A recent article in Metropolis Magazine asks, “When a building comes down, where do its materials go?” Recycling five essential materials—steel, concrete, drywall, glass, flooring—turns up different challenges, but architects can be part of the solution. As the environmental crisis worsens, we must ask: Can we reduce our demand on new resources? The article

cites that, “Creative reuse, retrofitting, and, most importantly, designing programmatically versatile buildings that last should be architects’ main objectives.” It goes on to say, “The demolition-construction cycle also entails pragmatic challenges, which may offer important—albeit fundamentally incremental—solutions to our waste predicament. Design for disassembly should become part of architectural practice, and planning to systematically sort materials during demolition can make it easier to repurpose them.”

Steel is the most common structural framing material for nonresidential buildings in the United States and offers an ideal example of a recycling flow that approaches circularity. In fact, steel is the most recycled material in the world, with about 98 percent of structural steel avoiding landfills. For more information on steel recycling, an excellent resource is the Steel Recycling Institute, especially their research on the sustainability of metal roofing.

The article goes on to detail the recycling suggestions for other building materials including glass, concrete, drywall, and flooring.

One of METALCON’s long-standing partners and exhibitors, US Steel Corporation, has been an industry leader in environmental compliance, beginning with the full incorporation of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 environmental management systems. According to the company’s website, the company’s efforts to continually seek opportunities to reuse and repurpose have resulted in the annual recycling of more than 7.5 million tons of materials including 2.9 million tons of scrap steel that is used to create new steel products. USS’ world headquarters is located in METALON 2019’s location, downtown Pittsburgh, Pa., and showcases the company’s COR-TEN® steel. 

Echoing the role that architects and builders can play in the recycling efforts, perhaps we as individuals can direct an act of kindness toward the environment today and who knows, it may just make the heart grow a little bit larger. Wishing all of our readers a very Happy Valentine’s Day!