The Advantages of Structural Steel

Advantages of Structural Steel

During the 17th Century, steel first became a frequently used material; however, is was not until the 19th Century with the development of efficient production methods such as the Bessemer process, that steel became mass produced in a cost effective manor.

Today, with the steady improvements to the metal’s quality and production process, steel has become one of the most common materials used across the world and plays a critical role in important industries including the automotive, construction and transportation sectors. Because steel is so integrated in infrastructural development, the industry is often looked as a gauge for overall economic progress in a country.

Steel is an alloy, or combination, of iron and carbon. Depending on the purpose of the material, different combinations of alloys and ratios are formulated for varying types of steel. Characteristics such as strength, durability and temperature resistance can be crafted based on production method and materials used in an alloy.

For the construction of large buildings and structures such as stadiums, skyscrapers and bridges, structural steel is typically employed for the supporting skeletons. Structural steel can also be used in conjunction with concrete and wood for additional reinforcement in a structure. Because of the safety ramifications associated with construction, there are specific standards and regulations established for the structural steel industry. The correct shape, size, composition and storage of structural steel are all specified in these regulations.

The most common structural steel shapes include the I-beam, the HSS-Shape (hollow structural section), the angle, the channel and the tee. Structural steel bars, rods and plates are also generic steel construction sections. Standard steel beams are formed either by a rolling method (hot, cold or extrusion) or a welding method. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established the US structural steel standards and identification system. Each label begins with an “A” and is then followed by two, three or four numbers that classify the material by alloy type, strength, corrosion resistance and other characteristics.

Structural steel and concrete are often compared in the construction industry. The primary factor that affects the preference of concrete over steel and vice versa is the cost of raw materials. It also should be noted that the two materials are regularly used together. However, there are several important advantages of structural steel. A better strength to weight ratio is found in steel structures than in Reinforced concrete cement (RCC) structures. Additionally structural steel can be broken down easily and even reused at times due to the bolted connections used in steel structures.

Many of the assets of structural steel are also outlined by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association that strives to make steel the American construction industry’s material of choice. The AISC sets many of the structural steel quality standards and has issued crucial industry resources such as the Specification for Steel Buildings and the Manual of Steel Construction. Members of the AISC are found in every sector of the industry ranging from students to steel fabricators to contractors. With leading organizations such as the AISC, the  structural steel community continues to grow and innovate daily.

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