18 Benefits of Using Steel in Construction

Steel Bridge Detail

Did you know that steel accounts for 50% of world demand when it comes to construction? Steel plays a significant role in construction, and as the population continues to increase, there will be a need for more infrastructure and buildings. What are the benefits of using steel in construction?

Some of the benefits of using steel in construction are its versatility, durability, readily available, and affordability. It’s also 100% recyclable, which makes it an eco-friendly choice when doing different types of constructions. 

Read on to learn the benefits of using steel in construction. We will also discuss more about some areas where steel is used in construction and how it is used in buildings.

1. Availability

The over-production of steel has made this material more comfortable to find compared to other metals. You can find it as pre-made components and raw alloy. There are fabricated parts like frames and beams that are sold by suppliers both locally and internationally. If you don’t have the expertise of creating these parts, you can focus on the construction bit and order for steel parts at your convenience.

The best part is that you can order steel parts once you have the construction plan. That will help you check the measurements and determine the best storage. Much of the steelwork is prefabricated, which leads to the quick construction time.

2. Lightweight

Despite steel being robust, it’s one of the lightweight construction materials. That’s why a steel structure is light compared to a similar concrete structure. That is attributed to steel’s stiffness and high strength.

You’ll also find that steel is simple to transport and can also be lifted via a crane. Its lightweight nature can help with rebuilding structures. When weight is mixed with versatility, these properties make it a building material for anyone that may need expansion later.The high strength to weight ratio simplifies the design of your structure’s foundation and other structural support systems. Nonetheless, you should note that despite steel being lightweight, it needs to be bolted to the foundations firmly to avoid the material being blown away by the wind.

3. Versatility

If you’re looking for a construction material that you can get creative with, you should opt for steel. The material allows you to change anything that you deem fit any time you like. Walls attached to steel framing are simple to remove, which makes renovation easier.

Architects have the freedom to come up with new solutions and explore ideas. With steel, you can create free-form combinations or segmented curves.

You don’t need to have interior supporting walls once you have the strength of steel beams. That means the building can be used for anything you like. Such structures work well for shops, offices, warehouses, garage, barn, or religious centers.

The space inside is open, which means your creativity and imagination only limit you. The best part is that you can break up space by adding interior walls to divide the space. When you decide you want to change something, all you need to do is tear down the walls and move them. The process is easy as none of the walls are load building.

The availability of ready-made structural sections like the C, I, and angle sections also adds to the versatility aspect.

4. Affordability

Constructing using steel will save you money. That’s because steel is readily available. What’s more, you’ll save money from the reduced construction time and labor. The steel parts and frames are manufactured offsite with precision, which means there’s a diminished waste.

When using timber, you need to buy extra cubic volume. That means you’ll have close to 40% wastage at the manufacturing stage. When using steel, you’ll need fewer workers, hence low employment costs. The best part is that steel is a ferrous metal, and you can sell as scrap metal.

Steel is durable, which means it needs little to no maintenance. Moreover, it can withstand seismic activities, high winds, fire, and other natural disasters. Materials like plastic and wood have a limited lifespan, and they may end up being a costly affair. When you think of all these factors, you’ll realize that steel is an affordable construction material.

However, you should note that a steel structure isn’t as affordable in all situations. The cost largely depends on the functionality and type of construction. Constructing a small building with steel will be costly compared to the amount you’d spend using concrete or wood. The use of steel is recommended when you’re building a large span building.

5. Weather Resistance

Steel buildings are moisture and weather resistance. Nonetheless, that aspect may be interfered with based on the carbon content of the steel material you use for construction. A powder treatment and hot zinc coating can help enhance rust resistance. Doing that will ensure that the structural steel component resists any effects of moisture or water.

6. Ability to Span a Great Distance

Using steel in construction gives you an edge as the material can span longer distances with steel ceiling joists. Engineers and contractors can create a vast space with steel parts, unlike when using other materials.

That comes in handy, especially when you are constructing massive structures like industrial buildings. If you are dealing with long open spans, you can comfortably use steel. That would be impossible when dealing with wood or concrete support.

Prefabricated steel buildings are economical and have a rectangular shape. However, you can create a clear span interior space with extra floor-plan flexibility when you use steel. With that, you have freedom for later renovations.

