Why is this important to us?
The future demands a vast investment in infrastructure in roads, bridges and railways, hospitals, schools and offices, in clean energy generation, water infrastructure, and coastal defences. Global wind power capacity alone is projected to increase eightfold by 2050. More and more, global commentators look to new approaches to building design and construction to ensure that the resources used have the optimum impact over their lifespan. Steel has an important role to play here.
The commercial imperative
What kind of challenges do we face?
As the demand for more sustainable construction materials rises, steel will have to prove its credentials against other alternatives, such as concrete and timber. This represents both a challenge to our industry, and a significant opportunity. We have a track record in developing and commercialising more sustainable products for infrastructure customers, and want to build on this in the years to come. A large part of the challenge surrounds the legacy that today’s infrastructure creates for the future, such as how useful and how valuable the materials we use now will be at the end of their current life.
What do we need to do?
We are investing in innovation – developing new products and engineering components for the construction and infrastructure sectors, and working alongside our customers to meet their needs and anticipate future trends. But we need to work harder to prove and communicate the contribution steel can make to sustainability. Although steel can be produced with half the energy that was required 40 years ago, we still need to reduce that and cut the carbon emitted, and ensure more steel is re-used or recycled at the end of its useful life. This is a key element of ‘circular economy’ thinking, which we explore in outcome 4.
What is the potential to create value?
The steel industry is meeting much of the world’s need for sustainable construction and infrastructure. It is strong enough to build skyscrapers, versatile enough to meet any construction challenge, and endlessly recyclable at the end of its useful life. Our researchers can calculate where steel will bring added sustainability value compared with other materials, due for example to its lower ‘global warming potential’ score. And our innovations can ensure that modern infrastructure produces fewer carbon emissions and is more energy-efficient – from bridges, to railways, to the turbines used in the renewable energy sector.