How Economical is Structural Steel Compared to Other Materials?

IMG_0141.jpgToday, a wide range of building materials and architectural methods are available to anyone seeking to create a custom construction project. But which of these alternatives is the best – and how can you tell? Well, one important metric in all design builds is economical efficiency. Let’s take a look at how structural steel stacks up against some of the other most industrially important building materials out there on the market.

Steel vs. Timber


Structural steel is considered to be far more durable than wood timber; it is not prone to termite erosion, is fireproof, and is less likely to catastrophically warp or deform as wood tends to do.

As such, the lifespan of a steel construction is expected to be much longer than a wood-built one, thus making the build more economical in the long-term. In addition, wood-framed constructions often need constant repair and attention, usually requiring expensive professional intervention, which will drive maintenance costs up throughout the structure’s existence.

Construction planning:

Steel-made structures can be installed and erected in a very rapid fashion, often with various components pre-made off-site, and with the end-build being subject to very fine tolerances and a high degree of accuracy.

The reliability of steel construction jobs means that hidden costs can be avoided to a large extent, and a predicable budget can be maintained within limits giving the commissioner of such a build the peace of mind that isn’t always as certain with more temperamental materials such as wood.

Green concerns:

Governments around the world are increasingly making it more economically punitive for constructors to use materials that don’t conform to acceptable environmental and ecological standards.

With this in mind, how do steel and timber compare? Well, you might be surprised to find that both are remarkably good when it comes to green issues. Life-cycle analysis of both products show that each scores highly on recycling measures, and the carbon footprint of steel production and wood harvesting has been reduced in recent years.

Steel vs. Concrete


Concrete is used extensively in modern construction projects, although rarely in its pure form. Rather, it is almost always found as reinforced concrete, where “rebars” – steel reinforcement bars – are added to improve its engineering qualities.

On its own, concrete performs poorly for most structural needs. However, with the addition of rebars, its natural attributes as a compression-resistant, durable, fireproof and cheap material make it a great companion to steel on most construction sites today.

Construction planning:

Concrete requires far more planning to put in place than does a steel structure, primarily because it can only be poured once the form-work is complete, and the time required for setting can make a job slow and expensive.

Green concerns:

It is estimated that concrete manufacture is the second biggest source of greenhouse gases in the world, after coal-fired power stations – so, unfortunately, it doesn’t score as well as structural steel or timber in this regard.

Versatile, durable, and green, steel is the perfect material for a huge range of construction projects. If you’re interested in utilizing steel to its highest potential contact Swanton Welding today.

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