Steel has been used in our buildings since the 1800s when builders determined the metal offered superior strength than the cast iron they were using. It still holds up today as the strongest building material available. That is why it is used so much in the skyscrapers and other large-scale construction today, as well as our infrastructure and transportation. Steel plays a bigger role in our lives than we may realize.
Steel is a Green Material
When constructing new buildings, being environmentally friendly is an important issue to keep in mind, and you want to find the material that is the greenest possible to construct your building. A wooden house requires chopping down trees, brick requires clay, and concrete requires aggregates. What does that leave? Steel.
It may be surprising for you to learn that steel is the best building material for the environment, but steel is the only material that is 100 percent recyclable; in fact, approximately 650 million metric tons of steel are recycled every year. Steel never loses its strength when it is recycled, so it can potentially have a never-ending life cycle, reducing production waste and the need for new materials to be extracted from the earth. You do not need as much excavation before constructing a steel building, because the lighter weight of the metal means it requires a smaller foundation.
Strength and Safety
Steel has high strength and ductility, which makes it ideal in areas that have seismic activity, hurricanes, or other extreme weather events, as well as fire resistance; this frequently makes insuring a steel building cost less.
“Steel framing does very well under high [wind] loads because it is ductile, which means it has the ability to bend without breaking and can absorb that kind of energy,” says Larry Williams, President of the Steel Framing Alliance.
You may worry about corrosion on a metal building, but a steel building is treated to be resistant to corrosion, and as long as it is properly insulated, the metal will not sweat, which is how rust and corrosion build-up.
Steel buildings are prefabricated, so they are fast and easy to construct; they can take up to 50 percent less time to construct than a building made of traditional materials. Since steel is usually prefabricated, the level of quality control is better and uniform among every beam and wall in a structure.
It allows for a more open floorplan as well, which means there is less to construct; this also gives you more versatility in your building’s design. Steel is easy to manipulate to get whatever design aesthetics you are hoping for, allowing a high level of detail and design. Steel buildings are also easy to expand if you find yourself needing more space in the future.
Steel is usually a less expensive building material than others, which helps reduce the cost of the building projects. It is also low maintenance and it has a longer lifespan than other materials.
About the Author
Auz Burger is a freelance writer who specializes in steel buildings and stone veneer. She has a BA from Washington State University and has been writing and editing professionally for 10 years. Connect with her on Twitter at @AuzBurger.