The big, bad Wolf huffed and he puffed and … Regardless of our individual views of climate change, no one denies the rising cost of disasters around the globe, particularly on the coasts. While the main benefit of steel framing has always been its strength and durability, there are many advantages to steel.
Factory precision produces high quality steel components that reliably comply with design specs and assemble the first time. That cuts the cost of specialized engineering and architectural time when the inevitable change orders crop up. Likewise, having accurate components means a quicker, easier installation with fewer errors, even with unskilled or semi-skilled labor. Cost benefits persist over the life of a steel-framed building, too. Unlike wood, steel members don’t expand and contract with humidity, so storm doors and windows maintain a tighter seal and waste less energy over time.
Strength Implies Design Flexibility
The strength and formability of steel offer inherent advantages at the design stage, whether the builder wants an arch, gallery, or a visually dramatic span. Steel framing has also been extensively stress tested, so plan approval takes less time and gets the builder’s job started sooner. The simpler the design, the closer the project can come to turnkey installation, even in extreme environments.
Buckminster Fuller’s prediction that more and more construction would be standardized or semi-standardized, modular, and prefabricated to cut waste, and reduce overhead has come true, in spades. Modularity alone offers advantages. Among them, the buyer can often occupy part of the premises almost immediately, making the new site productive while construction continues on a just-in-time basis.
Unlike wood, bugs don’t eat steel. That means both fewer infestations and reduced risk of a structural collapse due to one. Steel construction also greatly reduces the need for the toxic glues, preservatives, and pesticides that make for sick buildings as volatile chemicals continue to evaporate and spread. In addition to earthquake and wind survivability, steel is also flame resistant and brushfire tested up to 1000 degrees C (1832 degrees F).
Steel is Green
While it is true that trees can be replanted after harvesting, most salvage from wood construction winds up as landfill. By contrast, with an overall recycling rate of 98%, almost all structural steel gets reused. Most steel is too valuable to wind up in landfills. Likewise, with its high sensitivity to energy prices, steel manufacturing has cut energy intensity per ton by 29% over 1990 through 2005. In 2005, the steel industry further committed to decreasing energy intensity per ton by a further 10% by 2012 as part of the US Climate Vision Program. Better yet, while the Kyoto Treaty would have required the steel industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% by 2012, iron and steel manufacturers voluntarily reduced carbon emissions by 47% over 1990 through 2005.
In addition to becoming the premier environmentally friendly building material, steel’s strength, design flexibility, and ability to endure extreme environmental stresses convey significant value to homeowners and commercial builders. Best of all, steel framing is cost effective both at build out and over the economic life of the structure.