By: RK Steel

The United States is the world’s largest importer of steel, importing approximately 35 million metric tons last year, which accounted for 33% of all steel used in the entire country. Nearly 60% of this total imported steel originates from five countries, 25% of which comes from Canada and Mexico.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration placed tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminum imports coming from various countries to the U.S. The goal of these tariffs is to incentivize U.S. companies to buy steel and aluminum from U.S. producers, with the idea being that this will make the domestic metal industry stronger.

What is a Tariff?

A tariff is a border tax or duty placed on a particular class of imports or exports. Tariffs have been used by governments since the 18th century. Originally, their main purpose was to raise revenue, now they are more often used in order to make foreign products less attractive to consumers; protecting domestic industries from competition.

Steel and Aluminum in the U.S. Construction Industry

Raw steel has many uses in the construction industry, including reinforcing steel in structural concrete, structural steel framing, miscellaneous metal framing and supports. Although the tariffs will affect all these, the single biggest impact will be on structural steel in steel framed buildings.

The cost of structural steel is typically composed of four main elements – raw material, fabrication, delivery and erection at the site. While the cost of these can vary over time and by geographic location, raw steel is typically around 30% of the total cost per ton of structural steel.

What Effect Do They Have?

For those involved in the construction industry, the tariffs raise direct and immediate issues. Contractors are often required to supply and use large quantities of various types of steel products. These tariffs present contractors with considerable uncertainty and financial risk.

These tariffs are a direct charge on imported steel and aluminum products, however, the effect of the tariffs is not limited to imported steel. Volatility is rising in the domestic steel market due to the anticipation of higher cost imported steel, as this will likely lead to an increased demand for domestic steel. The result has been a surge in domestic steel prices.

Challenges Facing Contractors Moving Forward

Contractors main concern will be in relation to price fluctuations between the time they submit a bid to when the contract is awarded. The most likely response to this heightened risk will be an inevitable increase in bid prices to cover the risk of fluctuation. In addition, they may add a clause which limits the amount of time a price can be held.

Denver is flourishing. Its population and employment growth are among the strongest in the nation, with the population almost tripling since 2000, according to the Denver Business Journal and the Downtown Denver Partnership. To accommodate the population and business growth, nearly $2.5 billion is currently planned or under construction in Metro Denver.

Steady Construction for the Foreseeable Future

Collecting accolades from Forbes as the best place for business and careers, and with U.S. News and World Report declaring Denver as the best place to live in the country, it’s easy to see why companies are flocking to Colorado. The city’s rapid growth means its infrastructure must quickly expand as well. New buildings have to be built and older buildings have to be renovated to keep up with the office and living space demand. In turn, construction project schedules are extremely tight with little room for error.

The structural support for these new and renovated buildings must be sturdy and stable as they are being constructed in the densely populated downtown area with heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Developers and owners rely on contractors to hire experienced project teams to fabricate and install high-quality products to construct these buildings on a fast paced schedule.

Structural Steel is the Material of Choice for Commercial Construction Projects

The American Institute of Steel Construction says structural steel is the trusted material of choice for many reasons:

  1. Project Schedule: Prefabrication in a fabrication shop increases productivity allowing for rapid erection on-site and a decrease in wasted materials.
  2. Construction Budget: Steel costs 5 – 7{daeb8d662f58e4975bc93960761d671bdf0aa2ad049ea8a375d2717d280ef80b} less than concrete framing. Today, a single ton of steel requires less than one single man-hour to produce.
  3. Aesthetics: Steel is functional and unique, with natural beauty, allowing for creative designs. Exposed steel emphasizes strength and transparency.
  4. Design: Building Information Modeling (BIM) allows full integration between analysis, design, detailing and fabrication. BIM applications like Trimble are taking steel design to a new level.
  5. Sustainability: Structural steel is the most recycled material on the planet and can be reused without additional processing.
  6. Modifiable and Efficient: Steel can easily be modified or strengthened depending on requirements. It also optimizes building space efficiency through the use of columns and beams that allow for longer spans of open space.
  7. Reliable and Predictable: Structural steel is fabricated under controlled conditions using quality control processes. Its strength is verified at the point of production, not after the material is installed.

Industry Knowledge and Proper Training Create a Reliable Project Team

Safe erection of structural steel requires a knowledgeable team. Ensuring workers are qualified, suitably trained and have sufficient experience to perform work safely must be established and verified prior to starting work. The steel team should be in constant communication with the general contractor and other trades to plan site access, equipment needs and laydown requirements. In addition, developing site-specific work instructions and safety procedures to identify potential risks is key.

RK Steel is currently working on several projects in downtown Denver including Bock A, 17th and Wewatta, 1709 Chestnut, 14th and Lawrence, Denver Club Renovation, Helen Bonfils Theatre Renovation, Denver Center for the Performing Arts Galleria Rails, Confluence Park Tower, 1201 Auraria and the Residence on Cherokee. RK Steel is a single source for fabricating and installing any type of structural steel or miscellaneous metals such as stairs, rails, platforms and canopies.  Do you have a project that needs a trusted, premier steel contractor to get the job done? Contact our team for a free project consultation today at