Steel vs. Wood: Which Type of Building Is More Eco-Friendly?

Posted on March 10, 2017

large steel building with 3 garage doors

If you’ve been looking to add a building to your home or company property but want to do so with the environment in mind, you may have considered purchasing a building made from wood. While many think this is the obvious way to go for a smaller impact on the Earth, it’s quite the opposite, which is why the experts at Worldwide Steel Buildings are breaking down the facts.

Common Misconceptions about Wood Buildings & the Environment

An inescapable fact of life is that all large manufacturing operations are going to produce CO2 as well as other byproducts regardless of what material they are manufacturing. The trick in this case is to consider the materials. Let’s look at the following factors:

  • Of all materials, what will last longest before needing to be replaced?
  • What material requires little to no additional treatment?
  • Which choice is able to do the job while using as little of the material as possible?
  • What material can be recycled almost entirely?

The answer is not wood, not concrete, but steel.

Wood vs. Steel – the Great Debate

wood material

A quick Google search on the environmental impact of various building materials is swift to bring wood to the forefront of this great question, toting on about wood’s renewability.

This entire statement is misleading to consumers due to the fact that being renewable is not the same thing as being sustainable. The timber industry likes to remind consumers that for every tree harvested during clear cutting, two saplings are planted in its place.

What they don’t like to acknowledge is that it can take decades before the saplings are ready for harvesting, with the highest value trees being forty-nine years old at harvest.

Now that the ecosystem has been disturbed, the wood harvested, machined, treated, and so on, it’s become a sturdy long-lasting material with countless uses and recycling options…. right? Unfortunately, that too is a myth.

The wood industry likes to be quiet about how wooden frames, siding, and other items are only single-use. Once a wooden building has reached the end of its lifecycle there isn’t much to be done with it aside from demolition and/or incineration due to the fact that treated wood used in the construction industry cannot be recycled. That’s a lot of time and energy for an arguably temporary material.

Steel Buildings Are Sustainable

In addition to literally being the most recycled material in the world, steel is also one of the easiest materials to re-purpose. Additionally, once a steel building is constructed, it will not need to be replaced for a long, long time. This is due in part to steel being wind resistant, fire resistant, and of course immune to the damaging effects of mold and insects. The combined durability and longevity of steel means that when you purchase a steel building for your property, you’re paying for a material that can do more for less, and be recycled almost in its entirety for years. Talk about sustainable!

At Worldwide Steel Buildings we have been creating industrial, commercial, and private buildings using 97% recycled steel since 1983. For more about our passion, visit our blog or contact us directly. We look forward to hearing from you!