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Pros and Cons Of Steel Frame Buildings


Thinking about a steel frame building project?

Before you embark on the journey of buying a steel frame building, it’s important that your questions are answered so you fully understand the pros and cons. Should you use steel? Should you use wood? Are steel buildings stronger than wood?

In this article, we will provide a transparent, non-biased outline of both the advantages and disadvantages so you can make an informed decision on what type of building is best for you.

But first, what actually are steel frame buildings?

What are steel-frame buildings?

Steel frame buildings are structures that are made predominantly of steel beams and columns. There is a steel frame (the load-bearing part of the building) which is built upon a solid concrete base.
The walls of the building can be made from materials such as steel, concrete, plastic or glass.

There are different types of steel buildings but there are two common types of structural steel:

  • Hot rolled steel – Typically used for large, clear-span buildings. This is because hot rolled steel sections are thicker and heavier, allowing for cranes and heavy equipment to be attached to the building frame.
  • Cold rolled steel – The most cost-effective type of steel used, offering a high strength-to-weight ratio. With it being lightweight, strong and relatively easy to install, it has dominated the steel market.

Why is steel a good building material?

You might be wondering “why is steel a good building material” or “why is steel used in buildings?

Steel has dominated the market over the last 20 years for many reasons, most of which we’ll cover below. Steel has consistently had a 90%+ market share for single-storey industrial buildings and 65% for multi-storey.

But mainly because of its:

  • Durability
  • Affordability
  • Sustainability

Let’s dive into the main benefits of steel buildings, as well as the key disadvantages.

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What are the pros and cons of steel-frame buildings?

First, let’s run through the main advantages of steel buildings.

Advantages of steel framed buildings

Strength & durability – Steel is stronger than wood and concrete, even though it’s lighter in weight. The strength of steel means that it can withstand extreme conditions and carry more load without any worry. In fact, steel boasts the greatest strength-to-weight ratio of any commonly used building material. Once your building is erected, you won’t ever have to worry about it.

Versatility – Steel buildings can come in many forms, shapes and sizes. There really is no limit to what you can build. Whether you’re looking for a small home garage, a large industrial office building or an open-span agricultural building, it won’t be an issue with steel. Also, since steel parts are bolted together, they can also be unbolted, meaning you have huge amounts of flexibility should you need to alter the layout, extend or otherwise change your building going forward.

Sustainable – Steel is an incredibly sustainable material. During the manufacturing process, there is very little waste. Then once it has been made, it’s 100% recyclable, meaning it can be recycled forever. No matter how many times it is used, as long as there is no significant damage, it can be re-used as much as required without losing its quality. Also, because of its lighter weight, it requires less fuel during transportation.

Construction speed – Steel buildings are remarkably fast to erect. Prefabricated steel components are delivered in a flat pack along with all the drawings required. It is then down to the customer as to whether they want to self-build, employ a steel erector or have Vanguard Steel Buildings manage the erection.

Affordable – Despite the incredible strength steel is up to 30-50% lighter than wood or concrete. This makes it relatively easy to install, reducing labour costs and thus the overall steel building cost. It’s also lightweight which helps to bring down the shipping and transportation costs.

Low Maintenance – Due to the nature of steel frame buildings, they are incredibly low maintenance which means you aren’t going to have to worry about your building once it’s up.

They are resistant to things such as:

  • Corrosion and rust (due to the galvanisation process)
  • Mould
  • Pests and insects
  • Fire
  • Weather and moisture

There are a huge number of benefits to steel frame buildings. They’re affordable to purchase, can be constructed quickly and will last for decades without maintenance… what’s not to love?

Well, as with anything, there are also disadvantages to owning a steel-framed building.

Let’s look at some of those.

Disadvantages of steel frame buildings

Thermal conductivity – Steel is a heat conductor, meaning it can get pretty chilly in cold weather. Depending on what you plan on using your building for, you will need to consider insulating it. The good news is that insulation is affordable and easy to install. Insulation will also help to reduce the energy requirements of the building, lowering any potential heating costs.

Reduced on-site flexibility – Once steel is on site, it can’t be altered. This means all measurements and drawings need to be precisely calculated in advance. Compare this with the likes of timber which can easily be cut down and adjusted to fit if required. At Vanguard Steel Buildings, we have state-of-the-art engineering software which means all of our buildings are calculated with 100% accuracy before the order is placed.

Condensation – Steel buildings can be susceptible to condensation as in any mental building. But this is easily fixed with a few adjustments such as: getting the correct insulation installed, increasing the building’s ventilation, using dehumidifiers or using an anti-condensation roof panel.

As you can see, the benefits of steel frame buildings massively outweigh the negatives.

Despite that, it’s still important to understand the downfalls so you can make the best possible decision for you.

One of the questions we often get asked when discussing the pros and cons of steel buildings is “how long does a steel building last?

How long does a steel building last?

There’s no exact answer as to how long steel buildings last, as there are so many variables to take into account. But if a building has been constructed soundly and is looked after well, it will last decades and decades.

To improve the longevity of your steel building, it’s important to look after them. Things you can do to make them last longer are:

  • Cleaning
  • Painting
  • Roofs & guttering
  • Fix minor damage
  • Work with a supplier that provides a guarantee

At Vanguard Steel Buildings, we offer a 20-year guarantee on all of our buildings. Our buildings are strong, durable and constructed to withstand corrosion, mould, vermin and extreme weather events.

But we understand that sometimes things can go wrong for whatever reason, so we provide a guarantee to all our customers. If anything goes wrong with their building, we will fix it.

Request a free quote

Sold on the benefits of steel frame buildings? Whether you are or aren’t, request a free quote with us today. We promise to get a no-obligation quote back to you within 6 working hours as well as answer any questions you might have. That way you’ll have an even better understanding of whether a steel-framed building is right for you.


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