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Is Steel the Best Material for Industrial Construction?

In Houston, the number of residential buildings using steel has increased, sparking interest in its use. Steel is generally safer than other materials and offers sustainability benefits that extend to the community, but is it the best choice for Houston industrial construction?

Safety

Because of its offsite production and quick onsite assembly, steel is one of the safer construction materials available. Unlike concrete, steel production occurs in strictly regulated factories using only the latest technology to produce precise components. This contributes to the material’s consistent high quality, reducing the risk of onsite variations. Additionally, numerous quality assessment procedures allow for full traceability at every step of the process, from production to erection.

Before the erection of a steel-framed building even begins, a plan is in place that details every step of the process. Using 3D models and trial assemblies, steelwork contractors are able to ensure that every member of the team knows the process from beginning to end, reducing the potential for costly mistakes and wasted material. Contractors, who must hold qualifications in fabrication, design, and erection of steel-framed structures, employ their extensive knowledge of steel erection to help ensure a safer workplace.

One major advantage to using steel for framework is a lack of wait time. Steel frames are at full strength immediately after completion, providing other trades safe access to the structure. Extensive fire testing of steel components has led to a greater understanding of how steel structures respond to fire. Based on these various tests, extremely precise, detailed fire protection requirements have been installed, which ultimately reduces the amount of fire protection required.

Economics

Steel has the unrivaled ability to save contractors money due to its streamlined production and durability. The stringent standards steel is held to ensure that defective components are virtually nonexistent, helping to reduce waste during construction. Despite the extensive fabrication process, when adjusted for inflation, the price of steel has actually fallen, and the material costs less than it did fifteen years ago.

However, the monetary advantage of using steel is most readily evident when it comes to laying the foundation. Steel frame loads are up to fifty percent lighter than concrete loads, so foundations do not need to be as large. A smaller foundation translates to less time and money spent on the overall project. Steel-frame structures do not need to be refurbished as often as concrete structures, and using long span steel sections enhances the versatility of a building, enabling it to adapt to the requirements of its various occupants.

Sustainability

Many of the factors that make steel one of the most economical constriction options also make it one of the most environmentally friendly materials available. Because laying a foundation for a steel frame requires less time than one for a concrete structure, the foundation’s environmental impact is significantly reduced. Composite steel floors have received an A+ environmental rating in the BRE’s Green Guide to Specification. With the advent of steel frames, even condemned buildings are useful. After demolition, the steel frame can still be used for a variety of other purposes without experiencing any negative effects.

Problems

Though steel offers many benefits to contractors, there are some drawbacks associated with it. A Houston design build company will have to contend with the humidity of the Gulf Coast, which has the potential to corrode steel without the meticulous application of multiple layers of anti-corrosives. Another issue with steel is its ability to conduct cold and heat well, requiring extra insulation to make the building energy efficient.

Ultimately, the benefits steel offers far outweigh the drawbacks, making steel a great, green choice for Houston LEED Construction.

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