The benefits of choosing steel for construction

by FM Media
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Why steel is increasingly being selected as a construction material is explained by BEN CAMPBELL.

Steel, although often used for all those little bits and bobs to help finish and tidy up a project, is rarely used as a sole component for a build. It may be time to change that as steel is starting to play an increasing role in construction around the world.

CRUSHING NEGATIVE PRECONCEPTIONS
For many years, steel was subject to heavy negative preconceptions about how it was sourced, how it was produced and how it could be used. Because of these negative preconceptions, it has been shunned in favour of materials such as wood for design and construction.
However, now that we’re in the modern world, things have changed, and with new technologies, new production process and new research, lightweight steel is becoming an increasingly popular choice for construction. In fact, in some cases, it’s now starting to overtake the former traditional choice of wood.
Why? Because, quite simply, it holds considerable benefits right from the moment it’s selected as a material all the way through to its influence in architecture and design, and even to its existence as a final end product.

STEEL IS PRODUCED SUSTAINABLY
As previously stated, steel holds a variety of benefits right from moment it’s chosen as a material for a construction project. In fact, an increasing number of Australian construction firms are now choosing steel over other materials simply because of the positive sustainable production properties associated with doing so.
Nearly half of the world’s steel production is now produced in electric-powered plants that operate predominantly with recycled scrap, which means no carbon emissions are produced at any point in the production process. No carbon emissions means no harmful pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere.
Producing tonnes of steel for internal core structures, roof sheeting and finishing features is far more sustainable than the production of other materials such as concrete.

STEEL STRUCTURES ARE MORE EFFICIENT
Steel has also become a popular choice for architects when designing an internal building structure. Most notably, the design flexibility of steel in the use of a building’s frame enables architects to focus on the energy efficiency of the planned building. Steel structures generally have a much better ventilation system thanks to a more capable stack effect, thus making the entire structure more energy efficient.
Another consideration associated with the use of steel structures is their efficiency; for example, it takes around a quarter of an acre of fully grown trees to produce the wood framing for an average family home. Recreate the same size home with a steel frame, and it would only require three or four old cars to do so. As well as being cost-effective for the construction company, this is also beneficial for the environment as fewer truck deliveries will be need to be made to and from the construction site. It also means an overall reduction in on-site working time.
Furthermore, compared to other building materials such as timber and block, steel possesses the highest strength-to-weight ratio, meaning that less wastage is placed into landfills throughout the entire build process.

STEEL IS STRONGER AND EASIER TO MAINTAIN
Steel also plays a huge role in the physical construction of a building. Compared to wood, for example, steel is extremely sturdy and generally has a much higher tolerance to harsh weather conditions, continual use, weight and force. Because of this, steel can maintain a higher resistance to many common construction problems such as splitting, distorting or even breaking entirely, when used for external features.
Furthermore, another reason steel is seeing a rise in popularity in construction is because it is easy to maintain. Whether used internally or externally, steel doesn’t need large amounts of sealants, polishes or paints to maintain both the durability and the appearance of it.
Steel is also versatile. It can also be used in a whole range of features to finalise the look and function of a building, from window frames, to internal and external steel stairs, to balustrades and railings.
I think it’s safe to say that steel has made a case for itself in the modern world of building and construction, and I believe it will only become of greater importance in construction processes moving forward.

Ben Campbell is a freelance writer specialising in the construction, building and architectural industries.

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