So much of what you read about construction pits two resources against one another: steel vs. wood or steel vs. concrete. But some of the most beautiful and innovative projects combine materials to take advantage of the best of both. Here’s what’s best about each and how they can be successfully paired.
With its ability to stand up to high winds and even earthquakes, steel is incredibly weather durable, making it ideal for regions susceptible to hurricanes. Because steel beams can be fabricated off-site and shipped in when ready to be erected, one of the benefits of steel construction is that projects can move more quickly. Steel framing is also easier to coordinate because steel studs weigh about one-third less than wood studs. Steel is 100% recyclable and, as of 2012, about 80 million tons of steel is recycled annually. All new steel products made from recycled steel can also then be recycled again at the end of their useful lives. Steel is durable, saves you money in construction projects and is lighter than wood. So, how do they work together?
Steel and Wood
A building material in use for centuries, wood is relatively lightweight and easy to modify to meet the needs of the construction project. While it is more vulnerable to damage from water, fire, pests, and decay, it offers strength, insulation, and beauty. Wood grain can be one of the most compelling surfaces in the natural world, with nuanced textures and colors coming together to create a mesmerizing surface. Some woods are ideal for their appearance or insulation; others are better used for acoustics and sound absorption preventing echo and noise. For this reason, wood is widely used in concert halls. Responsibly-sourced wood is renewable; forests will regrow and provide a range of benefits such as carbon storage, oxygen generation and habitat.
Steel and Concrete
Concrete is inexpensive and widely available. Because of its bulk and mass, buildings constructed with reinforced concrete can resist winds of more than 200 miles per hour and perform well during both natural and manmade disasters. As a bad conductor of heat, concrete can store a considerable amount of warmth from the environment. This also makes it more fire-resistant than wood and a good pairing with steel. Concrete can be cast on-site into a variety of shapes by adjusting the form and mix meaning it can be used for countertops, floors and other decorative applications. When paired with steel in construction, concrete can take on an architectural style that is decidedly modern and durable.
Steel and Glass
One of the oldest and most enduring construction materials, glass has come a long way since its early uses in ancient Pompeii as luxury window panes. Today, glass is used in multiple ways in construction beyond windows including facades, bridges, staircases, floor slabs, and more. By adding a lining of PVB or EVA, shatterproof glass is made to break into large, dull pieces rather than the shower of razor-sharp shards that normal glass does. Like steel, glass is also highly recyclable and is one of the most “green” construction materials available. Glass pairs beautifully with the flexibility of steel and the combination has yielded some of the most striking modern construction in the last 100 years.
Without steel, concrete, and glass, we wouldn’t have most of the modern skyscrapers of the last century: the UN Building, Lever House and the Seagram Tower in New York. Steel, LLC also wouldn’t have some of the beautiful buildings we’ve played a part in constructing such as the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, Baha Mar Resort & Convention Center in Nassau, Bahamas, Marriott Marquis hotel in Atlanta, or the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. These projects have been some of our favorites and most rewarding. If you’re interested in learning more about how steel can benefit your next project, please get in touch with one of our experts today.