Advantages of Steel

Why Designers & Owners Choose Structural Steel:

The selection of structural steel for a building’s framing system brings numerous benefits to a project. All other materials are measured against the standard of structural steel and structural steel is still the material of choice. These benefits include:

Speed of Construction

Structural steel enhances construction productivity because of its shop fabrication while maintaining tight construction tolerances. Field placed material will always lag behind...

3-D interoperability and Building Information Modeling allows the close cooperation between designers and steel specialty contractors in the design, fabrication and erection of steel structures. This technology allows designs to save both time and dollars in the construction process.

Rapid erection in all seasons with close tolerances being maintained for integration with other building systems and minimal construction site waste is achievable with structural steel.

Lower Project Costs

Today, when competing framing systems are evaluated for projects using comparable, current cost data, structural steel remains the cost leader for the majority of construction projects. Comparative studies indicate that a structural steel framing system including decking and fire protection will typically cost 5% to 7% less than a concrete framing system on a national basis.

Aesthetic Appeal

Architects praise the natural beauty of steel and are excited about exposing it in the design of their structures to emphasize grace, slenderness, strength and transparency of frame.

Structural steel allows the project architect a greater degree of expression and creativity in their design than most other construction materials.

Structural steel sections can be bent and rolled to create non-linear members to further enhance the aesthetic appeal of the structure.

High Strength

All other materials talk about high strength, but their strength is still less than that of structural steel even when enhanced by steel reinforcing. In fact, the increase in the standard strength of steel used in buildings today compared to 10 years ago is greater than the total strength of competing “high strength” materials. Structural steel is typically 50 ksi material indicating that the steel has a yield stress of 50,000 pounds per square inch in both compression and tension.


Sustainability is structural steel’s middle name. Structural steel is the most recycled material on our planet – today’s structural steel is made of 88% recycled product, is fully recyclable in the future and can be reused without further processing.

The recycling rate of structural steel and automobiles at the end of their life is greater than 100%. Rather than utilizing land for quarrying operations to provide aggregates or as landfills for construction material waste, structural steel is emptying salvage yards allowing that land to be used for other purposes.

Today demolitions are often paying for the opportunity to demolish and scrap a structural steel framed building because of the value of the structural steel. By contrast buildings using other materials cost between $3 and $10 per square foot to demolish, scrap and landfill.


New systems such as Girder-Slab®, Conxtech® and Side-Plate® have recently entered the market in response to designer demands for new approaches to projects. They join ongoing innovations addressing issues such as long-span deck systems, fire protection, connection optimization, coating systems and progressive collapse!

The structural steel industry continues to pioneer new innovations for both the material and the use of structural steel.

The structural steel industry pioneered the movement toward open standards and interoperable software that has most recently resulted in the growth in popularity of Building Information Modeling. In 1990’s the industry adopted CIS/2 as a standard data protocol for the exchange of information between structural design, detailing and manufacturing/fabrication programs. The result was that software programs from different vendors were suddenly able to exchange model based information beyond simple geometry. Projects taking advantage of this vertical integration within the structural steel industry were able to demonstrate cost savings of up to 20% on the structural package.


Structural steel buildings can be modified in the future for new applications, loading conditions, vertical expansions and changes in owner desires in ways that other framing systems can never accomplish.

Existing steel columns and beams can be strengthened through the attachment of steel plate to the flanges or web of sections allowing for greater loads. New stairways can be added to existing steel framed buildings by removing a portion of the floor decking, bracing a single bay and adding the desired stair structure. These types of changes can be accomplished with little disruption while the building is still occupied.

It is not unusual for a structural steel building to have additional floors added even years after the building was originally completed.


Structural steel buildings optimize building space efficiency through the use of slender columns maximizing useable floor space, longer spans for open, column-free spaces and the integration of HVAC systems into structural spaces allowing reduction of floor-to-floor heights.

The typical steel column occupies 75% less floor space than an equivalent concrete column. At the same time structural steel allows longer spans that eliminate intermediate columns creating open floor areas ideal for today’s office layouts.

Parking structures benefit from smaller structural steel columns and longer spans as well.

Reliable and Predictable

Structural steel is manufactured and fabricated under controlled conditions using modern quality assurance processes. The final strength of the material is verified at the point of production, not after the material is already placed in the frame of the building. Structural steel is shop fabricated to close tolerances impossible for site cast materials.

Article Courtesy of Great Lakes Fabricators & Erectors Association