Not all buildings are made entirely from brick, in fact, buildings with metal frames are surprisingly common. They are particularly useful as they can usually be erected much faster and more cheaply than brick builds so are a popular choice for commercial projects. These buildings consist of a metal skeleton framework, with horizontal and vertical beams to provide support.
This construction method is rapidly becoming more popular in the commercial sector, but is also common in the civil and residential sectors too. As with all kinds of construction, this method does come with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. This article will discuss these points objectively and assess the pros and cons.
Advantages of metal frame construction
This kind of construction is particularly suited to creating large, simple structures in a relatively short time frame. Warehouses, garages, office buildings, and agricultural buildings are often designed in this way, and even high rise buildings can be made from a metal frame.
Buildings with steel frames are extremely durable, as the metal is highly shock resistant and has an impressive load capacity. The tensile strength of steel allows it to bend slightly with pressure rather than breaking, so buildings can be very long lasting. Modern factories, schools, and even some residential properties have been made using steel frames very successfully.
Another advantage of metal framed buildings is that they are much more affordable to erect than brick buildings. Steel is a relatively inexpensive building material and it is easily sourced in high volumes. As the beams are formed in a molten state, they can be made bespoke for almost any project requirements without becoming too expensive. Parts can be rapidly fabricated to the exact specifications needed off site, and then moved on site ready for installation. They are simple and cheap to transport, and reduce the overall volume of materials needed when compared to buildings of the same size made from brick or stone.
Some building materials such as concrete are notoriously bad for the environment, and sustainability is another area that gives metal frame buildings an advantage over the other types commonly designed. Reclaimed and recycled steel can be reworked to create steel frame buildings to an impressively high specification. Steel from these buildings can also be easily recycled to create other goods once the building reaches the end of its life.
Steel buildings have the advantage of being highly resistant to fire damage, making them some of the safest buildings to live and work in. This in effect makes it harder for a fire to take hold, and if one does, the spread and damage are usually limited by steel’s fire retardant qualities.
Due to the lack of organic materials such as wood being present in steel builds, the resulting buildings have an innate resistance to damage from pest infestation and the damaging effects of mould and rot. Steel completely resists the efforts of burrowing insects which can wreak havoc on buildings constructed with wooden components, especially those which have not been thoroughly treated prior to installation.
Disadvantages of metal frame buildings
While they do have a range of impressive advantages, the disadvantages of metal framed buildings should not be ignored. Steel is known to be a poor conductor of heat, so it stays cold even when ambient temperatures are warm. In hot weather this is not usually a problem, but in the UK’s cold winters it can mean that these buildings are expensive to heat. Steel components can leach heat away from the building’s interior, which reduces its ability to retain heat, so careful attention should be paid to insulating the building against heat loss.
Steel frame structures often need structures to provide additional support to keep them stable. Drywall, sheathing, insulation, and wooden structures are all commonly used to provide this additional support, and they can easily ramp up the costs of construction. Without these the building would be unfit for use, and the additional considerations mean that some construction firms do not favour this technique. Adding these components also increases the length of time it takes to complete a project, which also must be taken into consideration when choosing metal framed structures over other kinds.