Structural steel is heavy steel (with regard to its chemical composition and properties) which is formed into construction components (i.e.: H-beams, I-beams, T-beams). These components are incorporated into structural frames as load bearing members for building and heavy construction projects. The size, shape, tensile strength, composition, integrity, and other elements of structural steel forms are standardized, regulated, and controlled.
Beneficial Impacts of Structural Steel
Structural steel is commonly used for beams, columns, and building and bridge skeletons. It is the material of choice due to its numerous construction efficiency, safety, durability, and overall cost benefits:
- Constructability / Productivity – Structural steel is fabricated, inspected, and tested off-site to standard specifications. The materials are delivered to project sites for immediate use. This process supports the construction schedule and improves construction productivity. Structural steel components are bolted, welded, or tied together in construction.
- Strength – Structural steel is one of the most commonly used materials in commercial and industrial construction due to its high strength-to-weight, stiffness, robustness, and ductile properties. Other materials fail to meet the strength of structural steel even when they are reinforced. For example, structural steel has a yield stress of 50,000 psi (pounds per square inch) in both compression and tension, compared to high-strength concrete that has a compressive yield stress of 12 – 15 ksi (kilopounds per square inch).
- Sustainability – Structural steel is fully recyclable and can be reused without further processing. The only water used in the production of structural steel is make-up water added to a closed loop recycling process. No water is used in fabrication or discharged into the environment.
- Fire Resistance – Structural steel is noncombustible. However, when used in high-rise construction, in accordance with the IBC (International Building Code), the steel must be enveloped in fire-resistant materials. Fire resistant material used to envelope steel is typically water resistant.
- Anti-Corrosive – Structural steel does tend to corrode when it is in contact with water. The result is loss of structural integrity and a potentially dangerous structure. To reduce the potential for corrosion and its effects, structural steel is typically blasted, primed, and painted.
- Mold- and Mildew-Proof – Structural steel is ideally used in moist, porous environments where mold and mildew propagate (typically in residential buildings). Steel studs minimize infestations.
- Cost Efficiency – Structural steel remains the most cost efficient compared to other comparable framing and support systems. For example, a structural steel framing system (including decking and fire protection) typically costs 5% – 7% less than a concrete framing system.
- Design Flexibility – Structural steel accommodates the multiple purposes of function and form / design. The intent of a building design, for example, may be maintained while meeting structural compliance requirements. Structural steel buildings may be more easily modified to accommodate revised load conditions, vertical / horizontal expansion, and configurations that other framing systems cannot accommodate.