Why Steel


Comparison to Other Materials

Structural steel has unique and distinct advantages over other building materials

Structural steel supports creative and innovative design with a wide range of shapes and sizes, curved and tapered profiles and a multitude of finishing and coating options.  Quick construction,  high recycled content, minimal environmental impact and a high strength-to-weight ratio are just a few advantages that set structural steel apart from other building materials.

Advantages over Concrete

Accelerated schedule
Fabricated off-site, structural steel has the advantage of being ready to erect as soon as it reaches the project site. Formwork is not required and there is typically minimal to no shoring necessary for structural steel-framed projects. Structural steel can also be erected in nearly all weather conditions and is not limited to assembly within a specific temperature range. Structural steel accelerates construction and reduces on-site labor requirements and overall project costs.

Increased usable floor space
Structural steel allows for long spans and open, column-free spaces and is recognized for its high strength-to-weight ratio. Compared to concrete, structural steel is a much lighter material for supporting the same load requirements. Structural steel columns are often smaller in footprint than concrete columns and can be spaced further apart,thus increasing usable floor space and allowing for greater design flexibility and less material usage.

Future modification and adaptability
Structural steel framing systems are designed and built with a kit-of-parts-type assembly. The components used to create a structural steel frame can easily be modified and adapted to address new uses, changes in building requirements and both horizontal and vertical expansions.

Reduced waste and pollution
On average, structural  steel produced in the U.S. is composed of 93% recycled content, and  100% of a structural steel frame can be recycled into new steel products (not down-cycled like concrete) including steel  steel scrap from the fabrication process. Plus,  structural steel components, such as beams and columns, can be used in new buildings. Steel's high strength-to-weight ratio coupled with a low carbon footprint-1.16 tons of CO2 per ton of fabricated hot-rolled steel-results in an overall reduction of the embodied carbon of a typical structure compared to other framing materials. Simply put, waste and environmental impacts are minimized when a steel frame is used.

Long-lasting and durable
Stiffness, strength in both tension and compression and the ability to bend without cracking or breaking are inherent advantages of structural steel. Compared to all other materials, structural steel has the greatest ability to maintain strength and integrity during seismic events. Structural steel framing is not subject to shrinkage or creep under load over time. Even in corrosive environments, applied coatings protect structural steel and add longevity to the building. A durable and nonporous material, steel provides value and a significant return on investment.

Quality, predictability, and value
Off-site fabrication allows for controlled conditions, ensuring a higher quality product configured to precise tolerances. While all buildings experience some type of movement, a structural steel framing system behaves in a predictable manner to provide comfort to building occupants. In addition, steel's resale value is consistent over its lifetime, with the benefit of lower insurance rates and superior durability in all environments for buildings that use it.

Advantages over Wood

No height limitation
Accepted code practices have no restriction on building height when using structural steel framing, no matter the building type.

In the Timber Tower Research Project, international design firm Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) states in the Final Report released in 2013 that "Timber is not the ideal material for resisting large loads at critically stressed members such as link beams. These members are best designed in either reinforced concrete or structural steel. These critically stressed members are a major hurdle for 'all-timber' schemes for buildings taller than approximately 15 stories."

Accelerated schedule
Fabricated off-site, structural steel has the advantage of being ready to erect with no additional sawing or trimming once it reaches the project site. Structural steel can also be erected in nearly all weather conditions and is not subject expansion or contraction issues that require assembly within a specific temperature range. Structural steel accelerates construction.

Flexibility in space planning
Structural steel allows for long spans and open, column-free spaces. Steel columns are available in several shapes and sizes, can be spaced farther  apart and have a slender footprint. Increased usable floor space is a major advantage with structural steel framing, allowing for greater design flexibility and efficient material usage.

Reduced waste and pollution
Structural steel produced in the U.S. contains an average of 93% recycled content or greater, and  100% of a structural steel frame can be recycled into new steel products, including scrap from the  fabrication process. During the wood fabrication process, approximately 40% of each tree harvested is left behind, and 56% of what makes it to the lumber mill is lost during production-made into chips, sawdust, burned or sent to the landfill.  With steel, no waste-either in the fabrication shop or at the construction site-is produced.  If wood becomes damaged or warped between the mill and the job site, it must be discarded and new wood framing elements created.

