Steel is the obvious choice for the construction sector

With uncertainty around timber supply for residential construction, housing supply shortages and the target for New Zealand to achieve net carbon zero by 2050, Steel & Tube says the time is right for steel framed housing to be pursued as a faster, lighter, cost effective and more sustainable solution for both bespoke and high-volume residential homes.

Steel Framed Housing

Many markets around the world including Australia, UK and the US already have a significant proportion of new homes being built with steel framing. In New Zealand, light steel frame construction has been available for over 30 years as a viable alternative to light timber frame construction in one to two story housing. Whilst some builders in New Zealand have already adapted and are building steel framed houses, there remains significant opportunity for this to become more widely used. 

Steel framing and cladding solutions enable a faster build time and are just as suitable for creating safe, stylish and desirable residential homes as they are for commercial buildings. In addition, internal steel-framed wall solutions have been a key feature of the New Zealand market for many years.  

Steel is a Sustainable Choice

Steel is the material of choice for most of the world’s major construction markets – in the UK, steel commands a market share of 70%, in the US 60% and in NZ it is 50% and gaining1. Not only do the design and quality aspects of steel make it an obvious choice, it is an environmentally sustainable solution when considering the products full lifecycle.  

Steel & Tube supports New Zealand’s commitment to reduce emission reductions to achieve net zero carbon by 2050 and says consideration of the full life-cycle impacts of products (“circular economy principles”) can play an important role in reducing emissions. 

CEO of Steel & Tube, Mark Malpass, says: “An important element in considering carbon emissions is the end of life approach, including the demolition, recycling and waste stages of building materials. The creation of a circular economy is not simply focused on the design and construction process but also considers the post-construction life cycle stages and the benefits from materials that can be reused or recycled, such as steel.

“Steel is infinitely recyclable without product degradation and is easily reused and repurposed; it generates minimal construction waste; and renewable energy sources available in New Zealand for making steel.  

“As an example, construction and demolition waste makes up 40–50% of New Zealand’s total waste going to landfill, according to government and council documents, with an average of 4 tonnes of waste for each home constructed2. Steel frame housing reduces the impacts on our environment as fabrication and manufacturing is carried out from precisely detailed drawings programmed to machines, reducing waste to less than 2%.”

Mitigating Supply Chain Risk

Steel framed housing is an obvious solution to assist in rapidly scaling housing supply and supporting all New Zealanders transition to a more sustainable economy.  Whilst timber remains an important building product, steel framed housing is a viable alternative and a positive step towards developing a resilient supply chain that is not dependent on one material.