From industry equipment to finished products, bridges, high-rise, and warehouses, structural steel is preferred over any other building material. Here’s what makes it the top choice for construction.
Lighter than wood
Before you start making your case, do your maths. Surely, a 1×4 of wood weighs less than a 1×4 of steel, due to its density, however, when it comes to framing and the design of steel I-beams, a steel beam is lighter than the lightest wood beam with the same mechanical properties. This also means that it’s less labour-intensive to build with steel when compared to wood beams. The lighter weight of steel also reduces the shipping costs, as well as allowing for the more simplified building design.
Nowhere time equals money more than in construction business. Clients always want their buildings ahead of schedule and under budget. For architects and construction crews, on the other hand, implementing fast-tracked projects can be a nightmare – what seems like benign shortcuts and improvisations easily slides into unsafe business practices. However, with steel as material, contractors are able to speed up the building time significantly. Steel parts are pre-engineered to a specific design and ready to assemble on the site. This feature takes the human error element out of the equation once the construction takes place.
Building with steel is cost-effective in more than one way. First, it speeds up the construction timeline, which cuts the cost form the labour and decreased build time. Steel constructions are durable and require maintenance, so you’ll spend less on the maintenance fees. In addition, steel can be recycled, so you don’t have to pay for landfill fees for the non-recyclable construction waste, and if you hire a clean-up company to clear your construction site, you’ll be charged subsidized fees, since they will make money through recycling your steel waste.
The versatility of steel is unmatched. From the ability to be moulded into any shape imaginable to uncontested wall, floor, joist, and roof truss framing capabilities, it’s the versatility of steel frame solutions that makes it such a popular option for the residential and commercial construction market. On top of providing protection against rotting, termites, warping, twisting, and shrinking, light gauge steel lowers building dead loads and provides an accurate framing alternative to wood.
Made from recycled materials, structural steel can also be recycled at the end of its lifespan. The Steel Recycling Institute reports that 80 million tons of steel are recycled every year, making it the world’s most recycled product. As a building material, it can earn builders additional points towards major green building certification programs. From 1990 onwards, the steel industry has reduced energy intensity per ton of steel produced per 28% and CO2 emissions by 35% per ton of steel shipped. Combined with other design improvements, steel buildings can be surprisingly energy efficient, as connections between prefabricated steel elements are so tight, that with additional insulation they provide the building with an airtight sealed envelope.
While most residential clients like the idea of steel versatility and durability, they are reluctant to move away from wood completely. To cater to their preferences, many construction companies are developing hybrid steel-wood designs which take the best of both worlds, pairing the strength, durability, and mechanical properties of steel with the insulating properties of wood. This steel-wood hybridization has been proven so beneficial that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has published a building guide that encourages urban developers to use structural steel alongside traditional construction materials.
The list of advantages of structural steel never seems to end, however, apart from the quality of the materials and production processes, another factor plays an important role – the experience level of the builder.