Portrait photo of Lynn Stanley

From the Editor

lynn stanley, senior editor

Sustainable steel


ccording to the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), steel remains the leading green construction material. When it comes to environmentally safe phrases, it seems that more and more products are being touted as “green,” “eco-friendly” or “sustainable.” I wondered if the terms were interchangeable so I looked them up. Oxford Languages defines the word green as a label that refers to all aspects of environmentally friendly products from fashion to buildings. The term eco-friendly is attached to products or practices that won’t hurt the environment. Sustainability speaks to the idea that what we do today won’t exhaust resources for future generations.

Steel is green, eco-friendly and sustainable. The American steel industry has reduced greenhouse gases and emissions by 36 percent and increased steel production’s water recycling rate to 95 percent. Eighty-one percent of all steel products are recycled at the end of their life, including 85 percent of vehicles, 82 percent of appliances, 70 percent of containers, 72 percent of reinforcing bar and 98 percent of structural steel.

In this month’s cover story for FFJournal, we meet Joss Hudson, owner of EcoSteel based in Niguel, California. Hudson is a big fan of steel and all the advantages it offers. He has built his business on providing attractive, affordable, high-performance housing for residential communities in the form of his steel-and-skin MicroHomes. Hudson’s pre-engineered, commercial-grade steel technology was recently sourced by San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) for a 25,000-sq.-ft. homeless shelter called the Bayview Safe Navigation Center. The space—which opened its doors in March 2021—can hold up to 203 unsheltered people. EcoSteel is currently working with Lahmon Architects to provide three 6,800-sq.-ft. prefabricated steel shelters for homeless individuals and families in Los Angeles county. But Hudson’s economical MicroHomes aren’t just helping those who need shelter.

Residential housing is a market steel contractors have not been able to access before.
Joss Hudson,
EcoSteel Building Systems
In March 2021, The National Low Income Housing Coalition released its annual report, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes. Low-income renters faced a shortage of nearly 7 million affordable and accessible homes in 2019. Many working-class Americans are also struggling to afford a home. The rising cost of raw materials like timber, cement, concrete, plasterboard and other construction supplies coupled with a disrupted and constricted supply chain is boosting housing costs. In my neighborhood, single-family dwellings range in age from 49 years old to 64 years old. When I lost my 50-plus year-old home in an EF4 tornado two years ago on Memorial Day, the price tag to replace that house on the same lot came in right at $300,000. The new home has fewer bedrooms and a smaller footprint overall than that of the original structure.

EcoSteel’s designs can withstand winds up to 150 mph as well as fire, termites and rot. The simple elegance of steel, its flexibility, minimal maintenance and quick installation are being tapped for projects across the nation from a new coffee shop to a farmhouse in Utah and loft apartments in Delaware.

The steel prefabber’s take on housing is also helping steel contractors access the residential building market for the first time. Hudson sees education—both for contractors and high school students—as the next step. I think it’s a safe assumption that Hudson is building more than homes and businesses, he’s building a legacy for the future. And isn’t that the definition of sustainability?