Concrete vs. Steel: Which One Is Superior

There are many aspects to be considered in a construction project. Finding the best solution in terms of material and process selection is the key to obtain desired results in the end of your project.

In this article, we have made a comparison between concrete and structural steel by investigating cons and pros of each of them.

Cost

Concrete: Prices of concrete does not vary a lot in time. This is a strong advantage in terms of economical aspect. Besides, concrete material requires maintenance and repairing. It causes maintenance costs throughout its lifecycle. Supply/demand ratio can have an impact on the availability. Concrete is poured and used on-site, however, the curing takes longer hours which could add into labor workhours, thus costs increase.

Structural Steel: Most of the steel produced today is coming from recycling operations. Recycled materials are much cheaper compared to others. Fluctuations on the price of steels can occur but it is usually a cheaper option against concrete.

Strength

Concrete: This composite material is made out of gravel, cement, sand and water. Compressive strength of concrete is high, but its tensile strength is very low. It must contain steel reinforcement to enhance tensile strength, elasticity and ductility.

Structural Steel: This material has very high toughness and ductility. These properties of structural steel enable them to be utilized in serious building applications in which high amount of loads are present.

Resistance to Fire.

Concrete: The concrete is naturally a fire resistant material. There is no need for additional processes to make it fire resistant. This property makes concrete compatible with International Building Codes (IBC). Many other materials used in buildings have no resistance to fire. Builders should follow all safety standards during construction process in order to prevent undesired consequences.

Structural Steel: It is obvious that steels are non-combustible. But at extreme temperature values, the properties of steel can be disrupted. Thus, IBS mandates that structural steel components should be treated with fire-resistant coatings to increase safety levels.

Sustainability

Concrete: All of the elements the concrete contains are naturally occurring substances, so, they possess no harm for the environment. It can be crushed to be added into mixtures later. Landfilling of concrete can be reduced in this way.

Structural Steel: All metals including structural steels are theoretically 100% recyclable. Today, 90% of steel production consists of secondary steel production which is the production of steel from scrap. Structural integrity of steel can be preserved in long years of service with high adaptability. When produced, processed and properly treated, structural steels will cause minimal harm to the environment.

Versatility

Concrete: Constructing a building floor-to-floor heights and open spans is problematic with concrete even if it can be molded into different shapes. Therefore, the versatility of concrete is debatable.

Structural Steel: Steel is highly adaptable to any type of applications thanks to their flexible nature. In terms of strength/weight ratio, steel is far more superior than any other construction materials. Furthermore, appearance of steel is more appealing than concrete.

Corrosion

Concrete: When properly cared, steel reinforced concretes are resistant against humidity and there will be no detrimental corrosion problems. But the builder should always know that the steel inside concrete must not come into contact with outer environment. Otherwise, steel will surely corrode in time with exposure to air and water. 

Structural Steel: Just like every metal, structural steels might be corroded when they are exposed to water and air. Corrosion of structural components threat the safety of whole building. Corrosion protection must be ensured by painting or coating. Also, precautions can be taken against fire when these coating are applied.

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