7. Quick Construction Time

Another benefit of using steel in construction is that you get to save time. Time is critical when it comes to construction, mainly if you’re working on a time-based project. You don’t want to exceed your budget or exceed the set timelines.

Incorporating steel frames can help you save time. All you need is to get pre-engineered structural designs from steel suppliers if you’re looking to finish a large-scale project on short notice. The steel parts make handling and installation fast. Pre-engineered steel buildings take one third less time of installation when compared to traditional building erection time.Moreover, the fabrication process undergoes quality control. That means you don’t have to worry about human error, something that reduces the time required for remeasuring, cutting, and installation. The short construction period translates into savings in site preliminaries, lower interest charges, and an early investment return.

This type of saving can be between 3-4% of the overall project value. That means improved cash flow and reduced requirements for working capital.

8. Durability and Sturdiness

Steel is one of the strongest and sturdiest materials, despite its lightweight nature. A construction that uses steel will be durable and robust, unlike one made with traditional wood. The best part is that steel can withstand harsh weather conditions like strong winds, earthquakes, heavy snow, and more to a considerable extent.

Steel’s rust-resistant property also adds to the overall durability. You won’t have to worry about pests like bugs and termites affecting your structure. Buildings made from steel are fire-resistant compared to wooden frames.

Furthermore, you won’t have to deal with wet wood rotting. You’ll need to replace the rotten wood. Fortunately, steel isn’t susceptible to rotting, which is an advantage.

9. Ductility

Ductility is when a material can withstand extreme deformation without any fracture. Steel is a material that won’t change shape even under tensile stresses. That’s an advantage when fitting the different parts into your structure. Materials with low ductility will crack under pressure from heating at the welding joint.

The ductility property in steel allows it to deform without collapsing and bend out of its original shape. Steel structures rarely collapse, which is why they are less affected by earthquakes.

10. Fire Resistance

Steel buildings and structures are fire resistant compared to wooden frames. Using steel reduces the risk of a fire accident to any building. There is a specific flame-retardant coating that increases the durability of structural steel.

11. Optimized Energy Consumption

An insulated steel building can reduce your energy bills by up to 50%. That’s because metal buildings need various appliances to maintain the temperature in specific seasons.

12. Ease of Maintenance

The best thing with steel is that its cost savings don’t end once construction stops. That’s because steel has a better lifecycle, making it inexpensive to maintain. The fact that it’s durable also saves you some money. Adding paint to the surface also means you won’t have to deal with rust and corrosion.

13. Expansion and Service Integration

Another benefit of using steel in construction is the fact that you can create extra space. You can incorporate mechanical ventilation without interfering with the depth of floors or the original layout. That comes in handy when you’re dealing with height restrictions. What’s more, the adaptability nature of steel also extends the structure’s lifespan.

14. Environmental Friendliness

According to steel.org, more than 80 million tons of steel are recycled annually in North America. The research goes ahead to show that recycling steel saves the same energy to power about 18 million households every year.

Steel is the only material that you can recycle multiple times without loss of strength. Recycling steel is associated with low carbon emissions and a reduction in energy use. Constructing with steel conserves natural resources. Moreover, when you use steel, everything is manufactured off-site. That means you’ll be dealing with a clean site during construction and a low carbon footprint.

Another example is when a steel structure is demolished, the components can be returned to the steelmaking process to create new features or be reused. Steel buildings are lighter, meaning they don’t need extensive foundations like concrete buildings. If you plan on using steel pile foundations, you can extract them and reuse at the end of a structure’s life or recycle them.Modern steel buildings also incorporate solar energy like photovoltaics, which also help with keeping everything eco-friendly. Wood and concrete are almost non-recyclable.

15. Convenience for Temporary Structures

You can use different methods like welding or riveting to build a steel structure. These buildings are easy to disassemble without a lot of problems. That makes these types of design convenient when you don’t have lots of time to focus on construction.

16. Pest Resistance

Materials like wood attract pests like termites. These tiny bugs can wreak havoc and cause structural damage, putting the whole building at risk. However, steel structures cannot be infested by bugs.

17. Overall Improved Construction Quality

Buildings made from concrete or wood tend to lose their vibrancy over time. Steel buildings hardly age as the material is dimensional steady and is not affected by weather changes or other natural disasters—structures made from steel guarantee a good service life without you incurring high maintenance costs.

