7 Methods of Steel Construction Design Explained

Steel is the backbone of the construction industry and a driver of many economies globally. Its versatility makes it a material of choice for most construction projects. Steel is also lighter and less bulky compared to other construction materials. Moreover, steel is a strong and durable construction material that fits almost every construction project. Here, we discuss the various steel construction methods and designs to help you expand your knowledge of steel application in the industry.

Conventional Steel Fabrication

Conventional steel fabrication is the traditional method of constructing steel structures. The process involves designing, measuring, cutting, bending, and welding steel plates and sections to create the desired structure. Conventional steel fabrication can happen at the construction site or in a steel fabrication shop. However, most contractors prefer fabricating the steel at a shop and transporting the finished product to the construction site for a faster and safer installation process.

Fabricating at a shop enhances efficiency by reducing wastage and onsite construction time. The construction cost also goes down when fabrication happens in a shop, due to increased efficiency. A factory set setting allows the application of advanced technology and the use of automated machines, lowering labor costs. Onsite conventional fabrication, on the other hand, is labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Bolted Steel Construction

Bolted steel construction is an advancement of conventional steel fabrication. In bolted steel construction, the bulk of the work is done in a fabrication shop. Steel components are fabricated off-site, and transported to the construction site, where they are bolted together to create a structure. The factory setup enhances fabrication efficiency since the shops have the right working conditions, including lighting, technology and the absence of weather anomalies.

Once the fabrication and painting are finished, the steel components are transported to the construction sites using trucks. The size of the steel members is, therefore, dependent on the transporting truck/trailer. Flatbed trucks and trailers range from 20-40’ in length with options for oversized loads being available with added cost. The added trucking cost can outweigh the uptick from field fabrication, therefore, the cost for oversized loads may be the best option. 

Many construction firms prefer bolted steel construction due to its quick installation time and lesser field welding requirements. Moreover, bolted steel construction is cost-effective compared to conventional steel fabrication. These advantages make bolted steel construction a preferred method for the construction of industrial buildings, warehouses, and other large structures.

Light Gauge Steel Construction

Light gauge steel construction uses thin steel sections that are cold-formed into shapes in a shop and assembled on-site. This construction method is popular for residential and small buildings, especially in areas with high seismic activity. It’s possible to create walls similar to wood framing with this type of construction. Several benefits of light gauge steel make it a preferred construction material for many projects.

The steel sheets are galvanized to prevent rust and corrosion, which enhances its durability. Unlike wood, steel is more resistant to pests, mold, and fire, which enhances its longevity. It is also stronger than wood and can withstand tremors during seismic activities. Moreover, light gauge steel is less bulky and more flexible than wood, which paves way for enhanced designs and modifications.

Another advantage that makes light gauge steel better than wood in construction is its environmental friendliness. Steel can be recycled or reassembled into a new building. The use of light gauge steel instead of wood also preserves forests, which reduces global warming and climate change.

Modular Steel Construction

In modular steel construction, complete building modules or units are fabricated in a factory and assembled on-site. The modules are constructed in standard sizes and shapes that are easily stacked to create a variety of building designs. These modular units may be fabricated into complete rooms or parts of a room. They can also be fabricated into highly serviced units such as washrooms or elevators shafts.

A notable advantage of modular steel construction is the speed of building erection. Since the prefabs are fabricated in a factory setting, contractors are only required to transport and assemble the units on-site. The rapid installation allows onsite assembly of 6-8 units per day. Modular steel construction is also cost-effective. Repetitive manufacturing, which is typical of factory settings creates economies of scale that reduce the cost of production.

Steel Frame Construction

Steel frame construction is a type of construction that uses steel to construct the structural framework of a building. The skeleton frame made of steel columns and beams supports the building’s weight and loads. The steel beams and columns are prefabricated off-site and assembled on-site. Steel frame construction has several benefits over other structural construction methods. Steel is lighter and less bulky than other construction materials, such as concrete. Using lighter materials for the structural framework reduces the foundation cost and the overall construction cost. Steel is also stronger and more durable than other building materials, and can withstand earthquakes or harsh weather conditions.

Composite Steel Construction

In composite steel construction, steel is combined with other materials, such as concrete or wood to create structures with improved strength and stiffness. Several advantages of using composite steel make it a viable construction option for a structural framework. Composite steel is cheaper than non-composite steel components as you’re able to lighten the amount of concrete used by adding rebar, adding strength and reduces the overall construction cost. Composite steel frames are also lighter, which lowers foundation costs. Moreover, composite steel enhances environmental sustainability by reducing the amount of material used in the fabrication process. A reduction in the amount of materials used in construction reduces the carbon footprint of a construction project.

Pre-Engineered Steel Construction

Pre-engineered steel construction is a modern building technique that uses pre-designed and pre-fabricated steel components that are assembled on-site. This construction process produces buildings that meet specific project requirements for commercial, industrial, and agricultural applications. The pre-fabrication is done in a shop setting using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software. Technology application helps manufacture steel components that can be customized to meet specific requirements of a construction project. Moreover, the shop setting used for pre-engineered steel construction makes the process cost-effective and aids the construction of strong and durable buildings.

Learn More About Steel Construction

RK Steel plays a critical role in many of RK’s construction projects. Our steel construction experience and expertise set the foundation for fabricating and installing structural and custom steel. Contact us today to learn more.