Carbon reduction is an absolute necessity for society to address the climate crisis impacting everyone on this Earth and is a well-known goal and target for both steel and construction Industries globally. Both industries traditionally have been high contributors to the total global CO2 emissions and therefore we see steel companies actively changing not only their production technologies but also improving the steel grades it produces to reduce the quantity required, extend the applications and improve the circularity of its materials through reuse, up-cycling and recycling.

For construction the requirements for CO2 reduction are two-fold globally, buildings account for approximately 30% of energy consumption and 26% of carbon emissions. Being such large contributors to global warming decarbonising the built environment sector is vital in terms of reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2021 constructsteel set up the Zero Energy Building (ZEB) [1] working group to establish if a coalition of steel manufacturers working with construction industry professionals, other material and building solutions partners could deliver a commercially viable residential solution that was steel enabled and had a core design and concept that could be replicated across the globe using local suppliers delivering to local requirements. The solution was not only to reduce carbon emissions but also to employ affordable technologies that can be manufactured at scale.

“The choice of an affordable residential solution was an obvious one as between now and 2050, the world’s population will increase to over 9.5 billion” states Terrence Busuttil, Director, constructsteel. “ So we are particularly proud to established our partnership with Gensler, who as a recognised global leader in architecture, design and planning with locations globally are at the very forefront of what we set out to achieve” Following a series of workshops, the initial concept of the Forever House was established and a design overview agreed where the carbon emitted during the operation of a building is dramatically reduced due to the efficiency of the building. Plus additionally we are looking at operational carbon which is impacted by the life of the building, the ease of dismantling and the ability to re-purpose building elements, spreading the embodied carbon over as long a period as possible.

Antony Schillaci, in his article asked us “Is it time to rethink the way we build?” given the backdrop of global material and labour shortages, affordable housing shortages and climate change illustrated that steel is a key enabler for a construction industry seeking rapid efficiency that can be supplied locally to build homes and apartments. What we are doing with the constructsteel Forever House project is taking this thinking to the next level and actively using the capacity of steel to integrate with other technologies and be designed so that it can be mass produced and adopt industrialised build approaches to improve the overall performance.

Taking the lead in the Project is Tata Steel and for a very good reason as their Project Lead Hardik Srivastava, Head Special Project, Construction, Tata Steel explained. “We were very excited to lead the ZEB work stream project as we saw the ambition to design and build a house which promotes the role of steel within a sustainable construction industry as the natural and necessary next step for our businesses in India and the UK which have been at the leading edge of building fabric and structure supply for many years. Tata Steel in India have already established success with our nest-in business which is based on light gauge steel frame (LGSF), modular panels and whole building design to ensure it is of the highest quality and affordable.” He further explained that “Compared to a conventional structure in India, LGSF can use 65% less materials, 48% less water and 53% less greenhouse gas emissions. So to be able to take the next step to having a ZEB and Active Residential is an absolute must.”

Currently work is progressing well and the team aim to commence construction of demonstrators in both India and the UK in early 2024. The learnings will then be shared with member companies of constructsteel and the aim is for the concept to be developed in further markets supported by a core of project partners including Gensler, material producers, product and solution providers and academics

[1] A ZEB is one where the actual energy delivered is less than the on-site renewable exported energy