Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Homestead House Utilizes Steel for Unique, Efficient Design

“I can’t think of a material I would rather use in my experimental work then steel.”

Michael Jantzen has designed numerous architectural wonders in the last 40 years and one of his more recent is a steel structure inspired by one of his earliest pieces.

Called the Homestead House, the structure is designed using, in Jantzen’s words, “commercially available steel, prefabricated, modular, high strength, low cost arch building system normally used for agricultural purposes.”

“Back in the 1970s and 80s I had built a number of houses that were constructed from agricultural components,” says Jantzen. “These components were primarily steel roofs used to cover grain silos. Since then I have been interested in exploring the use of these components further because of the low cost and high strength of [steel].”

“I am especially intrigued with the idea of designing with steel components that require very little or no secondary support systems such as the silo roofs. This means that structures can be constructed very fast, often with unskilled labor, and since the strength of the structure is often formed into the skin of the component, much less material is needed.”

The Homestead House is able to generate its own electricity with photovoltaic cells and a small vertical axis wind turbine. Using solar heating and cooling system, it can function completely off the standard utility grid. Rainwater would be collected off roof arches and directed to storage containers.

Many of Jantzen’s structures specialize in eco-friendly building systems and steel plays into that heavily since it is able to be recycled numerous times as all steel in the United States is made up of a minimum of 25 percent recycled material.

Steel also offers several benefits over other materials from a design perspective.

“Steel components can provide a great deal of flexibility in design since the whole concept is based on a modular system of components that can be assembled in many different ways. This can be very difficult and costly to accomplish with many other materials,” Jantzen continued. “Steel has great untapped potential especially for housing from an aesthetic standpoint if people are willing to accept a very contemporary look.”

While Jantzen has continually received press and attention for his designs, he’s been fairly self-funded which has limited opportunities to expand on ideas. He hopes that with additional funding he can begin actual construction on several projects to show the application of his designs and would love to one day live in one of his homes with his wife Ellen.

For more information or inquire about ways to provide funding for projects, visit

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

EPA Gets RAD on Steel Appliance Recycling

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and West Virginia have partnered in the Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program, a nation-wide campaign to educate and execute more environmentally conscious end-of-life scenarios for old, inefficient appliances that will enable the recycling of even more steel from end-of-life appliances.

The RAD program began in October of 2006 and Evelyn Swain, an Environmental Specialist, has working with RAD since its inception.

“We’re looking to change the practices within the industry,” says Swain. “We’re looking to make sure every part of the appliance is handled in the best possible way.”

With the help of RAD resources, consumers are increasingly choosing the best method of recycling the old and investing in new EnergyStar™ rated replacements made from recycled and recyclable materials like steel.

Steel continues to be North America’s most recycled material with a steady recycling rate of around 90 percent for appliances. In 2008, RAD contributed to that figure with over half a million appliances being efficiently renewed through RAD programming

The RAD program relies on their partners, such as municipalities, universities, utility companies and major retailers Sears and Best Buy, to accept the old appliances and offer vouchers or rebates on bills or new purchases. Utility companies are looking to get old, inefficient appliances off the grid and retailers want to be your best option for the newest, most environmentally conscious, appliances.

“We ask our partners information down into nitty-gritty of each individual waste stream and what durable components have you recycled,” explained Swain. “We calculate what that means for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas avoidance and ferrous metals recycled.”

RAD officials estimate that over 22,000 tons of ferrous metal were recycled in 2008 through program partners. The process of recycling just one ton of steel conserves 2500 pounds of iron ore, 1400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. In addition to the natural resources, each ton of steel recycled also conserves about 4697 Kwh/ton of electricity.

“Looking from 2007 to 2008 and 2009, [our recycled units] are significantly increasing every year and we’re excited to stay on this track. Getting states and retailers to join the program who can handle large volume of units is moving us towards our goal which is just to properly dispose as many units as we can.”

The annual greenhouse gas reductions of RAD’s program are estimated to be the same as if 229,000 passenger cars were taken off the road for that same year. The steel industry has also reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 45% since 1975. The reduction of these greenhouse gasses will protect our valuable ozone layer.

Besides energy conservation and reducing greenhouse gases, the physical landfill space required to store poorly handled appliances is an important message as well.

“These appliances are some of the biggest in the household,” says Swain. “One of the major benefits why retailers are joining forces with RAD is green messaging. Consumers are expecting more that products at ‘end of life’ are being recycled properly and not ending up in a landfill.”

With West Virginia now on board, there are several other states, local governments and retailers exploring a partnership with RAD. The more partners and forces working together the more benefits the program will create.

“Our RAD partners can’t accomplish our goals without the support of steel recycling and other end of life industries,” Swain concluded. “It’s really important for the program to have that support and backing.”

For all that they’ve done and the increasing amount they will continue to do, steel recycling supports RAD’s accomplishments.

More information on EPA’s RAD Program:

More about the West Virginia Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program:

Nationally, consumers can find where to recycle their appliances through the Steel Recycling Locator at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Steel Helping Build Oklahoma City American Indian Cultural Center & Museum

American Indians believe in the native world view that everything is related to all other things. The environment is a sustainable life force that can maintain itself over many generations. North America’s #1 recycled material, steel, believes in a similar sustainability and will be used to build Oklahoma City’s American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM).

While only two American Indian tribes are indigenous to Oklahoma, as many as 39 were forced to move to the area over the nation’s history. Despite their homelands being from all corners of the United States, their cultures are still alive and vibrant today.

Nathan Hart, AICCM’s Director of Community Affairs, emphasized the above Steel's flexibility and strength make the Hall of the People unique design possiblesentiment and has been involved in the planning and construction of the 141,000+ square foot facility since 2002. Since the facility began preparations, the environment has played an essential role.

“Environmental considerations were driven a lot by the individuals involved,” explained Hart. “The native world view that everything is related to all things, the environment, universe, plants, animals, that view gave guidance to the design team to make efficiencies in design.”

The efficiency of steel was an easy selection for the design team.

“It was the best material available with the strength and flexibility we wanted. The ‘Hall of the People’, the whole building itself, is at a curve. You can run straight beams in an area and hide them but in the ‘Hall of the People’ it is a big open structure, high arc tresses and steel was the only way we could accomplish that. We wanted nice high curvature.”

Hart also stated that steel’s ultimate recyclability was a bonus in selecting it and they are very fortunate to have W&W Steel within a mile of the facility for any excess steel from the property to be recycled.

As of now they are estimating around 1636 tons of steel to be used during phase one of their construction process. More will be used as additional areas of the 250 acres are constructed.

When all is completed, estimated in 2014, the area located on the Oklahoma River will be home of the cultural center, museum, athletic fields, shopping plazas and art galleries. Many of the buildings using steel as the primary material.

“The American Indian cultures themselves are very resilient,” said Hart. “And with the construction and materials we use, such as steel, the buildings reflect that resiliency as well.”

A computer rendered image of the finished Cultural Center