Steel frame construction is the process of building with steel beams and columns as the main load-bearing members, including structural steel studs. The frames are usually made of mild steel, which is extremely strong. They can bend without cracking, and adjust to shifting loads within the structure, making them ideal for buildings that need to withstand earthquakes or other types of natural disasters. This article will describe the benefits of steel frame construction and its modern applications.
Steel Frame Construction Techniques
Welded Steel Framing
Conventional steel fabrication generally involves the cutting of steel members to the correct length and welding them together on site to form the final structure. Alternatively, it can be done partially in a workshop, where the working conditions are better, to reduce the time it takes to complete the project.
Bolted Steel Framing
The bolted steel framing process begins by creating all structural steel members in a fabrication shop. These members are then painted and delivered to the construction site, where they are bolted into place. This construction technique is preferred where possible, because lifting the steel members into place and bolting them together is faster than welding.
Light Gauge Steel Construction
This style of building is used in North America and parts of Europe for residential and small structures. This is comparable to wooden framed construction, except that light gauge steel members are used instead of two-by-fours and other structural members.
Pros and Cons of Steel Frame Construction
Expanded Design Options
The flexibility of steel construction is one of its most notable advantages for architects. It’s robust and long-lasting, and can be shaped to form curves in the structure of a building.
Fewer Interior Load Bearing Members Required
Steel frames provide many possibilities for interior layouts compared to conventional wood construction. Support beams are fewer, and allow for larger open areas and easier remodeling if an inside renovation is required.
Reduced Construction Time
Framing materials are frequently built off-site, delivered, and erected quickly in order to minimize inconvenience for people in the neighborhood, minimize labor expenses, and expedite project completion. This accelerates the return on investment since it helps keep the project within budget and ahead of schedule to provide a quicker return.
One of the most significant issues currently facing the construction industry is environmental sustainability. The harm that discarded materials cause to our planet and natural resources increases with the growth of the population and the need for more residential housing and commercial structures. Steel conserves natural resources by approximately 30% and may be reused when a structure is demolished.
Greater Flexibility Under Stress
Steel framing provides greater safety than wood. Its sophisticated engineering structure and criteria requires less fire protection. It can flex during earthquakes, often avoiding the destruction of the building during these events. This equals greater safety and protection for the occupants and owners of the buildings.
The main issue with steel construction is that it is less energy efficient. Steel is more conductive than wood, resulting in heat flowing quickly through the walls. Residents may notice their energy bills are higher, and given current energy prices, this is a major concern for many businesses and homeowners. There are strategies you can employ to counteract heat loss in order to make the facility more efficient. Insulation boards can be wrapped around the beams to minimize heat loss, while cavity wall insulation can be utilized to increase its efficiency.
Is Steel Framing for Commercial Structures Only?
Building with steel has been confined to the commercial construction segment for decades. The primary reason is cost; wood has been cheaper than steel until recently. In addition, the skills and equipment required to build with steel have been exclusive to commercial use. Residential builders and their trades have been comfortable with wood.
However, changes on the supply side of the lumber market have made steel more attractive to builders of both residential and light commercial projects. As homebuilders are becoming familiar with steel construction, they are realizing the advantages of its strength, low weight, rapid construction time, and large span construction ability. These benefits result in greater profitability and happier customers. Steel framing is still the preferred method of construction for:
- High-rise condominiums
- Industrial buildings
- Warehouse facilities
- Temporary buildings