Green Steel

Advanced Steel Structures shows why the metal is one of the most sustainable on the market

Advanced Steel working on a structural-based steel construction project.
Advanced Steel working on a structural-based steel construction project.

As a building material, steel boasts the best of all worlds: it is malleable, it is stable, it is durable, and, perhaps counterintuitively, it is sustainable. And for British Columbia’s Advanced Steel Structures Inc., sustainability is not merely a constructive consequence—it is a guiding principle. “We are a structural-based steel company rather than a steel-stud-based steel company,” says Jared Winton, general manager for Advanced Steel Structures. “Steel is strong, and that’s what makes it good for building owners and renters.”

Founded in 1998, Advanced Steel came into the scene on the curve of sustainability revitalization within the steel manufacturing industry. Not only has the industry reduced the energy required to produce one ton of steel by approximately 33 percent since the early 1990s, but new incentives bolstered by various green building councils and codes encourage developers to utilize steel in all aspects of construction by offering tax and insurance incentives, as well as assurances of increased safety and structural integrity.

With prefab steel-stud panels, floor systems, and structural-steel options, Advanced Steel—with a full-time staff of 50—primarily focuses on mid-rise structural design-build projects, such as care facilities, hospitals, condominiums, apartments, and low-income housing. “We also do a lot of cost savings analysis for over-budget projects,” Winton says. “We’ve done four of these in 2012, and saved our clients a total of $1.5 million.”

The Word on Green

Jared Winton, general manager of Advanced Steel Structures, shares his thoughts on some of the hot topics surrounding the world of sustainability.

Sustainable Education: “We definitely need more of it. The consumer still doesn’t seem interested in what buildings are made of.”

Green Marketing: “Because people are more concerned about the economy, green is kind of on the back burner, but it’s something that needs to be pushed.”

Manufacturing: “I’d like to make buildings that last 100 years rather than ones that last 25. They might cost more in the beginning, but they save more in the end.”

Advanced Steel’s cost savings analysis helped save the Lark Group a million dollars on its Kinsmen Care Facility—a 157-bed, four-storey, noncombustible hospice care facility in Surrey, British Columbia—by redressing its use of concrete and structural elements. “We decreased the weight of this structure by pouring thinner composite slabs for the floors and foundation, reducing their thickness by half—from eight inches to four,” Winton says. “This saved on their foundation and their seismic loading as well.”

Most of the company’s work is in British Columbia and Alberta, with other occasional projects in the United States’ Pacific Northwest. However, with its main offices Langley, and the bulk of its projects in British Columbia, Advanced Steel has also had to respond to new incentives provided by the provincial government in 2007’s Greenhouse Gas Reductions Target Act (GGRTA), which aims to reduce provincial greenhouse gas emissions from 2007 levels by 33 percent in 2020, and 80 percent in 2050. As part of the government’s efforts to meet these numbers, it adopted a Wood First Policy, to promote the usage of wood in building construction. Builders are allowed to build up to six stories in wood construction, though some cities oppose the trend because of the fire hazard large-scale wood construction portends. And when it comes to fire code, steel trumps wood.

According to Winton, the Wood First Policy hasn’t dampened the Advanced Steel’s project load or profitability, because steel is just that—steel. But beyond its mere strength and stability, steel is sustainable and helps boost LEED scores, which have also been incentivized by the GGRTA. “Structural steel has long been the most recycled product in the industry,” Winton says. “Most of our product is made from 95-percent-recycled material, and everything that comes to our shop is cut to size to fit a particular project. The amount of waste in our shop per project is around .001 percent per pound.”

In coming years, Winton and Advanced Steel are looking to expand their commercial network and project load by opening a second office branch in Alberta, where steel is more incentivized than wood. Winton is also creating educational campaigns to inform the public about the advantages—structural, sustainable, and otherwise—that steel offers over other building options. “It’s important to educate buyers, so they know that when they buy a new building, it makes a difference what’s between the drywall,” Winton says.