Life cycle analysis of structural steel reuse using the economic input-output method Yeung, Jamie; Walbridge, Scott; Haas, Carl T.
Reuse of structural steel is not a new concept in civil engineering. However, even though members, and assemblies of members, have been reused for decades, reuse of steel is not a widely implemented practice. Approximately 90% of demolished steel is recycled and only 10% of that steel is reused in its current state. The structural steel reuse that does occur is due to the reuse of very large members or from specialty projects. The reason for these low levels of reuse is because the cost of reusing structural steel is too high. Unfortunately, many decision makers are coming to this conclusion without a comprehensive knowledge of the true cost of reuse and recycling. In order to fully understand the additional costs, or savings, associated with steel reuse, a life cycle analysis needs to be incorporated into an economic analysis. In this study, the economic input-output method was used to perform a life cycle analysis of structural steel reuse as it compares to current practices. The economic input-output method provides the benefit of being able to facilitate a quick analysis but is limited by only being able to perform a generalized analysis across the entire industry. The analysis was performed for several metrics, which can be grouped into four categories: greenhouse gases, energy usage, water usage, and hazardous waste generation. Results from the analysis show that there is a significant decrease, upwards of 65%, for the calculated metrics across each category for reuse. In order to remedy the limitations of the economic input-output method, it is recommended to perform a similar analysis using a process model approach.
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