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The Importance of Structural Steel

When you admire skyscrapers and iconic structures in our cities, you are witnessing the incredible importance of structural steel to our society.

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When you visit a city, do you marvel at the towering skyscrapers that abound? When you visit cities like Paris and Sydney, do you admire the beauty of iconic structures like the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

While you might not realise it, in admiring these skyscrapers and some of the world’s most well-known attractions, you are witnessing the incredible contributions of structural steel to society. 

Structural steel is a cornerstone of modern construction, enabling the creation of complex and resilient structures that define our urban landscapes. Without structural steel, many of these feats of engineering would be impossible.

You could ask, where would we be today without structural steel?

The role of structural steel in modern construction

Structural steel is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio, durability and versatility, making it a critical component in the construction industry. The ability to bear heavy loads without bending or breaking allows structural steel to support massive buildings and intricate architectural designs.

One of the most notable examples of structural steel’s significance is its use in skyscrapers. These towering structures are made possible by steel’s strength and flexibility, which allow buildings to withstand both the weight of the building itself and the forces of wind and seismic activity. Without structural steel, the iconic skylines of cities like New York, Dubai, London and Sydney would look very different.

In addition to skyscrapers, structural steel is also essential in constructing large-scale infrastructure projects, such as bridges. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, for instance, is an exemplary model of structural steel’s capability to support extensive spans and heavy traffic loads. 

You will also find vast amounts of structural steel in larger buildings, like warehouses, airport terminals, shopping centres, office blocks and even larger residential complexes.

The role of structural steel in modern construction

Structural steel global production

The global production of structural steel is a testament to its indispensable role in construction. 

According to the World Steel Association, nearly 1.9 billion tonnes of steel were produced worldwide in 2022 and this was expected to rise further in 2023. 

While these figures include all steel production, a significant portion was structural steel. And when you consider that production of steel only surpassed 1 billion tonnes in 2004, it’s easy to see how the use of structural steel is exploding.

Why structural steel is so widely used

There are several reasons why structural steel is a favoured material in the construction industry:

  • Structural steel is incredibly strong and can withstand immense pressure and stress. This makes it ideal for constructing buildings and infrastructure that must endure harsh conditions and heavy use.
  • Steel can be moulded into various shapes and sizes, allowing for innovative and creative architectural designs. This flexibility also makes it easier to adapt to changes in building plans or designs during construction.
  • While the initial cost of steel may be higher than some other materials, its durability and low maintenance requirements make it a cost-effective choice in the long run. Steel structures often have longer lifespans and lower maintenance costs compared to structures made with alternative materials.
  • Steel is recyclable and can be reused again and again without loss of its valuable properties. This makes it a more sustainable option compared to materials that degrade over time or cannot be recycled.
Why structural steel is so widely used

Structural steel alternatives

While structural steel is a dominant force in construction, there are alternatives. However, each comes with its own set of disadvantages:

  • Reinforced concrete is often used in construction due to its strength and fire resistance. However, it is significantly heavier than steel, which can limit its use in high-rise buildings. Concrete also lacks the flexibility of steel, making it less suitable for projects that require intricate designs.
  • Timber is a renewable resource and is used in construction, particularly for residential buildings. However, it is not as strong as steel and is susceptible to pests, rot and fire. Timber structures also require more maintenance over time, adding to the overall cost.
  • Aluminium is lightweight and corrosion-resistant, making it an option for some construction projects. However, it is not as strong as steel and is more expensive, which limits its use in large-scale structures.
  • Composite materials combine two or more constituent materials to leverage their best properties. While composites can offer unique advantages, they are often more expensive and can be challenging to work with on a large scale. Their long-term durability and maintenance requirements are also less well understood compared to traditional materials like steel.

Where would we be without structural steel?

Without structural steel, our modern landscape would look vastly different. 

Skyscrapers, which define the skylines of cities worldwide, would be nearly impossible to construct. Iconic structures like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Eiffel Tower wouldn’t exist. 

Perhaps less noticeable but just as important, large warehouses, office buildings, airport terminals and apartment complexes would also be severely limited in height and size. 

Structural steel’s strength and versatility enable the large, complex and aesthetically impressive constructions we see today. Without it, our cities would be less tall, less efficient and less iconic, greatly impacting urban development and architectural possibilities.

The strength of Kelly Steel 

Whether you’re building a skyscraper, Australia’s next iconic structure, a bridge or another structure, Kelly Steel is your ideal partner in steel. We are passionate about steel and offer a service that ensures consistent quality while staying within your budget.

For more information about Kelly Steel’s services, contact us at +613 9706 5001. We look forward to discussing how our expertise can elevate your project.

Will structural steel produced today still be around in 100 years

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