North American steel yields lower GHG emissions than Chinese steel

North American construction steel saves about half of GHG emissions on building project.

December 06, 2018 |

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from using Chinese steel in the U.S. are significantly greater than that of comparable steel made in North America, according to a series of reports by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

Two peer-reviewed reports (one in North America and another in China) compared hot-dip galvanized (HDG) steel coils produced in North America to the same product produced in China and shipped to the North American market. This type of steel is primarily used in the construction and automotive sectors.

The study found that hot-dip galvanized coil sourced from China results in nearly 50% higher GHG emissions. “In the sustainable design of steel-framed buildings, one of the most important decisions an owner or architect can make regarding environmental impact is to ensure the building’s steel is produced in North America,” said Mark Thimons, vice president of sustainability for SMDI.

Thimons cited an example from another SMDI study involving the design of a four-story cold-formed steel office building in Minneapolis in which the building core and shell includes about 100 tons of HDG. If steel from China was used for this building instead of North American-produced steel, the GHG emissions associated with the production of the steel would increase by more than 100 tons (CO2eq).

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