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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

The Barriers to a Greater Use of Reclaimed Steel in the UK Construction Industry

Paul Astle

The Barriers to a Greater Use of Reclaimed Steel in the UK Construction Industry

There is an increasing awareness of the need to reduce energy consumption in all areas of society. The primary production of steel uses tremendous amounts of energy and produces large quantities of green house gases. Whilst there is a mature, well-developed and efficient steel recycling industry, the remanufacture of steel from scrap also uses substantial amounts of energy. This study will examine one potential route to reduce the energy intensity of structural steel, by prolonging a component’s useful life.

When a building or structure comes to the end of its life there are alternatives to recycling its steelwork. Direct reuse of a steel structure, or reclaiming and reusing its component sections, cuts out the need to melt down the steel and in doing so, requires considerably less energy. In addition there are potential economic savings by using reclaimed components.

The existing UK market for reclaimed structural steel is small compared with that which is recycled. This is despite the environmental and economic benefits that have been associated with the direct reuse of steel. This implies that some form of social, technical or organisational barriers are hindering the development of this industry.

This study compares the benefits of reclaimed steel with recycled steel, examines existing literature regarding barriers to its wider adoption and includes the findings of a cross sector survey with the stakeholder groups that have an influence. The study concludes with a presentation of all of the identified barriers and recommendations to overcome them.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.