- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 10 Aug 2018
8 reasons why structural steel frames are advantageous for any building project
Steel framing is a construction method in which steel columns and beams are assembled to create a support for floors, roofs and so on. In this article, we look at the advantages that steel frames have over other construction materials and why they are a common choice in modern buildings.
 Higher strength
Steel has a higher density than timber or concrete which means that for the same dimensions, steel will be heavier. However, a length of 2x4 steel will be able to carry more load than the same length of 2x4 timber. In practice, this means that less steel is necessary to provide the same amount of support.
The consequences of this decrease in material use are reduced material shipping costs, reduced labour, and the simplification of the design of the foundation and other structural supports.
Unlike timber, steel does not split, crack, or creep as it ages. It is not vulnerable to insect attack and lacks porosity so mould and mildew cannot grow. It does not warp, rot, or expand when there is an increase in moisture. However, contact with water must be prevented because can cause corrosion.
To protect the steel, a coating of fire-resistant and water-resistant material must be applied. The fire-resistant material prevents the steel from losing its strength and integrity in a fire while the water-resistant material prevents rusting.
Structural steel can be fabricated into different shapes while still maintaining its strength. The use of steel allows for creative and innovative designs. Architects and other designers use this capability to create structures that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also structurally sound.
Structural steel also allows for the creation of large span buildings such as indoor arenas and aircraft hangars as well as the capability to build very high skyscrapers, brdiges and so on.
The use of computer modelling before fabrication reduces the amount of scrap steel produced.
Any scrap that is produced can be recycled for use in other projects. Steel is endlessly recyclable because it does not lose any inherent properties such as strength when it is melted down and recast.
It is possible to reuse timber by transforming it into other things such as tables or chairs but there will come a time when scrap wood is too small or the shape is too awkward to work with. Concrete can also be broken down for use in future mixes, but is only successfully used for works such as pavements.
The tensile strength of steel frames allows them to perform well in natural phenomena such as hurricanes, seismic activity, snow loads and so on. These phenomena become more problematic as the structure becomes higher. Steel also performs better in emergencies such as explosions and impact.
On lower structures, timber offers enough flexibility but there will also be a fire risk. Steel is noncombustible so it is not a fire risk, but its strength becomes compromised when subject to extreme temperatures, unlike concrete. However, concrete in itself is not very flexible so its tensile strength must be increased by reinforcing it with steel.
 Faster build times
Computer-assisted manufacturing of standardised bolted connections and repetitive floor plates make production faster while standardisation and regulatory policies have made structural steel components dependable and easy to erect.
The steel frames are prefabricated offsite to fit a certain specification before being sent to the construction site. After they are sent out, they are immediately ready to be assembled by bolting or welding the pieces together, unlike in-situ concrete where it is necessary to wait for a section to cure before continuing the construction.
Steel is durable so maintenance costs in terms of repairs and replacements can be lower. Insurance companies may also offer cheaper premium insurance for structures that are constructed with steel because of their ability to withstand decay, pests, and natural disasters.
 Space maximisation
By being stronger, steel frames can be spaced wider which also creates wider bays. The wider available space allows for more flexible floor designs that can maximise the available space. Although concrete is strong as well, it has a more limited floor-to-floor construction height as well as inferior spanning.
There are many other advantages to using steel. Steel frames can be constructed in any weather, and are easily adaptable to sudden design changes. They can also be easier to maintain if the frame is visible for inspection.
However, construction materials should not be limited to exclusive use. Today, metal-reinforced timber beams, as well as fiber-reinforced concrete, are available in the market. When they are combined, the hybrids formed are not only stronger than the individual components but are also cost-effective.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
The Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa collapses during rainstorm while undergoing maintenance works.
'Developed design' is a phrase coined by the RIBA for their 2013 Plan of Work. But what does it actually mean?
New green paper published aiming to rebalance the relationship between landlords and residents and tackle stigma.
RIBA calls for a comprehensive ban on combustible materials.
Lump sum contracts can be referred to as ‘fixed price’ contracts, although strictly this is not correct. Find out more here.
Ramboll offer guidance to civil engineers on how to make projects 'off-site ready'.
Government announces its Rough Sleeping Strategy, with further funding for social housing.
An overlooked architect who deserves to be celebrated for his wide range of buildings.
The Home Quality Mark ONE technical manuals for new homes are now available.
Read our introductory article to 'Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning' (HVAC) in buildings.
BIG's first of two twisting towers in Manhattan tops out.