The "iron road" and green buildings
The construction industry is responsible for the consumption of 40% to 75% of all raw materials in the world.
The construction sector is under significant pressure on a national, regional (EU) and international level, through laws, regulations, policies and international conventions, which aim to turn the industry towards more sustainable choices, regarding materials, as well as the design and construction of new or the the renovation of existing buildings.
Indicatively, the European Union plans to impose tariffs related to carbon emissions on imports of goods, including steel, cement and electricity, through a regime linked to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). .
And this is to be expected, given that the construction industry is one of the most polluting and energy-intensive sectors in the world, as it involves great consumption of natural resources and the deterioration of the natural landscape, while it holds a significant share in the global freight and supply chain, as raw materials usually originate from countries with low manufacturing activity.
To understand the full extent of this chain, we must follow the course of a material from its extraction to its use by the manufacturer. The construction industry is responsible for the consumption of 40% to 75% of all raw materials globally.
Iron is a typical example, being extracted and converted into aluminum or steel, so that it can finally be used to make rods, windowframes or other metal structures. This means that the original matterial goes through many processing stages.
Brazil is one of the largest producers of iron in the world. In 2021, the material accounted for 1.64% of the country's total exports, with an estimated value of $ 2.6 billion during the first half of the year alone, placing it 13th on the list of the country's total exports.
It is then exported to China, the United States, the Netherlands, South Korea and other countries for processing. There, the material is converted to steel, which is eventually used to build buildings and infrastructure around the world. This trip is very cost-eggective but has devastating consequences for the country of origin.
The description of the course of iron reveals a very ominous situation that does not only concern this specific material.
The reduction of the environmental footprint of basic materials can be achieved in various ways, such as their replacement, reuse or recycling, after their final use. Meanwhile, new technologies, optimization of the production process and careful planning can also play an important role.