Galvanizing and Sustainable Construction


One of zinc’s most exceptional qualities is its ability to protect steel from corrosion. When left unprotected, in almost any environment, steel will corrode. Galvanizing protects steel by providing a physical barrier as well as cathodic protection for the underlying steel, allowing the steel’s service life to be significantly extended. For more information, see How Zinc Protects Steel and Durability and Service Life.

Attention to the durability of steel structures and components has important environmental, economic and social consequences. Some of these are less obvious than others. The overall economic cost of corrosion has been studied in several countries and is commonly estimated at up to 4% of gross domestic product.

By protecting steel from corrosion, galvanizing performs an invaluable service. It helps to save natural resources by significantly prolonging the life of steel and capital investments. The long-term durability provided by galvanizing is achieved at a relatively low environmental burden in terms of energy and other globally relevant impacts, especially when compared to the energy value of the steel it is protecting.

Lack of attention to optimal corrosion protection can leave a damaging economic legacy of repeated maintenance costs. For example, in social housing projects, future maintenance costs will be borne by the local authorities. In public infrastructure projects, use of galvanized steel can lead to lower maintenance budgets, releasing public funds for other purposes.

Our Life Cycle Cost Calculator is a simple online tool which can help estimate the life time costs (including initial application and maintenance) and simplify the coating selection process. The tool is free to use and no registration is required. For more information on Life Cycle Costing, download ‘The Concept of Life Cycle Costing’ from our Technical Publications page.

Galvanized Steel and Sustainable Construction: Solutions for a Circular Economy is the latest publication produced by European General Galvanizing Association (EGGA) as part of the ‘European Initiative for Galvanizing in Sustainable Construction’. The initiative started with multi-stakeholder assessments in the early 2000s that culminated with the publication, in 2008, of ‘Galvanizing in Sustainable Construction: A Specifiers’ Guide’ under the guidance of Professor Tom Woolley – a radical advocate of green building who prompted a fresh and exciting look at hot dip galvanizing and its consistency with sustainable design. It was a comprehensive guide that explained the economic, social and environmental aspects of batch galvanizing, which aimed to help architects, engineers and their clients consider how to use galvanized steel in the context of sustainable construction.

This latest publication explains how the galvanizing industry is moving forwards – keeping galvanized steel at the forefront of solutions for tackling climate change and delivering the circular economy.

Galvanized steel can provide innovative solutions that optimise durability and facilitate circularity of steel structures and components. These solutions can be easily implemented using this well-established and simple method of protecting steel. There are 12 new case studies in the document that highlighting different aspects of how hot dip galvanizing works in the circular economy.

These are the 5 case studies that were included in the 2008 Guide:

For more information on the environmental profile of zinc’s life cycle, see the International Zinc Association’s Zinc Environmental Profile: Life Cycle Assessment.

Renewable Energy

Galvanizing has long protected steel transmission towers which form the backbone for much of the world’s electricity grids. A growing portion of energy now comes from renewable and alternative fuels where time in service is a critical factor in their economic viability.

Galvanizing is used wind turbines and structures that support and align solar panels, while zinc can also a component of the solar cells themselves. Researchers using thin layers of zinc oxide have recently fabricated the highest efficiency small gallium-arsenide solar cells ever created.

Another type of renewable energy where zinc is used are fuel cells. Zinc’s very high energy potential has made it a leading candidate in a range of fuel cell and battery designs under development for grid storage and micro-grid generation.

For more information on about the sustainability of zinc, download the International Zinc Association’s Zinc – A Sustainable Material, Essential for Modern Life.