A growing number of organizations are now offering building owners financial incentives for making their buildings sustainable and energy efficient. For example, a Freddie Mac program called Green Advantage® offers rental properties better loan pricing on financed energy and water efficiency improvements. The program is so popular it generated $9 billion in total loan volume in just 16 months.
Municipalities across the nation also offer incentives for building projects that obtain LEED certification (the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system). The State of Nevada, for instance, provides property tax abatements to private sector building owners and developers for buildings that earn LEED certification. And cities like Cincinnati give property tax abatements for residential and commercial buildings constructed or renovated to meet LEED standards.
Incentives to build green come from consumer preferences as well. A recent Harris Poll found that more than 80 percent of renters surveyed believed that green properties offer better places to live. A new study by AMLI also confirmed that 84 percent of apartment residents thought that living in sustainable or green residences was important. High-performance buildings constructed to LEED criteria are attracting tenants, and these projects save owners money through energy and water efficiencies during long-term building operations.
With so many financial reasons to construct environmentally responsible buildings, choosing materials that contribute those sustainable efforts is key. Cold-formed steel (CFS) framing can help create sustainable, LEED-certified buildings in a variety of ways.
Construction Site Considerations
Reducing materials and construction waste at a job site is a sustainable practice that helps gain LEED points. CFS is a preferable product in this regard because it can be manufactured off-site to exact specifications, which translates into less on-site waste. And thanks to steel’s recyclability, any scraps resulting from production can be repurposed into new product, keeping materials out of landfills.
Healthier Indoor Air
Protecting the welfare of building occupants is an important part of any sustainable building, and being able to certify a healthy indoor environment is a lure for prospective tenants. Damp air trapped in buildings can encourage the growth of mildew and mold in many building products, which is harmful to human health. But mold and mildew cannot grow on steel, making it a great choice for sustainable construction. In addition, steel has no volatile organic compounds to off-gas into the environment, and that offers occupants higher quality indoor air.
Resource Efficiency and Life Cycle
The way materials are produced makes a big difference in environmental responsibility. Because every piece of steel contains recycled content, there’s less need for raw materials extraction, transport, and processing, which saves fuel and energy. In LEEDv4, project teams can get credit for Environmental Product Declarations (EDPs), which list information about a product’s life cycle assessment impacts. EPDs are available for cold-formed steel framing (studs and track) to help earn this credit.
The durability and lasting quality of CFS are a winning combination for a long life cycle. CFS will not warp or buckle, and it’s impervious to insects, mold, and corrosion — contributing to a lifespan of potentially hundreds of years. Without the need to repair CFS members or replace them in buildings, fewer resources are consumed over time.
At the end of its useful life, CFS is 100 percent recyclable into new products that maintain the material’s original quality and integrity. This means that CFS reduces raw materials’ extraction and conserves valuable resources.
A project team striving for LEED certification has a range of criteria to address. Beyond its inherent environmentally friendly properties, CFS framing’s lightweight yet strong characteristics can help successfully address other criteria in several ways:
- Minimize overall project material use. Architectural and structural designs can space studs out further, reducing the amount of building materials needed and taking the pressure off renewable resources such as wood. The structural strength of CFS can also reduce the amount of concrete needed for foundations in low- and mid-rise structures.
- Provide structural support for green roofs. Vegetated roofs can help earn LEED credits because they reduce heat island effect in urban areas, help prevent storm water runoff, and can help insulate a building to increase energy savings. But rooftop soil and plantings add weight to the structure. A cold-formed steel joist roof structure’s strength and stiffness can support green roofs and terraces filled with a variety of greenery.
- Adaptable building reuse. Reusing rather than replacing a building is inherently green, but many structures are designed without any flexibility. Load-bearing CFS can be used to create additional shell space for future use. Specifically, under LEEDv4 BD+C: Healthcare, demonstrating that the project is designed for flexibility can offer teams a credit.
Minimizing environmental impacts is good for communities, occupant health, and building owners’ bottom lines. With CFS, building owners can construct sustainable buildings, achieve LEED certification, and take advantage of financial incentives.
To see if your next project could benefit from cold-formed steel framing, get in touch. We provide complimentary project assistance, and our team of experts can review your designs and make recommendations for cost-effective and sustainable improvements.