Statistically speaking, steel building construction is one of the most popular types of building construction overall. The combination of steel’s versatility and durability means that it’s an ideal fit both for conventional residential/commercial structures and more specialized structures like bridges. For contractors looking to delve into steel building construction for the first time, you must have a clear understanding of the basics first. This means deciding what steel building construction you’re going to specialize in as well as how to go about the process.
Your Steel Building Construction Type Options
First, let’s discuss some of the main types of steel building options available. Because of steel’s flexibility, there are several different variants that you can use.
Plain Carbon/Mild Steel
Plain carbon/mild steel is the most common type of steel used for building construction, and its hallmark is its durability. Not only is it able to endure heavy pressure and impact with no cracks, but it is also flexible and ductile. There is also the variant of low carbon steel. This is easier to handle, but you want to be mindful of fire protection as it becomes weaker at extremely high temperatures.
The chances are that you’ve seen rebar steel in plenty of situations, but it isn’t designed to function on its own. Instead, it’s used to create additional tension for either reinforced concrete or reinforced masonry. Rebar steel is made from carbon steel with ridges added to better anchor in the concrete. The steel, in turn, helps hold the concrete in a compressive state. There are various types of rebar steel available, from epoxy-coated bars to chromium to stainless steel. Each of these is generally the ideal option for one situation or another.
We’ve covered structural steel quite a bit on this blog, but it’s always a good idea to have a refresher. These steel components are made from a specific cross-section, designed to follow key standards for chemical makeup and mechanical properties. These generally become individual components like I-beams, Z-shapes, and structural channels. Like other steel components, it is incredibly durable, but care needs to be given to corrosion and extreme heat.
In addition, let’s also profile some of the major types of steel buildings that you are likely to see. These standard frames are some of the first projects that a novice steel contractor is expected to encounter.
Arch buildings: These buildings have a self-supporting structure without any interior columns, trusses, or beams. The sheeting on the exterior serves as a wall, ceiling, and roof. These are generally favored due to their ease of assembly.
Single-span rigid frames: These structures are made with a beam providing support at either frame. The main benefit of this option is creating an unobstructed covered space without the need for interior columns. Your average single-span building can be up to 120 feet wide. If you are willing to use tapered or straight columns, it can go even more expansive.
Multi-span rigid frames: These use beams and pillars, just like single-span construction. However, by implementing columns for interior support, they can provide nearly unlimited strength. Columns in these structures are generally placed wherever necessary, hidden inside the walls. These become necessary when you need a larger interior space, and columns aren’t an issue. A bulk of the residential or commercial steel structures out there are multi-span out of necessity.
The Steel Building Construction Process
So, when you settle on one of these options, what’s the actual steel building construction process? This generally starts with something called steel fabrication. Steel fabrication is the process of turning raw materials into the final component that gets moved onto a job site. Typically, this begins with the architect/client for a project. They will generally provide blueprints of what the final structure should look like and individual components that need to be made. These can range from general items to more specific ones, like beams with a unique size or aesthetic elements. The steel fabricator generally works off the job site to make this a reality.
This begins with using specialized software to create shop drawings that specify how to make every single component. These are designed to meet the client wants in terms of specification and budget and will be reviewed before moving onto the next stage. When everyone approves of the shop drawings, the fabricator then actually creates all the individual components.
When each piece is created, they are then transported to the job site for the actual component. Steel erectors are tasked with following the initial blueprints to ensure that the steel structural components are appropriately put in place and secured, often to the inch. This is generally accomplished through heavy lifting equipment like cranes and precise measuring tools to set the pieces in place. In some cases, the fabrication is done on-site, but this is generally less efficient.
Steel building construction is an essential but complex process from the contractor’s end. You need to make sure that you follow the steel building construction process to the letter, while also working to keep prices down with your actual steel building construction materials. Combine this with the effort of having to track your employees, and it can be not easy to see the job done to an effective conclusion.
This makes it essential for you to have the tools you need to reinforce your work in steel building construction. This doesn’t necessarily mean just the basic physical tools that you use on an everyday basis or even the software for fabrication. Instead, you need to take a look at project management software like eSub. Financial tools will make sure your steel building construction cost matches projections. Employee and equipment tracking make sure that your progress matches your timeline.