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How to Earn Credit for Sustainable and LEED Projects

on July 11, 2012

The world’s population grows every day. As we construct homes and other buildings for future generations to live and work in, we run the risk of seriously depleting our natural resources. At Atlas Tube, we’ve been diligently establishing methods to conserve natural resources all over the world. The U.S. Green Building Council has developed an approach to conservation for the domestic building industry in its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system.

The green building movement is rapidly increasing. More and more building owners, engineers and contractors are realizing the benefits of sustainable practices that ensure not only the longevity of the earth’s environment but the efficiency and quality of new construction.

The LEED system consists of a suite of rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to a structure and using process that is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient — from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and demolition. LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the United States. Its credits are organized in six core categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, and Innovation and Design Process.

The main objective of the Materials and Resources category is to conserve raw materials and resources like fossil fuels. Methods include increasing recycling and recycled content of building materials, diverting material from landfills, and reducing travel distances for material transport. Structural steel can typically make the greatest contribution within this category.

Designing for Sustainability

Designers and builders have long recognized and specified steel for its strength, durability and functionality. More and more, however, architects are recognizing steel’s important environmental attributes — especially its high recycled content. The LEED rating system only promotes the use of materials with high levels of recycled content, the measure of how much recycled material is contained in a finished product.

Fortunately, steel is the country’s most widely recycled material, and as more steel is used for construction and other products, more scrap is available for future recycling. Structural steel produced in the United States contains more than 93% recycled steel scrap. At the end of a building’s life, 98% of all structural steel is recycled into new steel products, with no loss of its physical properties.

Steel is produced through one of two methods: The basic oxygen furnace (BOF), which typically uses about 25% scrap steel, and the electric arc furnace (EAF), which uses more than 95% scrap steel. The LEED system rewards the building industry for higher recycled steel content in their building materials.

LEED Credits for Recycled Steel Content

To calculate the inherent recycled content of North American construction steel products, one needs to know which of the two steel-making processes was used. The amount of post-consumer and post-industrial recycled content that makes up the total recycled content affects the amount of LEED credit that may be awarded to the project. Post-consumer recycled steel comes from products used by individuals and businesses that’s then recycled. Post-industrial recycled steel comes from non-commercial steel scrap sources that were never made into products before recycling. The value of post-consumer recycled content is greater than post-industrial recycled content because of its greater positive environmental effects.

It’s important to point out that a steel producer using a BOF uses approximately 25% of existing steel to make new steel — compared to a steel producer using an EAF, where about 90% of existing steel is used. The higher inherent recycled content of the EAF melting processes will generally contain a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content, and will therefore earn greater LEED credits than the BOF process.

LEED credits can also be awarded if the site where the steel is formed into its final shape is located within 500 miles of the project site. Additional credit can be awarded if the raw materials going into the melting of that steel are extracted or harvested within 500 miles of the project site (the final location where the metal served its last useful purpose before becoming scrap). This credit is more difficult to earn, as the steel mill producers must track the origins of the scrap they use and furnish this information to the contractor in a product documentation letter.

Atlas Tube — LEED Documentation

Atlas Tube is pleased to assist our customers in earning LEED credits for their projects. We recommend that our customers notify us at the time they place their orders, if LEED documentation will be required at time of shipment. We would also need to know if a minimum percentage of recycled scrap content will be required for the tubing they will purchase. This would restrict the steel mill sources we will be able to use to furnish the requisite coil material for their order, based on whether they use a BOF or EAF melting process.

By following the guidelines below, our customers will be able to earn the maximum amount of LEED credit available for their LEED projects — and do their part to increase renewable resources.

  • If the customer is able to give us the mill heat numbers for the tubing they purchased from us for their projects, we will be able to furnish them the LEED documentation published by the steel mill that produced the coil material for that tubing. This documentation will list the location of the steel mill, the type of melting furnace process, the total percent recycled content, percent post-consumer content and percent post-industrial content of the heat.
  • Atlas will not be able to furnish any information relating to where the raw materials that went in to the melting of that steel were extracted or harvested, nor whether it may have been within 500 miles of the project site. This information would have to come from the steel mill if it is available.
  • If the customer is unable to furnish Atlas the actual heat numbers for the tubing they purchased, we will not be able to identify the steel mill that produced the coil material we utilized to roll their tubing. We can only give them an industry estimate for the recycled content inherent in the BOF and EAF melting processes.

We’re always here to answer questions about the LEED system — and hear how you strive to conserve natural resources.

Please feel free to contact me at