If an error is made in the production or installation process, the steel can be recycled. If an error is made with a lumber, the piece must be recut, which creates waste, or completely thrown out.

Steeling the Show

The industry now has a highly recyclable construction product that can provide satisfying results for 700 years. It has benefits for everyone – building owners, architects, contractors, crews, trades and more – while greatly reducing the amount of waste that’s sent to our community landfills.

Cold-formed steel is becoming the building material of choice for multi-unit condominiums, apartment buildings, hotels, schools, low-rise commercial buildings and even custom homes.

Waste-Diversion Leadership

Through our manufacturing facility in Princeton, Ontario, iSPAN is a valued partner in sustainable construction by producing all of our patented cold-formed steel building components with sensitivity to cost, design and environment, ensuring that as little waste as possible is produced, and even less waste makes it to building sites.

Cold-formed steel isn’t going to save the entire world, but when we all do our part to make the world a better place (even when it’s in the construction industry) a funny thing happens – the world becomes a better place.


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For projects in the United States, reach out to one of our Authorized Dealers.