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Green Thinking with BlueScope

Richard Rowe, Sustainability Manager, BlueScope

Australian steel manufacturers are recovering scrap steel from the waste stream at world's best practice rates – and Australia’s steel industry continues to embrace innovative thinking to deliver ever-increasing levels of environmentally-responsible steel production.

BlueScope has made changes to its metallic coating process, increasing the lifespan of its Colorbond® steel range while using fewer resources.

BlueScope's new patented metallic coating formula, incorporating Activate™ technology, involves hot-dipping structural steel with an aluminium, zinc and magnesium alloy.

Activate technology self-seals exposed surfaces to ensure the product is more resilient when drilled, cut or scratched during construction.

The coating better protects the base metal layer, increasing resistance to corrosion and weathering, and delivering a more durable product in a wider range of environments.

BlueScope has invested more than $100 million to develop the manufacturing technology for its next-generation steel coating.

BlueScope’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint have been rewarded with positive results identified in an independent comparative environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) of roofing for 1000 square metres of commercial or industrial space.

The LCA results show that the latest version of Colorbond steel outperforms its predecessor consistently in 18 categories, which measure impacts on air, water, land and human health.

The improvements recorded in the LCA range from a substantial 19.8 per cent reduction in the impact of consumption of non-renewable metal resources, through to a 43 per cent reduction in the impact of chemical emissions to land.

Other noteworthy results from the LCA include a 22.1 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, a 28.5 percent reduction in the impact of chemical emissions on human health, a 22.6 per cent reduction in the impact of consumption of non-renewable fossil fuel resources and a 34.8 per cent reduction in the use of fresh water.

The LCA concluded that the reduction in environmental impact is the result of innovation in the metal coating formulation on the new Colorbond steel substrate, which delivers an increased lifespan while using fewer metal resources.

Colorbond steel contributes towards satisfying the ‘Steel’ credit in the Green Star Materials category.

Another innovation is BlueScope’s Thermatech® technology, which can reduce the amount of heat entering a building through the roof. Colorbond steel, with Thermatech technology incorporated in the pre-painted coating, can be an effective way to reduce a building’s energy load through less reliance on air-conditioning to maintain a comfortable internal temperature; potentially saving occupants money on air conditioning costs as well as potentially reducing emissions from electricity generation.

Some Colorbond steel colours, when used in roofs, may also contribute towards satisfying the Environmental Category Credit (ENV-3) Heat Island Effect in the Green Star Communities rating tool. This credit aims to mitigate the problem of cities and urban areas being warmer than their surrounding rural or undeveloped areas by reducing the amount of solar radiation, or heat, absorbed by a building and its surrounds.