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A Guide to Understanding the Lifecycle of Steel

The growth in steel production in India is supported by rapid demand. It is used in multiple sectors including infrastructure, automobiles, manufacturing, and construction among many others. It is also a crucial factor in driving India’s GDP growth. In FY2020-21, India is the second largest producer and consumer of finished steel and is thus evidently an indicator of economic development. It is supreme in the trade that can potentially fuel the rise of India as a global manufacturing hub.

Steel has been significantly critical in construction as it contributes to more than 50% of demand. It is the single most important metallic component in modern construction. Additionally, in an age where sustainability is the need of the hour, steel can be a lifesaver. As it is a recyclable material, its use can open us to the many possibilities of furthering this industry. It can be the best solution to progress without jeopardizing the environment. Let’s understand the lifecycle of steel:

The Initial Stage

Primary Steel is manufactured through iron ore mining or electric arc furnaces. Although the initial production requires fossil fuel and emits carbon dioxide, efforts are made to avoid environmental impact. Especially, producing steel in electric furnaces results in 10% lesser emission of CO2. Apart from the virgin resources from iron ore, recycled steel also helps in making new steel. Scrap-based production is another source that can cause less environmental impact. It is wiser to source the raw material in such a way to cause the least damage to the environment.

 

Production Process

Steel production can only be successful when all the parallel processes are brought together. Scrap and molten iron are melted in open-hearth furnaces (OHF) and converted to steel. There are many types of steel products used in construction. According to the project needs, an architect can opt for steel rebar, stainless steel, alloy steel, carbon steel, structural steel, and other products. If the construction project primarily deals with concrete, rebar is the best material that enhances the quality of concrete. It makes it capable of carrying heavier tensile loads as the overall tensile strength of the concrete increases.

 

Application or Usage

Steel can be in use for many years as compared to other materials. As the life cycle cost (LCC) of steel is lesser than other materials, it reduces the LCC of the whole construction project. It consists of costs incurred through all the stages of its lifecycle like conception, production, use operation, and end-of-life. Steel’s durability and longevity make it a material worth using as its renovation costs are exceptionally low. Usually, the costs associated with construction projects tend to run high. Thus, using steel is a step in the right direction. The average lifespan of steel is around 20 years.

 

End-of-Life

The lifecycle of steel is significant to the circular economy as it believes in sharing resources and recycling even after its use. Climate change and global warming have emphasized a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable world. As it is 100% recyclable, it neither loses its quality nor its properties. It is the perfect material to be reused in a new project which eliminates the initial processes that reduce the ecological footprint. Its strength, durability, sustainability, and high end-of-life recycling rate prove the potential of steel as one of the vital drivers of development across the world.

 

Using steel, therefore, can be most beneficial in a construction project which aims at a lower ecological footprint. Greater focus on cleaner, greener, and a better Earth will lead the way for Steel to take the centre stage. However, to ensure the recyclability of Steel at its best, government as well as private sectors will have to work together towards retrieval and recovery of Steel.

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