Steel’s cheap with a rarely fluctuating price point and a non-porous surface which curbs mold and mildew growth. It’s 100% recyclable, doesn’t warp, and Superman’s made of it – while chances are your house’s framing and studs probably aren’t. You see it used in Nissen and Quonset huts, tool shops and car warehouses, hardware and repair stores, factories, farmhouses and skyscrapers, but most housing situations in general are without much more than cheap prefab sheets of steel just behind the drywall. For practical construction purposes, steel seems to have an austere footing with industrial complexes – just not housing.
Steel’s Place in the Industry
Steel buildings – or buildings constructed of pallet-stacked steel frames or studs – are appreciated for their aggregate durability and exceptional resistance to burning down. Skyscrapers are typically built with a massive, many-ton latticework of long steel beams, while storage complexes and the aforementioned huts tend to be produced partly or entirely out of solid steel walls and ceilings. Arched steel-wired huts are more cost-efficient while straight-walled huts tend to be more solid and provide more space. Of course, this iron-derived metal’s prone to oxidation, so it’s often alloyed with chromium and nickel, then isolated from potentially moist conditions behind a barrier or waterproof application of some type such as paint. But even that isn’t entirely necessary; old steel constructs from WWI and II are still standing in operable condition despite corrosion. Steel’s used in nearly every industry in some form because of this impressive durability – usually in the furnaces, factories, plants and mills which assimilate everything else from wood to plastic, computers and cars, and even steel itself.
All of the Reasons are There…
With steel being as cheap as wood (more or less), widespread, termite-proof and eco-friendly, you would think it would be more prolific among newer houses – and it has been. Groundwater and insulation issues can be abated with the proper coatings and applied construction techniques; problematic cutting can be circumvented with methodical forging and the proper dedicated tools. Bracing the walls with steel frames provides many of the benefits with almost none of the weaknesses. These are methods frequently used in the construction of industrial steel buildings, but one has to wonder if anything new is happening with the industry which could bring the material’s practicality to smaller fronts – namely, non-industrial applications such as housing.
…And These are the Catalysts
Molten oxide electrolysis is a new method inspired by iridium anode in moon dust and is now used on chromium-iron alloys to produce extremely pure steel with zero carbon dioxide emissions. Although currently a challenging process of steel production, we got the most important part out of the way – the green part. Meanwhile, a new type of steel has surfaced in the past few years, something known as flash bainite. It’s not only cheaper and far stronger, but the most ductile and readily weldable metal – which predictably can result in a dramatic fall in the price of steel milling and therefore constructs produced from it. Perhaps there’s a future for these new means of production to collaborate and produce cheap, light and extremely durable building frames – after all, with free land becoming sparse and expensive, vertical construction’s becoming the way of the future. We’re living the era it might happen – might.