Steel has long been recognized as a metal with many superior characteristics. The first steel buildings were constructed in the early twentieth century. Initial use of steel structures was limited to applications such as aircraft hangers and storage buildings. As construction techniques and materials have evolved, steel buildings are constructed for many various building applications. Because of their significant advantages, buildings constructed of steel have become a preferred alternative for many types of commercial buildings.
Steel as a Building Material
The steel building industry has seen consistent growth because of the growing appreciation of the advantages of steel buildings. The basic advantage is found in the properties of the metal itself. Steel can be manufactured for specific applications in a manner that best utilizes its inherent strength and flexibility. Structures large and small are built from steel due to these characteristics.
In a time of environmental concerns, steel is one of the greenest building materials available. It is essentially 100% recyclable and is the world’s most frequently recycled metal. Construction is less energy intensive due to the use of prefabrication techniques. These and other green factors have attracted many users simply because of LEED compliance.
Advantages of Steel Structures
Builders have developed many techniques to leverage the advantages of steel as a building material. These techniques and building systems allow a great variety of structures to be built. With this increasing utility and variety, new customers choose steel buildings because of their many advantages in initial cost as well as long term cost of ownership.
A summary of decision factors that lead to the choice of a steel building include:
• Design options. From churches to warehouses and office buildings, the prefabricated building components can be assembled into virtually endless designs and applications.
• Finished appearance. Advances in cladding and steel facades leave many people unaware of the fact that a building is constructed of steel. If desired, a steel building can have a traditional appearance. Many different finishes and colors allow a custom look to each structure.
• Construction costs. A number of factors contribute to a lower initial construction cost over traditional methods and materials. Prefabricated components bring efficiencies in material cost and construction.
• Speed of construction. One of the more attractive advantages to many companies needing a new building is the speed with which a building can be constructed. From initial design, to site preparation, to occupancy, the lapsed time can be substantially lower than with traditional building methods.
• Durability. The ruggedness and durability of steel buildings make them the only choice for many uses. In areas of high winds or difficult soil conditions, steel buildings are practical choices.
• Costs of ownership. In addition to initial costs savings, ongoing maintenance costs are significantly lower with steel buildings. With proper insulation, energy costs are often much lower than with alternative construction. Normal maintenance issues are lower due to steel being impervious to many of the problems such as mold, rot, and painting that are found with traditional construction.
• Environmental factors. Steel buildings are the most environmentally friendly choice in many aspects. Less energy is used in manufacturing the building materials. Construction uses less energy, and has less of an environmental impact. Steel buildings will normally use less energy and resources during the life of the structure. Significant to environmentalists, steel is completely recyclable when a structure is replaced.
• Flexibility for expansion and renovation. Due to the nature of their construction, steel buildings are exceptionally flexible for expansion and renovation. Compared to traditional structures, the cost savings for either expansion or renovation can be substantial.