Next generation ZINCALUME® steel has less environmental impact

News /
18 March 2013
Next generation ZINCALUME® steel has less environmental impact
BlueScope Steel's sustainability manager Richard Rowe.

BlueScope Steel's next generation ZINCALUME® steel, which is a new building product due for launch in August, will have a considerably reduced environmental impact compared with current ZINCALUME® steel.

An independent Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the next generation ZINCALUME® steel product demonstrates reductions of between 17 and 20 per cent across the impact categories where steel's contribution is most significant: climate change, human toxicity, freshwater toxicity, metal depletion and fossil depletion.

The study demonstrated reductions of between 10 and 25 per cent across all 18 impact categories assessed.

The LCA, conducted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), looked at the cradle-to-grave environmental impacts of next generation ZINCALUME® steel (AM125) compared with current ZINCALUME® steel (AZ150) when used in a commercial and industrial roofing application.

The study concluded the reduction in environmental impacts is driven by the reduction of the metals used to coat next generation ZINCALUME® steel, combined with its longer lifespan.

According to the ERM report "the lifespan of buildings is very important in driving the overall footprint of steel roofing materials".

"Encouraging developers and building owners to match the life of the buildings for which they are responsible to material life (durability) is an important step in creating a sustainable built environment," the report's authors said.

BlueScope Steel's sustainability manager, Richard Rowe, said the LCA will be of particular interest to property asset owners.

"If you are going to own a building you should care about the whole-of-life environmental impacts, and costs of that property," Mr Rowe said.

"A building constructed using next generation ZINCALUME® steel should require less maintenance compared with the current coating technology and when, eventually, elements of the building have to be replaced, the ZINCALUME® steel can be recycled (again and again and again) - which is not true of all building materials."

The longer life of next generation ZINCALUME® steel is due to its patented Activate™ technology, which facilitates more efficient galvanic protection by the zinc via the addition of a new magnesium compound.

The innovative technology enables the aluminium regions of the coating to "activate", resulting in a more corrosion resistant and therefore more durable product in a wider range of environments.

In addition to the reduction of environmental impacts attributable to its longer lifespan, the ERM study found that the reduction of the amount of metal resources used in the AM125 aluminium-zinc-magnesium coating contributes to the reduction of its footprint when compared with a traditional AZ150 aluminium-zinc coating.

The largest reduction in the impact categories assessed, which is driven by decreased use of zinc in the coating, was to freshwater eutrophication, which is the addition of nutrients to a water body resulting in reduction of the oxygen available to support aquatic life.

"The need to extract and refine fewer metal resources in order to manufacture next generation ZINCALUME® steel makes a significant contribution to reducing its environmental impacts," Mr Rowe said.

"With the launch of this product we are taking a big step towards creating a smaller footprint."

BlueScope Steel

BlueScope Steel manufactures steel building products including cladding, purlins and house framing, including Lysaght, Colorbond and Zincalume.

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