Structural steel isn't just for skyscrapers, large agriculture buildings and garages. There are multiple reasons why steel makes an attractive building option from start to finish, not the least of which are:
From full-throttle metal building projects, to hybrid construction projects that leverage the attributes of both wood and steel, the modern builder has a wealth of options to choose from.
Steel is a versatile building material, which has led to its inclusion in nearly every stage of the construction process from framing and floor joists, to roofing materials. Here are some of the main benefits that make structural steel such a reliable choice.
This may seem surprising at first, because if you weigh a 2x4 of wood and a 2x4 of steel, the steel will weigh more as the result of its density. When it comes to framing, however, The design of a steel I-beam will almost always cause it to be lighter than the lightest, structurally sound wood beam design. A steel I-beam weighs less than glulams, LVL, and Parallam beams.
In addition to decreasing the labor required to build with steel, the lighter-weight advantage reduces materials shipping costs, and can also simplify the design of a building's foundation and other structural support systems, which can further reduce project budgets.
Time has always equaled money, but it seems like this high-tech era of ours has made it so that every clients wants their building to come in under budget and ahead of schedule. Fast-tracked projects can be a nightmare for architects and construction crews - namely because taking shortcuts can lead to unsafe building practices and a finished product that isn't up to snuff. That all changes with the addition of steel.
Steel parts are pre-engineered to a specific design inside the manufacturing plant and are shipped out, ready to be erected. This speeds up construction time significantly, making it possible to complete large-scale projects in a matter of weeks.
Because the fabrication process is highly quality-controlled, project managers can place their attention on other issues and the pre-cut, ready to assemble parts eliminate the need for measuring and cutting on site. This also takes the element of human error out of the equation, reducing the amount of time spent assembling something only to find out it needs to be re-measured, cut and installed again.
In addition to project time and budget issues, a faster construction timeline also reduces the amount of time your construction project impedes traffic, affects the flow into and out of surrounding businesses and any water or utility disruptions to nearby buildings.
Much of the cost savings you'll gain can be inferred from the labor and cost benefits of decreased construction time. However, building with steel also saves money via other first time and lifetime savings.
When bundled together, these cost-saving benefits make steel one of the most affordable building products on the market.
The versatility of steel is unrivaled. From the ability for structural steel to be molded into virtually any shape to its exterior ability to yield shingle-esque roofing patterns and wood-like siding, steel's versatility is part of what is making it such an attractive option for the residential construction market.
Architects and designers like steel's ability to let their artistic imaginations run wild, while still having the ability to design and construct a building that is both safe and resilient. This same durability is also what allows for the versatile design of large, clear span buildings such as airplane hangers, warehouses, agricultural buildings and indoor arenas. It also permits for the construction of skyscrapers, the tallest of which stands in Dubai at 2722.4 feet (829.8 m) tall. The commercial sector no longer corners the market on steel buildings, either.
This same design versatility and flexibility is now being touted in the residential sector as well. Consider a family who wants to knock out a wall for a remodel or renovation, only to find that a load-bearing wood pillar is an essential component. Now, they have the option of running a steel beam across the ceiling, opening the space up and negating the need for a structural beam below the ceiling line. Additionally, steel and metal are used for siding and roofing materials that far outlast their wood counterparts.
This is an area where hybridization comes into play as well. While most homeowners like the idea of steel's versatility and durability, they are wary of moving away from wood completely. As a result, many construction companies offer hybrid steel/wood buildings, which take advantage of the strength, durability and support benefits offered by steel, paired with the insulatory properties of wood.
This pairing of materials is so beneficial that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has published a Hybrid Wood and Steel Details Building Guide to encourage urban developers to use structural steel in addition to traditional building materials.
Steel is made from recycled materials and can be recycled at the end of its lifespan, one of the many reasons why it can earn builders points toward major green building certification programs. According to the Steel Recycling Institute:
When combined with other design enhancements, steel buildings are incredibly energy efficient. The connections between high-quality, prefabricated steel parts is so exact that with the addition of adequate insulation, they are air-tight and comfortable, ensuring the building has a completely sealed envelope. Roof panels are primed and ready to host a solar array and cool metal roofing products dramatically decrease solar heat gain, further increasing energy savings.
This list of advantages of structural steel is dependent on two factors, however: the quality of the materials and the experience level of the builder. When these two pieces of the puzzle are in place, building owners benefit from an attractive and well-designed building that is both durable and sustainable.