Steel reuse domestic refurbishment project

Steel reuse domestic refurbishment project

Project summary: Residential refurbishment project

Location: Lichfield, West Midlands

Key information

Project type: Residential

Size: 154 sq metres total area

Completion: The project will complete by early 2023. Steel works were completed in 2022.

Stakeholders involved:

  • Philippa Birch-Wood (homeowner and architect)
  • Hardgrave Construction (main contractor)
  • Cleveland Steel and Tubes (reclaimed steel stockholder and supplier)

Project description

  • This is a residential refurbishment project of a 2-storey 3-bedroom detached house with incorporated steel reuse. The building once had an integral garage as part of the house, which had previously been converted into a dining area. The homeowner decided to change the layout of the building. Two internal brick walls (part of the original garage) were removed and since one of those walls was propping up part of the roof, structural beams were required.  
  • The homeowner and occupier of the building is an architect with a sustainability focus. She was keen on opting for a low carbon solution. Timber was considered but because it is a 1960s building (with relatively low ceiling heights), it was not suitable in terms of dimensions and accommodating services and she wanted to avoid bulkheads. Instead, using reclaimed steel was a great alternative to accommodate the dimensions and still minimise carbon emissions, when compared to virgin steel.
  • The homeowner contacted Cleveland Steel and Tubes who then supplied reclaimed steel for the project.  Four steel sections were from a reused source: two sections matched exactly the requirements, one section was slightly oversized (it could therefore take more loads), and one section required splicing (welding together two pieces of steel because the longer steel was not available).

Key drivers for steel reuse

Homeowner who is also an architect was a driving force for steel reuse motivated by circular economy and sustainability principles.

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Amount of steel reused

1.45 tonnes

Embodied carbon savings

3 tonnes

Business considerations

Reclaimed steel procurement route: Steel was supplied by Cleveland Steel and Tubes who had available sections in stock.

The information available on reclaimed steel: Steel sections came either from the propping facade of the US Embassy or film studios (camera rails and tracks for filming). In both cases, steel was in good condition and reclaimed much before its end of life.  

Quality of reclaimed steel,  testing and certification: The material was tested, treated for corrosion, and CE marked by Cleveland Steel and Tubes.

Warranty issues: No issues with warranties because the steel was CE marked.

Cost of reclaimed steel versus new steel: The 1.45 tonnes of reclaimed steel was purchased at about £850 per tonne with additional processing and fabrication costs bringing the total to £1300+ VAT excluding delivery. This is substantially lower than the cost of new steel £2200 per tonne for new steel (£1250 per tonne plus fabrication and painting fees £950)

Economical implications of steel reuse: Steel reuse resulted in cost savings in this project. Material cost savings were at 41%. Design costs included an extra couple of hours for the time spent on additional communications, and there was an additional £400 charge from a surveyor to take the steel measurements.  

The implication of steel reuse on project timelines: No implications of steel reuse on project timelines. Although additional time was spent coordinating, communicating and reassuring the structural engineer and main contractor, this was compensated by the speedy procurement of steel. Procuring reclaimed steel only had a 4-day lead time, which is significantly quicker than procuring new steel.

Lessons learned, challenges and critical success factors

  • The structural engineer was initially hesitant due to concerns about where the steel had come from and its quality. Cleveland Steel and Tubes provided reassurances on the perceived risks of steel reuse. The reclaimed steel was in good condition and was tested and CE marked meaning that the design would be close to using new steel.  
  • Neither the contactor nor the structural engineer would take the liability for measuring the steel. Therefore, a surveyor was engaged to carry out this task.  
  • The enthusiasm of the client and reassurances provided by Cleveland Steel and Tubes played a crucial role in the success of the project. More coordination, planning and conversations were required in comparison to business as usual (i.e. the use of new steel).
  • Steel reuse brought considerable environmental and economic savings and did not affect the project timelines.
  • This project demonstrates the viability and benefits of steel reuse in small scale residential refurbishment. Residential buildings tend to have shorter spans than industrial ones. This aspect makes residential projects especially appropriate for steel reuse.

This case study was compiled based on interviews with Philippa Birch-Wood and Cleveland Steel and Tubes, as part of the DISRUPT project (Delivering Innovative Steel ReUse ProjecT).

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