Steel Construction: Stronger, Faster, Safer!!
In the wake of a 7.6 Richter Scale earthquake that claimed the lives of over 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria and flash floods that ravaged entire towns in and around Kedarnath (India), the spotlight is clearly on the quality materials used for construction. Experts have indicted them as the main culprits for the catastrophic tragedies pointing to evidence that buildings made of reinforced concrete (RCC) are relatively more vulnerable than those made of structural steel in the face of natural disasters.
Investigations have revealed that a great deal of devastation caused by earthquakes such as the ones that rocked Turkey and Syria or by other natural calamities could be prevented if buildings are constructed with structural steel frames instead of RCC alone. In response to the disaster that ripped through Turkey, its government has ordered a complete review of construction practices and materials used, acknowledging the need for safer and more resilient building materials.
Across the developed world structural steel is rapidly replacing RCC as the construction material of choice because of this and several other of its inherent advantages. The US, Europe and Japan already utilise steel in up to 65% of their constructions, with a trend toward even higher usage. While the initial cost of steel buildings may be higher by 15-20%, the savings accrued from reduced project management costs and much faster revenue returns due to shorter construction times make steel construction far more economical in the long run.
Steel is extremely strong and resistant to corrosion, weathering, and fire, making it ideal for use in harsh environments or areas prone to natural disasters. This durability ensures that steel structures have a longer lifespan than RCC structures, which can be more prone to cracking and degradation over time.
Steel also offers greater flexibility in architectural design as it can be easily moulded and shaped to create intricate and complex designs, making it a popular choice for iconic landmarks such as bridges, skyscrapers, and stadiums. Steel’s flexibility also allows for greater versatility in building layouts and configurations, as it can be easily adapted to changing needs and requirements. Also, since it is highly recyclable, building with steel is a sustainable and eco-friendly choice. It reduces waste and conserves natural resources. Additionally, because of their higher thermal conductivity steel structures help reduce heating and cooling costs making them energy efficient.
Structural steel construction is environmentally clean with negligible involvement of polluting materials such as sand and gravel. This is of particular significance to pollution-prone cities like Delhi, where construction work is repeatedly suspended winter after toxic winter to contain pollution.
Furthermore, the use of structural steel is particularly advantageous for fast developing countries like India, where most of the steel used is produced domestically. This allows for the construction of towering structures like the Burj Al Khalifa, especially in major metropolitan areas where space is limited. By utilizing steel, a significant amount of affordable commercial and storage space can be created.
Here are some recent advances in structural steel technology that have further enhanced its advantages over traditional RCC construction:
- High-Strength Steel: Advances in metallurgy have led to the development of high-strength steel, which has a higher yield strength than traditional steel. This means that less material is required to achieve the same strength, leading to even greater cost savings and faster construction times.
- 3D Printing: 3D printing technology has been applied to structural steel, allowing for the creation of complex shapes and designs with greater precision and accuracy. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry by reducing waste and increasing efficiency.
- Corrosion-resistant Coatings: Corrosion is a major concern in steel construction, but recent advances in coating technology have led to the development of corrosion-resistant coatings that can protect steel from the elements and extend its lifespan. These coatings also reduce the need for maintenance and repair, further reducing the overall cost of steel construction.
- Fire-resistant Steel: Steel is already highly resistant to fire, but advances in technology have led to the development of even more fire-resistant steel. This technology involves adding special coatings to the steel to enhance its fire resistance, making it an even safer and more durable choice for construction.
- Sustainable Production Methods: Steel production is a major source of carbon emissions, but recent advances in production methods have led to the development of more sustainable steel production techniques. For example, electric arc furnaces, which use recycled scrap metal to produce new steel, are more energy-efficient and produce fewer emissions than traditional blast furnaces.
To sum up, structural steel offers numerous advantages over traditional RCC construction in modern architectural design. Steel is cost-effective, durable, flexible, and sustainable, making it an ideal choice for a wide range of construction projects. Architects and designers can take advantage of steel’s unique properties to create innovative and iconic structures that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.