Steel building materials are relatively rare on the reuse market. On the one hand, because these materials can be resold easily and cheaply to scrap dealers who sell them on through the recycling networks. On the other hand, because their reuse for structural purposes can give rise to questions about the stability of the structures and the safety of the people, which require a proper assessment and taking responsibility by the participants in a building project (creator, contractor, designer).
The elements found on the reuse market came from a variety of sources, such as dismantled hangars or industrial destocking.
In terms of the environment, these elements have excellent performance levels. The production of a steel component (even when it incorporates recycled steel) causes a substantial environmental impact, in particular associated with burning in blast furnaces, which produce large quantities of greenhouse gas. From this point of view, reuse constitutes a particularly effective strategy for extending the life of a steel component: every tonne of steel reused makes it possible to avoid the production of 1.3 tonnes of CO2.
The most common products are:
different sections of variable dimensions
dismantled industrial hangars
Components are usually sold at 50% of the equivalent new price.
Some operators will buy structural metals at a higher price than scrap dealers if they meet certain very specific criteria. Take-back prices work out at around 200% of the scrap price.
Most dealers in steel structural components are not able to formally confirm the technical capacities of the resold products. They can, however, provide an opinion based on their observations and experience. When they have dismantled the structure themselves, they can attest to the quality of the dismantling and the completeness of the categories.
For designers and builders who want to work with these products, there are a series of measures available so that they can use these elements in full knowledge of all the facts. The application of these measures depends on the scale of the projects and the intended new uses:
adapting a principle of decommissioning and reserving the reusable structural components for secondary uses (secondary structures, non-structural uses, etc.)
allowing adequate safety margins in the sizing calculations and adopting redundancy principles (using similar strategies to those used in renovation projects)
gathering information on the origin and uses of the sections
making a careful visual inspection, possibly supplemented by specific tests aimed at establishing the actual performances of the materials (indentation tests to establish the hardness of the steel, infra-red scan, load tests on samples, etc.)
Did you know?
In some parts of Europe, the reuse of structural steel components is widespread. The north of England, for example, has numerous suppliers of reusable steel. It also has stability consultancies and research laboratories specialising in the analysis of the properties of these sections. Some important projects carried out in this context show the benefits of this practice, in both environmental and economic terms.