Buildings account for nearly 40% of U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The materials required to construct a building all require energy to manufacture, fabricate, deliver and erect. Once it is operational and in use, the building itself is heated and cooled. And when it has reached the end of its lifespan, energy is required to disassemble and demolish the building.
When it comes to framing systems, structural engineers can take a leading role in developing new structural systems that are more sustainable. The good news for structural steel is that, in addition to other green attributes, it is largely produced from recycled materials. And work is currently underway in the form of systemic innovations that can take steel-framed buildings to the next level of sustainability.
Two projects at Northeastern University, in collaboration with Simpson Gumpertz and Heger (SGH) and other partners ”both funded in part by AISC” are exploring improvements to common structural steel systems that can help reduce their environmental impacts.
Both projects take a closer look at the contributions of the structural system to the energy consumed in building construction and use. The first project explores strategies for adding thermal breaks to cladding details to reduce building heating and cooling demands while maintaining the structural efficacy of the details. The second project addresses a composite structural floor system developed to facilitate deconstruction, in which the structural systems are designed to be taken apart and reused in other structures. Both projects highlight testing conducted at Northeastern’s Laboratory for Structural Testing of Resilient and Sustainable Systems (STReSS Laboratory) which was established in 2011.
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