When you envisage a steel frame building, what do you see? Is it a big structure with upright supports and a roof, in the middle of a farmer’s field? Maybe a warehouse, with a corrugated steel roof and walls?
Or is it a shop, with large windows and attractive timber cladding; an office, with a bright, open-plan reception area and a mix of rooms behind the scenes; a factory, with a mix of admin, production and storage space; or a school, with a high-tech look and an interior to match?
It comes as a surprise to many people that steel frame buildings are so versatile. You can use a steel frame building for any number of purposes, from retail to education and everything in between. And yes, they are also useful as those large open sided structures you see on farms.
The thing is, while the structure is the same in each case – it’s a skeleton frame, made of steel – it can be clad on the outside and fitted out on the inside in whatever way you like. If you want an idea of the flexibility offered by steel, one of the most famous buildings in the world – the Empire State Building, in New York City – is a steel framed structure.
To give a bit of history, the steel production process was perfected in 1879, and steel-based construction commenced the following year. America led the field and the first building to use an all steel frame construction in the US was the Rand McNally Building in Chicago, completed in 1890. Liverpool’s Royal Insurance Building, completed in 1903, was the first in the UK.
Why is it that steel frame buildings continue to be so popular? Well, for a start, they are pre-engineered to exact dimensions and requirements. Steel is strong and long-lasting, and yet costs are around two-thirds that of traditional construction. And steel frame buildings are easier to maintain. It all adds up to a series of advantages that are hard to ignore.
A key element of steel frame buildings is how very versatile they are. If a boxy structure clad in wriggly tin meets your needs, then that’s the perfect building for you. Equally, if you want something that has the input of an architect, so that it stands out as a landmark in your area, that’s also an option. You see, it’s about far more than just the structure; but it’s the structure that gives strength, stability and durability to the finished building.
And the structure makes for a fast, cost-effective way to construct a robust, flexible building, whatever it is ultimately used for.