18. Social Benefits

Using steel in construction helps support a local workforce, boiling down to supporting family life and building a stable community. The short building timeframe minimizes any impact of steel-based structures on the community. Furthermore, the construction process and minimal site deliveries play a role in benefiting society at large.

History of Steel in Construction

Steel became a significant construction material when railroads were a famous mode of transport. In the 1800s, cast iron, wrought iron, and steel were the forms of metals in use. Wrought iron was popular with blacksmiths and those in construction, cast iron was used in farming and cooking, while steel was used for high-end products like swords and watches.It wasn’t until 1855 when Sir Henry Bessemer came up with the Bessemer method to make steel production efficient. Companies were able to create steel with good tensile strength. Nonetheless, more people stuck to wrought iron for iron-based building.

In 1879, Sidney Thoma came up with a way to remove phosphorus from steel. That increased the quality of steel, and that meant steel could not be more affordable. The production grew over time. Steel quality became consistent by the 1880s.

The Great Chicago Fire in the U.S. destroyed timber buildings. That forced those in authority to create strict building regulations that required the use of non-combustible construction materials like marble, stone, and brick. Contractors could also use other building solutions like wrought iron and steel construction.

The first building to use steel skeleton frame construction reinforced with concrete was the Home Insurance Building in Chicago. It was lightweight and had to be demolished in 1931.

In the 1900s, technological advancements saw the production of a sturdier and robust steel product. By the 1920s, steel production grew to 60 million tons each year, making the United States a steel production leader. More bridges, railroads, office buildings, and factories were using steel for construction. With time, steel became the go-to material for most construction jobs.

As steel construction technology evolves, the applications are now more diverse. You can find steel now in private garages, medical facilities, and skyscrapers. Steel is now split into straight wall applications or arched for pre-engineering with added benefits.

Types of Steel Used in Construction

The most common types of steel used in construction are:

  • Stainless steel
  • Carbon steel
  • Rebar steel
  • Structural steel
  • Alloy steel

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the oldest material used to build structures due to its strain and corrosion-resistant properties.Most people use stainless steel for its durability, strength, and reliability. One interesting fact about stainless steel is that it‘s a combination of multiple metals. The amounts are adjusted to come up with various stainless steel grades. The one popular in the market is grade 301. That’s because it’s easy to weld, and its ductile nature makes it ideal for use in handrails, roofing, architectural cladding, drainage parts, among other features.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is famous for its strength and hardness. You’ll find it on structural framework beams that are placed on highway construction. The material is also standard on bridges, welded frames, trailer beds, and some hollow structural sections.

It doesn’t bend and is flexible. Moreover, it can withstand harsh weather without cracking. Low carbon steel has 0.25% carbon and consists of two yield points. The first yield point goes a little high over the second, while the other goes to the lower end. Its versatile nature and reasonable price make carbon steel popular. That’s why this steel is used in different applications.

Carbon steel is made by mixing iron and carbon. The category ranges from very high to mild. However, that is dependent on the carbon present in the metal.

High carbon steel is used to manufacture high-strength wire and tools, while ultra-high carbon steel is used for cast iron.Low carbon steel is used in decorative ironwork like gates and railings. Medium carbon steel is standard in structural steelwork.

Rebar Steel

Rebar steel is known as reinforcing steelworks like a tension device for reinforced masonry or concrete structure. This type of steel is made from carbon steel, but ridges are added to mechanical anchoring.

The steel holds the concrete into compression, hence the reinforcing aspect. Rebar steel is available in different grades found in various chemical composition specifications, tensile strength, yield strength, and elongation percentage.

Using this type of steel ensures durability and provides resistance through a vast area that other steel types won’t reach. Rebar steel is available in different sizes, and its expansion potential makes it ideal for compressing concrete. This type of steel is simple to set into place before you pour the concrete, and it helps to reduce breaking and cracking, which is a common occurrence in concrete.

Structural Steel

Structural steel is formed from a cross-section. However, it follows standards for chemical composition and mechanical properties. You’ll find structural steel in different shapes like HSS shape, K-shape, Z-shape, I-Beam, T-shape, Rail Profile, Structural channel C-beam, among others.

