Enhancing Business Infrastructure: The Impact of Commercial Metal Usage

Enhancing Business Infrastructure

Metal production industries are highly resource and energy intensive and produce greenhouse gasses, particulate matter, trace metals, and acidic gasses. The balance between economic benefits and environmental footprint determines their sustainability.

This article examines changes in per-kg impacts from the transition to renewable energy systems and efficiency innovations in production processes. These two variables appear to have considerable influence on most impact categories.

1. Environmentally Friendly

As the concept of “going green” goes beyond just a catchy slogan, businesses are increasingly recognizing the value of sourcing environmentally-friendly materials. The metal fabrication industry is no exception.

The most significant impact that metals have on the environment comes from the heat and electricity needed to refine the raw ores into usable metal. By using recycled metals, companies can skip this step in the process and cut down on energy usage and carbon emissions.

This isn’t just a good idea for individual projects, either; it’s a critical step in helping the world move towards sustainability. Using recycled steel helps conserve natural resources by reducing the need for raw iron ore to be mined. It also cuts down on air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions from mining operations. It’s no wonder that building evaluation methods like LEED encourage the use of eco-friendly metal products.

2. Energy Efficient

Metal building panels offer excellent insulation, which helps keep air-conditioned buildings cool and heated buildings warm. This significantly reduces energy usage and carbon footprint, especially when compared to other commercial building materials such as concrete or masonry.

According to the ReCiPe midpoint and endpoint hierarchical approach, metal production has considerable overall environmental impacts1. The lead and aluminum industries have the highest impact contributions because of their emissions of trace metals, particles, and acidic gasses.

From an energy efficiency perspective, sheet metal offers advantages as well.

Many countries have set or are considering net-zero emissions targets and energy efficiency can play a key role in achieving these goals. However, policymakers need to have access to comprehensive, reliable, and comparable country-level data on energy-specific consumption in industrial processes in order to develop meaningful and effective energy efficiency policies. This is why international cooperation on improving the availability, scope, and quality of energy efficiency data will be important. This will enable a more robust global energy efficiency benchmarking analysis.

3. Durable

Metals are durable and can withstand a lot. It is not uncommon to find corroded pennies that were in circulation only decades ago, but gold coins from thousands of years ago are still in good condition. However, while durable, base metals are less able to be recycled and are also more expensive than their precious counterparts.

The production and refining of metals are some of the most energy-intensive industrial activities1, emitting greenhouse gases, particulate matter, trace metals, and acidic gasses into the atmosphere. Reducing the emissions from these industries through the transition to renewable energy systems will lead to improvements in the sustainability of the copper, zinc, gold, and iron and steel production industries2.

As more facility executives prioritize longevity, durability, resilience, and energy efficiency, metal buildings are an increasingly popular choice. Since the components are shop fabricated and then shipped to the site, the building construction process is more efficient and reduces labor costs. The use of metal also minimizes construction waste and reduces landfill disposal.

4. Affordable

A nation’s metal usage is closely linked to its Gross Domestic Product, and that’s why governments and businesses invest when economies grow quickly. A 1 percent rise in GDP raises a nation’s total metal “footprint” by as much as 1.9 percent, which can include anything from building a new factory to adding more machinery.

Environmental impacts associated with metal production are primarily from direct emissions to air, water, and soil from point sources. However, non-point source contributions can also be significant. These contributions can be caused by atmospheric deposition, roadway use, snow disposal, and other activities.

Reducing these impacts by switching to renewable energy sources can significantly reduce the overall endpoint environmental impact of metal production industries expressed in points per US$1000, excluding climate change impacts. This approach is referred to as life cycle sustainability analysis (LSCA) and is a relatively new field in research. There is no commonly accepted definition of LSCA at present.

Overall, enhancing business infrastructure through the responsible usage of metals involves incorporating environmentally friendly practices, promoting energy efficiency, leveraging the durability of metals, and considering affordability in a sustainable manner.

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