Long-lasting and durable
Stiffness, strength in both compression and tension and the ability to bend without cracking or breaking are inherent advantages of structural steel. Structural steel framing is not subject to expansion and contraction, insect or vermin infestation, moisture-related mold, rot or decay or gradual creep under load. A durable and non-combustible material, structural steel provides value and a significant return on investment to buildings.

Quality, predictability, and value
Off-site fabrication of structural steel allows for controlled conditions, ensuring a higher quality product configured to precise tolerances. While all buildings experience some type of movement, a structural steel framing system behaves in a predictable manner to provide comfort to building occupants. Steel's resale value is consistent over its lifetime, leading to lower insurance rates and superior durability in all environments for the buildings that use it.

Advantages over Masonry

Flexibility in space planning
Structural steel allows for long spans and open, column-free spaces. Steel columns are available in several shapes and sizes, can be spaced farther apart and have a slender footprint. Increased usable floor space is a major advantage with structural steel framing, allowing for greater design flexibility and efficient material usage.

Future modification and adaptability
Structural steel framing systems are designed and built with a kit-of-parts-type assembly. The components used to create a structural steel frame can be easily be modified and adapted to address new uses, changes in building requirements and both horizontal and vertical expansions.

Reduced waste and pollution
On average, structural steel produced in the U.S. is composed of 93% recycled content, and 100% of a structural steel frame can be recycled into new steel products (not down-cycled like concrete) including scrap from the fabrication process. Plus, structural steel components such as beams and columns can be used in new buildings. Steel's high strength-to-weight ratio coupled with a low carbon footprint-1.16 tons of CO2 per ton of fabricated hot-rolled steel-results in an overall reduction of the embodied carbon of a typical structure compared to other framing materials. Simply put, waste and pollution are minimized when a steel frame is used.

Long-lasting and durable
Stiffness, strength in both tension and compression and the ability to bend without cracking or breaking are inherent advantages of structural steel. Compared to all other materials, steel has the greatest ability to maintain strength and integrity during seismic events. Structural steel framing is not subject to gradual shrinkage or creep under load.  Even in corrosive environments, coatings can protect steel and add longevity to the building. A durable and nonporous material, steel provides buildings with value and a significant return on investment to.

Quality, predictability and value
Off-site fabrication allows for controlled conditions, ensuring a higher quality product configured to precise tolerances. While all buildings experience some type of movement, structural steel framing behaves in a predictable manner to provide comfort to building occupants. In addition, steel's resale value is consistent over its lifetime, resulting in lower insurance rates and superior durability in all environments for buildings that use it.

Structural Steel vs. Cold-Formed Steel

No height limitation
Unlike cold-formed steel, structural steel is a heavy-gauge material that which can be used for a greater range of building heights. There is no limit on building height thanks to structural steel's   load-carrying capacity. Many of the tallest buildings in the world use  structural steel framing.   

Flexibility in space planning
Structural steel allows for long spans and open, column-free spaces, and is not dependent on load-bearing wall construction. Increased usable floor space and flexibility in space planning are major advantages and allow  for greater design opportunities.

Reduced waste and pollution
On average, structural steel produced in the U.S. is composed of 93% recycled content, and 100% of a structural steel frame can be recycled into new steel products (not down-cycled like concrete) including scrap from the fabrication process. Plus, structural steel components such as beams and columns can be used in new buildings. Steel's high strength-to-weight ratio coupled with a low carbon footprint-1.16 tons of CO2 per ton of fabricated hot-rolled steel-results in an overall reduction of the embodied carbon of a typical structure compared to other framing materials. Simply put, waste and pollution are minimized when a steel frame is used.

Ease of future modifications and adaptability
Structural steel framing systems are designed and built with a kit-of-parts-type assembly. The components used to create a structural steel frame can be easily be modified and adapted to address new uses, changes in building requirements and both horizontal and vertical expansions.

Supports more designs
Structural steel is a stiffer, heavy-gauge material designed to support greater loads across multiple building types. Cold-formed steel is a light-gauge material, limited in span and load capabilities. Fewer locations for resisting lateral (wind) loads are required to create a stiff structural steel frame, providing more flexibility in space planning. The inherent properties of structural steel allow for endless design opportunities for all  building types.

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