Sustainability in building materials

In today’s environment, building a sustainable structure is no longer a nice to have; it is a basic need. Sustainability is measured through various rating systems subscribed to by architects, designers, building owners, and benefiting occupants and the environment. While there are several green building rating systems, the industry most widely used is the LEED® green building program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design™) program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council® (USGBC®).

The LEED rating system offers tools to measure a buildings’ performance. Credits are acquired to achieve points toward a level of building certification: certified (40-49), silver (50-59), gold (60-79), and platinum (80+).

Materials and Resources Credit

Most building materials, like stainless steel cables and fittings, fall within the Materials and Resources credit. Materials are measured based on where they come from and their makeup and disposal. LEED gives points for green, renewable, recycled, and natural materials specified in a building.

Stainless Steel Bridge

It’s important to note that virtually all new stainless steel materials contain post-consumer content, defined as waste material that is no longer usable for its intended purpose.

Ultra-tec® cable railing products are made of recycled materials, helping our customers qualify for LEED credits in:

  • LEED for New Construction – Material & Resources Credit 4.1 and 4.2
  • LEED for Commercial Interior – Material & Resources Credit 4.1 and 4.2
  • LEED for Schools – Material & Resources Credit 4.1 and 4.2

All stainless-steel products produced and supplied by Ultra-tec in our U.S. facility contain a minimum pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled content of 65 percent, with a minimum post-consumer recycled content of 25 percent. All other steel products produced and supplied by Ultra-tec contain a minimum post-consumer recycled content of 25 percent.

Stainless steel is recyclable, durable and economical

Stainless steel is one of the most environmentally friendly metals used in construction. If chosen correctly, stainless steel will last the life of the project. Ninety-two percent of the stainless steel used in architecture, building, and construction applications is recaptured and recycled to produce more steel products at the end-of-life.

Along with its corrosion-resistant properties, stainless steel is highly durable. Stainless steel is composed of corrosion-resistant alloys, offering a long life and an attractive lifecycle cost-benefit versus low-cost alternative materials.

Stainless steel has been used in a variety of interior and exterior building applications contributing to LEED points for the service life of more than 50-years, making it an ideal material to specify for the long-term. 

What is stainless steel?

Stainless steel is from the iron-based alloy family. It contains, on average, 12 percent chromium, which is the chemical element that produces an anti-corrosive, invisible thin layer of oxide, better known as the passive layer, and is the protective property. A corrosion-resistant layer naturally forms when chromium reacts with sufficient oxygen (via air and water). If this layer is damaged or removed during fabrication or polishing, it will self-repair immediately as long as the surface is clean. Although more resistant to corrosion than other carbon and alloy steels, stainless steel describes the metal’s rust-resistant properties. However, it does not mean it is entirely stain-resistant in certain conditions. So, it is essential to follow a preventative maintenance program to keep the desired look.

Corrosive environments

The most common situations —those that contain salts — such as swimming pools and ocean, seawater and ice melting agents, will actively attack stainless steel. Heat and humidity also increase the corrosive activity of chlorine and bromine salts.

Other chemical reactions that may cause deterioration include carbon picked up from bending or fabricating tools, finishing equipment, or steel covered workbenches. The fumes from the muriatic acid solution used by contractors or masons on masonry can attack stainless steel.

When considering the material’s mechanical finish —satin or mirror—corrosion-causing agents will collect within the fine lines of a satin finish instead of a smooth surface of a mirror finish.

There are varying levels and types of corrosion, and it is advisable to seek additional technical reading on the subject if corrosion is a concern.

Preventative maintenance

Stainless Steel and Corrosive Environments products

Keep your stainless-steel cable railing looking as new as the day of installation with regularly scheduled maintenance and cleaning. Remove any noticeable discoloration and stains using a two-part method designed to clean and protect. We recommend E-Z Clean, a high-performance formula that is easy to apply and is long-lasting.