Why Steel

Construction Costs

Structural Steel is the Cost Leader

Choosing structural steel for your next project will help reduce its overall cost and enhance its value. For many projects, the cost of a steel frame is lower than the cost of competing systems. Not only that, but it can also provide other economic benefits, such as:

  • Lower foundation costs since structural steel has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than other materials;
  • General condition savings since steel framing can be constructed faster, thus reducing labor hours;
  • Increased revenue from early occupancy thanks to faster construction; and
  • Future cost savings if and when a project will be modified or expanded, since steel framing systems are highly adaptable.

You can achieve further savings on a steel project by getting a steel fabricator involved early in the design phase. Most of the steel package's cost comes from fabrication and erection (often 70% or more; see Figure 1 below), and a knowledgeable, experienced fabricator can provide tips and advice on how to design and fabricate steel members and assemblies as efficiently as possible--e.g., eliminating doubler and stiffener plates in favor of heavier members or reducing the number of pieces to be fabricated in favor of different member sizes.

In addition, using BIM (building information modeling) can further reduce the overall cost of a steel building. In fact, studies have shown that this integrated approach can reduce the cost of a steel package by 10% to 20%.

Fluctuation in raw material costs in recent years has made steel even more attractive from an economic standpoint. Since 2012, the cost of ready-mix concrete has increased more than 18% relative to the cost of hot-rolled steel from the mill (see Figure 2 below).

Figure 1

Note: Material cost includes mill base price plus mill extras and delivery to warehouse.Fabrication includes shop drawings and detailing, delivery from warehouse, primer paint and delivery to job site.
Source: RS Means National Average data. 2016, Q3

Figure 2

Note: Structural steel costs are based on published domestic mill prices for typical sections. Ready-mix costs are determined by RSMeans' national average cost for 4,000-psi ready-mix concrete.

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