Whether you live in a city or a more rural countryside, you’ve probably seen new constructions being built with huge metal beams sprawling across the ground. Sure metal seems stronger than wood or stone, but there’s more to these steel structures than simple strength. Here are 4 clever safety features of steel building you probably don’t know.
1- Fire Resistance
The vast majority of skyscrapers, office complexes, and even commercial warehouse spaces are all made from steel structures. These buildings are typically classified as Type 1 or 2 constructions under NFPA 220, otherwise known as the National Fire Protection Association. These constructions are made of entirely non-combustible materials that help ensure that only the contents of the building can burn and the structure itself will not.
Steel has a much greater resistance to fire than traditional wooden structures and has a melting point of over 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. To enhance its fire resistance, steel structures are coated with a layer of spray on concrete or other types of masonry to further increase its ability to withstand heat.
2- Advanced Technologies
New technologies are being adapted to steel buildings to provide more protection than simply against fires. Earthquakes, in particular, are a problem in both Los Angeles and across the world. One earthquake could wreak havoc on a city and towering skyscrapers would seemingly topple with ease. In fact, steel structures are able to bend and flex slightly. This allows skyscrapers to sway and actually move with an earthquake, preventing cracks or any loss of stability.
Newer buildings are being built on top of rubber or metal ball bearing systems that actually allow the entire building to move and shake back and forth in place in the event of an earthquake. Other designs include massive dampeners built into the building foundations that absorb the energy from earthquakes so that the building itself remains unharmed. This is an important feature, especially in crowded cities where buildings are packed tightly together, so if one were to fall it won’t damage surrounding areas.
3- Protection Against Nature
Aside from fire and earthquakes, steel structures are inherently strong against nature itself. Steel is lightweight but extremely strong under both compression and tension. This makes steel structures perfect for wind, rain, and other natural events. A steel building can withstand upwards of 150mph winds that would easily uproot traditional wood frame and slab structures.
Pests are another problem common to wooden buildings. Luckily, steel is highly resistant to bugs and pests. Insects live in and consume wooden materials, but not steel and concrete do not provide suitable habits for these common pests. Many homeowners know that they’ll need to rebuild that deck, spray for termites, and deal with wood eating bugs every season. Steel structures do not have to worry about any of these annual upkeeps.
4- Stand The Test of Time
While steel is strong against the elements and nature, it is even resilient to time itself. Wood can decay and lose structural rigidity in just a few years depending on exposure. Steel can last for potentially hundreds of years. Even steel sheeting used for roofing can last upwards of 40 years, while other roofing materials such as wood or tar shingles need to be replaced in as few as 10 years.
Maintenance and repair is another area where steel structures excel. Steel is essentially maintenance proof and rarely needs to be replaced or repaired. Wooden structures require painting, staining, and other waterproofing in order to withstand the elements. However, certain types of steel are inherently rust proof and weather resistant. Whereas catastrophic events such as fires or earthquakes would require wooden structures to be rebuilt, many steel buildings can simply be inspected and possibly repaired before being fit for service again.
Whether you’re a contractor, engineer, or simply interested in buildings, knowing the advantages of steel can be an interesting field to delve into. Fire safety, protection against pests, and the ability to withstand the elements of nature all make steel structures significantly stronger than other building materials.