Structural Steel is increasingly playing an important role in residential housing construction. Offering versatility with impressive span capabilities providing large open plan living areas and creating the backbone for architectural features such as rolled and cantilevered roof lines.
Structural steel was once hidden away from view but in more recent times exposed structural steel members are becoming the main aesthetic feature in today’s modern designs.
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Benefits of Residential Structural Steel
Some of the more obvious advantages of incorporating structural steel into residential housing become achievable through the inherent strength of structural steel members that are readily available and competitively priced.
With steel beam depths typically half the depth of an equivalent timber beam, the increase in span enables fewer support posts and more useable space for living areas. Whether the structural steel is used internally or externally it will never rot, warp, shrink or be affected by termites.
If concealed steel is located close to a corrosive environment or if any steel is exposed to the weather then it is highly recommended that the entire member be hot dip galvanised after fabrication to prevent corrosion; this galvanising process is readily available in all capital cities and major regional towns.
Typical Uses of Structural Steel in Housing
When used in residential housing, structural steel replaces wooden frames with light-grade steel to create a stronger structure that will withstand many elements. Any homes (including renovations on those that are already standing) can be enhanced with this process, creating a more durable building that will last for years.
Structural steel is often used to create uniquely shaped homes that would be harder to produce with wooden counterparts. The strength and versatility of the structural steel allow architects to create masterpieces that would have previously been harder to build.
Advantages of a Steel Frame House
Structural steel can add several advantages to your home, including durability and additional design options. It is environmentally friendly, can be assembled quickly, and is often more affordable than traditional framing. Here are a few of the advantages that will benefit you.
1. Termite Resistant
According to CSIRO research, 1 in 3 Australian homes are vulnerable to termite infestation. It is estimated that these little creatures cause between $780 million and $1 billion worth of damage annually. Fortunately, structural steel is unappetizing to termites, making potential repairs more manageable.
2. Resistant to Natural Elements
Structural steel is resistant to damage caused by natural elements, such as fire, strong winds, or flooding. While other aspects of the home’s design may be affected, repairs will be substantially smaller compared to homes where structured framing would need to be rebuilt.
3. An Economical Choice
Frames built with structural steel can be constructed faster than wooden frames. Less labour means a reduced cost to your home. The lighter weight of the steel can also allow for a simpler foundation with fewer points of contact to the earth, minimizing the excavation and materials needed.
There are monetary benefits even after the construction process. Many insurance companies offer better rates for homes built with steel frames and the structure itself is more energy-efficient, lowering utility costs.
4. Freedom in Design
Structural steel is easier to shape as well as lighter than wood. It is also incredibly durable and strong, allowing builders to create buildings with unique designed that are aesthetically pleasing. The strength also allows for open-floor plans with larger windows than similar wooden structures.
5. Environmentally Friendly
Structures made from steel are generally designed to be more energy-efficient, which greatly impacts the environment. It is made from recyclable materials, meaning there is no left-over waste from a construction site. The current recovery rate of recycled steel in Australia is around 90%.
As an added bonus, the fact that structural steel is lighter than wood (and requires lower maintenance), there are reduced fuel costs when transporting the materials to the construction site.
Residential Structural Steel Project Procedure
For close to 20 years Network Steel has been in the business of integrating structural steel into timber-framed homes as leading structural steel fabricators; the extent of the structural steel content can vary dramatically depending upon the complexity of the home design.
For example we work with the majority of South East Queensland’s most prominent home builders & renovators, some who focus on single storey dwellings that may only require a single steel SHS support post or a quantity of timber post support bracket and others who target the two-story homes, multi-density unit development blocks or large architecturally designed residences.
Each type of project requiring a different approach to fulfilling the structural steel requirements ranging from a hand sketch on the back of a piece of fibro through to projects requiring cad detail drawings and project management of the structural package.
Following is the procedure that we undertake when approached by a project home builder who has come to us with an architecturally designed project containing multiple interconnecting steel beams & posts:
- Firstly, we require the builder to provide a full drawing package from the project engineer and architect.
- We then review the extent of the structural steel to ascertain if there is a sufficient quantity & complexity to warrant extensive CAD detail drawings or if an onsite measure/meeting with the site supervisor will suffice.
- Following this appraisal we then proceed to estimate the structural steel package, itemising the pricing structure as follows: Site measure and or Steel detailing drawings / fabricated steel members / protective coatings / cold formed purlins & joists / delivery & optional cranage & rigging.
- Following acceptance of our quote, we agree upon a lead time and lock in a date for either a site measure or commencement of steel detail drawings.
- Site measures are carried out under the guidance of the project supervisor to ensure that our steel integrates neatly with other building materials & contractors.
- CAD detailing is carried out by a draftsman who pieces together the requirements of both architect and engineer; conflicting information is dealt with by way of an RFI (Request For Information) these RFI’s are directed to the head contractor (builder) who liaises with architect & engineer to formulate responses to the RFI’s. Upon completion of the workshop drawings, the draftsman will submit a package of workshop drawings for engineers approval, following receipt of approval comments the draftsman finalises for construction drawings. Note that the steel detail process can be time-consuming and so it is recommended that this process is underway before any construction on site is commenced.
- Procurement of materials and workshop fabrications can now commence; followed by protective coatings Eg. Buff & prime coat to internal steel, hot dip galvanising to exposed steel. On larger projects, the delivery of structural steel can be staged to allow other contractors to progress Eg. Staged per level or staged per internal/external members.
- If our optional installation allowance is accepted then this will be carried out by qualified riggers & onsite welders, sometimes working in conjunction with the carpenters on those occasions where structural steel and timber framing is interconnecting.
- The structural steel package has now reached completion. Lead times for this process will vary due to the size & complexity of the project. As a rule site measures & hand sketches can be finalised within 1 week but larger projects requiring cad detail drawings can take up to 3 weeks pending answers to RFI’s & approval process; the procurement / fabrication & prime coat can usually be finalised within 2 weeks; galvanising requirements can take up to 2 weeks and the optional installation process can generally be completed in less than 1 week.
Whether you have a requirement for a couple of steel beams, a handful of steel posts, or if you have a major project heavily laden with structural steel members we at Network Steel have the experience to fulfil your needs.