That type of steel is durable, ductile, and can be morphed into any shape you like depending on the construction. Structural steel can be used immediately. It gets to the construction site, unlike other metals. Another benefit of structural steel is that it’s fire-resistant. Compared to other metals, structural steel is environmentally friendly as it’s recyclable and has a low carbon effect.

Alloy Steel

Alloy steel consists of an alloying element and carbon steel. The addition of alloying elements adds to the mechanical properties of this steel.

A good example is steel mixed with aluminum. The combination is uniform, but when you combine steel with manganese, you get a sturdy material.

Types of Steel Building Construction

Steel construction or steel fabrication can be categorized into various types like:

Bolted Steel Construction

This happens when fabricators manufacture finished steel products and ship the components to the construction site. Once there, the parts are bolted. It’s the most popular and preferred steel construction method as most of the work is done in the workshops. The process also helps to fasten the construction process as all that is required is to lift the steel components into place and bolt them. An excellent example of this type of construction is pre-engineered buildings.

Conventional Steel Fabrication

This type of steel building construction involves teams of fabricators who cut steel components to the desired length. They weld these pieces together to create a final structure. The whole process can be done partly in a workshop to save on time, but someone can do it at the construction site. The only problem with doing the fabrication at the construction site is that the process may be costly and labor-intensive.Some advantages of conventional steel fabrication are that the buildings can be built quickly, structural steel has more endurance and strength, and you can modify this type of steel to fit any design you like.

The conventional steel fabrication also allows for easy fabrication in various sizes. You can opt to customize steel studs to have a specific load in buildings of different sizes and types.

Light Gauge Steel Construction

Light gauge steel construction is popular in small buildings and residential N.America and some parts of Europe. The construction involves the use of lightweight gauge steel components. The steel is bent into shape to form Z-sections or C-sections. This type of steel construction is better than wood frame construction in many aspects.

Some of the advantages of light gauge steel construction are design flexibility, strength buildability, and sustainability. Components of lightweight gauge steel frame include the wall system, roofing, flooring, steel coating, connections via self-drilling, and accessories like plates, straps, metal angles, etc.

How Is Steel Used in Construction?

The World Steel Association estimates that over 1600 million tonnes were produced in 2016. These statistics show that steel is becoming popular for most types of construction projects.

The various applications of steel include:

  • Internal fixtures when building – Steel is used in internal fittings and fixtures on things like stairs, rails, and shelves.
  • Structural sections – Most contractors use steel on structural sectors to give the building a sturdy frame. It makes up to 25% of the steel that is used in buildings.
  • Reinforce bars – Steel is used to add stiffness and tensile strength to concrete. Some people use steel to reinforce bars as it binds to concrete well. Moreover, it’s an affordable option and is strong. You can also use steel to provide deep basements and foundations.
  • Sheet products – Steel is also used in building products like internal walls, roofing, cladding, purlins, and insulating panels.
  • Non-structural applications – You can find non-structural steel on other applications like interior ducting and heating/cooling equipment.
  • Utilities – Steel can be used for power, water, and fuel. For example, you’ll find steel on underground pipes that distribute water and gas. Pumping houses and power stations also use steel.
  • Transport networks – Steel is often used on rail tracks, bridges, tunnels, and structures like ports, fueling stations, and train stations. In these situations, steel is used as rebar, which is about 60%. The rest is applied on rail tracks, plates, individual sections, among others.

How Does Steel Construction Work?

Putting up a steel building involves assembling the steel components into a frame on site and connecting them using safe and reliable techniques. The prefabrication process makes sure that all the building features are manufactured in a controlled environment before they are delivered to a construction site.

Note that steel erection consists of tasks like:

  • Ensuring that the foundations are safe and suitable for the erection to begin
  • Lifting and putting steel components into place. Sometimes cranes may be used, but jacking is used to secure parts where bolted connections are required.
  • Align the structure by monitoring the column bases. The bases need to be lined, and the columns plumbed
  • Tightening the bolted connections to secure the frame

Conclusion

Steel is a versatile, durable, affordable, and eco-friendly construction material. You’ll find out that most buildings have been constructed with steel. It could be rebar, carbon, structural, or any other type of steel. Different physical and mechanical properties determine the kind of steel to use.

Steel is graded according to density, elasticity, strength, hardness, melting point, and thermal conductivity. Consult and do your homework to determine the best steel to use in construction.

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