Structural steel offers many characteristics that make it the preferable material for construction, but of course many other materials are also in regular use, such as wood, concrete and even plastic for lightweight aesthetic finishes.
But steel can do it all, combining the strength of concrete (and then some), the recyclable qualities of wood, and the visual appeal of more lightweight exterior finishes.
Here are some examples of when steel is the best material to use in construction and why it has the edge over other options.
Structural steel is innately strong and has particularly good tensile strength. It can also be used to reinforce other building materials, for example its use in reinforced concrete.
Punching slots or holes in steel does not significantly alter the strength of the overall section, making it easy to construct steel structures using bolts and other fixings – including offsite assembly for faster completion of projects.
Steel is also extremely good at withstanding changes in temperature, from as low as -100C to temperatures up to around 900C.
Steel manufacture requires large amounts of energy, but recycled steel – and especially second-hand steel that has not been reprocessed – can save a large amount of that energy, as much as 75% in some cases.
UK steel suppliers have worked hard to increase use of second-hand steel and recycled steel. It can be reclaimed well from demolished buildings and dismantled structures.
Steel is endlessly recyclable with no drop in quality, strength or other attributes. This makes it an excellent option for eco-friendly long-term construction.
As mentioned above, structural steel is increasingly left visible as a deliberate aesthetic choice, and has become a hallmark of 21st century architectural styles.
Its permanence means the buildings that go up now are more likely to withstand the tests of time, whereas lightweight aesthetic claddings will need replacing much sooner and more regularly, at greater overall cost.
Exterior structural steel can be treated via galvanising and other surface finishes, so different aesthetics can be achieved while also extending the lifespan of the exposed metal, even in harsh environments like high-altitude and coastal locations.
Why choose steel?
Across the board – whether it’s aesthetics, environmental concerns or simple structural strength – steel compares well against other building materials.
This makes it the first choice for many applications – and the only choice in many more.