The three dimensions of sustainability

Here, the contribution a product makes to each dimension is considered and management of all three factors together supports sustainable development and the resulting quality of life. To assess the sustainable credentials of a construction product, it is important to consider each of these three performance dimensions over the whole lifecycle of the building and throughout the sustainable loop.

Often referred to as the ‘Triple Bottom Line’, the three dimensions of sustainability are:

Traditionally, purchase decisions have been made on the basis of capital cost, although the notion of value is now being used increasingly. How does material choice and construction method influence the true value? Life Cycle Costing (LCC) is a technique for analysing the cost-effectiveness of a product or a system over its entire lifespan.

The LCC tool allows the user to distinguish between best value and lowest price, and also offers a comprehensive explanation of the product costs over the lifetime of a building. The LCC takes into account the initial costs of the system, its durability, and the costs of maintenance, replacement and demolition. 

For the workforce and the communities in which we operate, this means a commitment to health and safety, training and development and participation in local activities and education.

The Colorcoat® products we supply also add to the quality of life of those occupying the resulting buildings by providing the right combination of aesthetic appeal, functionality and ergonomics to serve the intended purpose. Fast-track construction and refurbishment, both of which pre-finished steel is ideal for, have a positive influence on the social environment of the communities affected. 


Simply stating that a product or process is ‘environmentally friendly’ means little in today’s society. Instead, any statement on environmental performance should be robust and backed up by quantitative results.

Measuring and summarising the environmental profile of a product is not simple. All materials and processes have environmental effects, and measuring these can be complex. The method increasingly used by industries, governments and environmental groups is Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA).

LCA is a tool to produce environmental performance data for a product or system. This usually includes all of the product’s life-cycle stages - from the extraction of the earth’s resources as raw materials, through transport, power generation, material production, component fabrication, product assembly and utilisation by the end-user, through to end-of-life reuse, recycling and waste disposal.

The term ‘Embodied energy’ is often used to describe the total energy encompassed in the manufacture from raw materials, of building components. Whilst this can give a useful guide, it is also important to consider the remainder of the sustainable loop, in other words, the utilisation and end-of-life of the product. 

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