Steel Structures

Why do many architects and builders choose steel when designing? Not only is steel affordable, but it is also readily available and safe.  It has intrinsic properties such as strength, durability, and 100% recyclability which allows for improved environmental performance across the entire life cycle of a building. Other advantages of using steel buildings, and Steel Structures are they are light in weight, easy to install, offer speed in construction, flexibility, and ductility. Steel allows for easy fabrication in different sizes, are fire resistant, pest, and insect resistant as well as moisture and weather resistant.

Here is a list, created by architects, of some of the benefits of using steel in construction:

  1. It is reusable and endlessly recyclable making it a sustainable construction material.
  2. It is strong and durable. It requires fewer beams, therefore, providing more usable open space in the design.
  3. Contains at least 25% recycled steel.
  4. Enables energy efficiency in buildings and construction projects.
  5. It is light thus requiring reduced foundations.
  6. Earthquake resistant due to its ductility. It can be bent, cut, and made into different shapes and it does not bend under pressure.
  7. It is flexible in combination with other materials.
  8. Fast on-site build for prefabricated buildings.
  9. Corrosion and fire-resistant as well as aesthetically pleasing.

The advantage of using steel structures over concrete is tangible. A steel structure is 30-60% lighter than a similar one made of concrete. As a result loads on the foundation are considerably lower. If you were to construct a building using a steel-based structure you would require fewer materials for its foundation than the same building would require if it were made of concrete.

There are five main types of structural components that make up a steel frame. They are tension members, compression members, bending members, combined force members, and their connections.  Because of its high tensile strength and low cost, steel is used in buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, trains, cars, machines, electrical appliances, and weapons.  The interaction of the allotropes of iron with the alloying elements, primary carbon, gives the steel its range of unique properties.  

Steel is mainly comprised of iron with a percentage that amounts to 96%. The iron ore is extracted from the ground and smelted to get rid of impurities. Then, carbon is added (with a percentage that normally ranges between 0.1-0.25%). Iron could also be alloyed with other elements like Manganese, Nickel, or Chromium to enhance the strength of steel.

Here are the main types of steel structures:

  • Frame structures: Beams and columns.
  • Grids structures: latticed structure or dome.
  • Pre-stressed structures.
  • Truss structures: Bar or truss members.
  • Arch structure.
  • Arch bridge.
  • Beam bridge.
  • Cable-stayed bridge.

There are many ways steel can be used in modern architecture and its benefits are many. Although steel itself is more expensive than other construction materials, all of its advantages make it more economic in the long run.  High strength steel can be found in a number of related industries; bridges, offshore oil rigs, civil engineering and construction machines, thermal and hydroelectric plants, rail carriages, and nuclear vessels. All of these applications benefit from the attributes of modern steel. It is easy to see why steel has gained popularity in the field of architecture and construction and it will certainly be with us for many years to come.

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