5 Key Considerations for Choosing a Steel Structural System

Published June 19, 2013 by Whirlwind Team

Steel structural systemThinking of a steel structure may put you in mind of a shed with a corrugated roof. Today’s steel buildings are nothing like that. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that many of the buildings you visit have a steel frame beneath the bricks – places like school buildings, churches, and grocery stores. Some homes are being built with a steel frame.

Why choose a steel structural system? Here are 5 considerations to ponder that may help you make up your mind.

Durability and Fire-Resistance

Steel structures last for decades and are resistant to many of the perils that wood framing is prey to; problems such as rotting, shrinking, molding, ants, and termites. Steel columns do not come with knots, splits, or other defects like wood. And steel hangs tough in the face of disaster.

One of those disasters steel is particularly immune to is fire. Most local building codes have a fire protection requirement, and fire rating requirements are typically measured in hours. A wood structure simply won’t last that long. The common steel structure is made of sterner stuff.

Cost Efficiency

Steel buildings can be very economical if the project is well-planned. This means that a low overall cost for the completed building is the consideration, not the cheapest steel building you can buy. Steel buildings, per square foot, are less expensive than other materials when optimized for clear open spans.

Why is that? Well, prices for lumber fluctuate while the price of steel has remained steady and comparatively low for years. Insurance costs are lower with a metal building due to the aforementioned durability and fire resistance. And since many steel structures are pre-engineered, construction time is shorter, another cost savings.

Last but not least, there may be tax breaks for steel buildings that are thermal- and energy-efficient.

Flexibility of Re-Use and Expansion

Unless your building is to be a structure that will be used for the same thing for many, many years, the flexibility of the layout and construction must be kept in mind. This means most facilities, in fact.

A flexible building must be easy to modify. The framing should be simple to alter or reinforce. This means a steel structure, no matter the age, shape or size. Imagine making changes to a concrete structure and you will understand how a steel building is more future-proof.

Construction Time

Already noted but worth repeating, steel structures are more quickly constructed. And this is not just because they come pre-engineered but also because the entire building comes from a single source. If there are problems or additional help or materials needed, you need only contact the manufacturer for anything you need.

Following Local Practice

If a large number of the structures in the area you are building in are made of steel it is likely that workers skilled in erecting steel structures are easy to find. This also means you can get construction bids with fewer contingency clauses and the materials will be less expensive because they are already available.

These are five of the most important things to think about when selecting the materials for your building project. Unless there is a very compelling reason for using something different, this list should convince you that a steel structure is probably right for you.

* Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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