Structural steel is the material of choice in most of the world’s major construction markets. In the UK steel commands a market share of almost 70%1. In the USA this figure is around 60%2. Here in New Zealand, steel’s market share is over 50%3, and growing.
Why build in steel?
Steel presents a compelling case from both a technical and an economic perspective.
- The cost of structural steel solutions is similar to concrete and lower than timber
- Investment in fabrication technology and workshops, and the modern approach of simple bolted connections, has improved productivity in New Zealand’s structural steel industry
- Overall construction programmes for multi-level commercial projects using structural steel are generally 10-15% shorter compared to other materials; thanks to the efficiency of off-site manufacturing and fabrication, and ‘just in time’ deliveries
- Faster construction by fewer people and in any weather means equipment and personnel can be released sooner for other projects; and less on-site cost
- Critical operations such as welding and coating can be executed effectively off-site
- Steel is light weight, meaning foundations can be less substantial and cheaper
- In a multi-storey situation, lower-level fitouts can commence sooner; leading to earlier occupation and rental streams for the building owner.
- Industry-led Steel Fabricator Certification (SFC) scheme ensures compliance, and removes risk for procurers and specifiers
- Structural steel is manufactured in New Zealand under tightly controlled factory conditions and is rigorously tested before it leaves the factory
- A technology-led and highly automated design and manufacturing process results in precision products.
- Thanks to steel’s superior strength-to-weight ratio, long-span beams allow large column-free spaces, providing flexibility in the floorplan
- Steel is easily modified if changes are needed during installation
- Steel-framed buildings are future-proof because major alterations, such as the addition of new floors, are easily made
- Steel’s ‘buildability’ allows a smooth transition from architectural concept to engineering design.
- Steel is one of the world’s most recycled materials. In the UK, 99% of structural steel produced will be recycled and re-used in its lifetime
- It can be dismantled and removed from one building and altered and installed in another endlessly, without compromising its properties
- Because it is manufactured and fabricated to exact specifications, minimal waste is produced
- A Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry-commissioned report demonstrated that, on a whole-of-life basis, steel’s environmental performance compares favourably to other materials such as concrete and timber
- Optimal thermal performance over a 24-hour period is achieved using only a 100mm-thick floor slab. All forms of steel-concrete composite construction meet this requirement.
- Steel is a proven performer in seismic and fire events: modern multi-level steel-framed buildings in Christchurch were passed fit for re-occupation following the February 2011 earthquake with no structural repair necessary
- New Zealand academics and engineers are leading the way in the development of new low-damage seismic-resisting steel systems
- Because steel is delivered to the building site pre-assembled, fewer people and less time are required to install it, meaning fewer workplace accidents.
NZi3 Innovation Institute, Christchurch
SCNZ design support
We offer a preliminary design support service, which is free to all building specifiers. SCNZ works alongside your design team to explore the best steel options for your building or infrastructure project, feeding our expertise into your process. Click here for more information.
1 Source: British Constructional Steelwork Association.
2 Source: American Institute of Steel Construction.
3 BRANZ report: Structural steel use trends.