Jul 09, 2021
Ever since its invention in the 18th century, steel has been a hugely popular material for building and engineering. It’s affordable, flexible, and has a long list of qualities that make it an ideal choice for many projects.
Even today, over 150 years after mass manufacturing techniques were first developed for steel, it continues to be a hugely popular material. So what is it that makes steel such a great choice for affordable building?
The beauty of steel is that it is flexible enough to be used in many different types of buildings, but it is particularly suited to commercial and industrial projects. Its strength and adaptability, not to mention its affordability, have made it integral to architects pushing for taller and taller buildings.
Steel is great for skyscrapers, especially those with less conventional shapes and designs, and for large warehouses which require vast open spaces. That doesn’t mean it can’t be used in residential buildings, and it has found popularity in many projects, especially in multi-storied housing.
Cost-effectiveness, both short and long-term, is a crucial part of any building project. So what is it about steel which makes it so useful in this environment?
- Fast erection
Steel can be pre-manufactured off site and delivered ready to erect, reducing construction time by up to 40%. Completing a steel frame can take just days where it might take weeks with other materials.
For many structures, steel requires less points of contact with the earth, which reduces the amount of excavation required. All this translates to huge cost savings and greatly improved efficiency for many projects.
- Durable and long life
The durability of steel can be a huge boost to projects which involve building in extreme or unpredictable environments. Steel resists corrosion and can stand relatively extreme temperatures, it also holds well in strong winds, sandstorms, or other destructive weathers.
Steel decays more slowly than materials such as wood or iron too, making it longer lasting. The less damage or erosion a material is prone to suffer, the greater the long-term cost benefits can be.
- Direct shipping
The ease of transporting steel and the manner of its manufacture means shipping direct is often available. This creates huge benefits in terms of both cost and response time.
Receiving steel components direct from the factory means there are no middleman or agent fees to pay. It also means the buyer has more control over the timetable.
Essentially, the less parties involved in the process between manufacture and construction, the more streamlined and cost effective a project is.
- Resistance to fires or natural disasters
Thanks to extensive testing and analysis, the construction industry has a meticulous knowledge of how steel responds to heat and fire. This allows precise and accurate specifications to be given about what fire protection will be needed in steel framed buildings, saving unnecessary costs.
Another advantage of steel is that it bends rather than breaks when put under pressure, either by gravitational or lateral loads. This makes it the material of choice in earthquake or high-wind prone areas, giving an extra layer of defence against collapse.
As well as being energy efficient, conducting heat away in hot environments and being easy to insulate in cold ones, steel is easy to recycle. At the end of a building’s life, steel pile foundations can be recovered and reused or recycled.
Industry processes are in place for the endlessly repeated melting down and repurposing of steel with no loss of properties. This is a huge plus for the environmentally conscious builder and a relief for the world’s valuable natural resources.
All this makes steel not only the perfect choice for a huge range of building projects but one with a long list of additional advantages too. Flexibility of use, efficiency of cost and supply, durability and recyclability, safety and aesthetic adaptability, steel is simply a great material to use.