Steel vs. Wooden Buildings: 5 Key Differences to Know

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Wood and steel are among the most common structural materials utilized all over the world, and each material has its definite characteristics. Each of these materials has distinct differences in terms of their environmental impacts, durability, and structural type. Both wooden and steel materials have their own merits and demerits and the decision to construct your building should be specific to your needs.

Among the factors that people consider while constructing a building is the structure’s longevity. In terms of vulnerability, wood is a lot more vulnerable compared to steel. Steel is neither flammable nor is it affected by dampness, termites, or rot. These threats, however, have a higher likelihood of occurring in farm buildings as opposed to modern homes.

Sustainability is also a key factor that must be considered in construction. Given that people’s wants and needs change over time, erecting sustainable structures has become a priority. It is fair to say that steel has an added advantage when it comes to sustainability. Particularly, steel is considered to be one of the most sustainable materials used in construction because it is often recycled.

Depending on the usage of a structure, its ability to retain heat could be a factor in choosing the building materials to be used. The conductivity of metal often raises questions on whether wood or steel framed buildings are warmer. Considering heat efficiency, wood may emerge as the better option even though there are other factors that come into play regarding efficiency.

Steel-frame buildings are a good fit when one needs extremely wide, clear-span interiors like those in a large manufacturing facility, according to Metal Building Group. For metal buildings that are less than 100 feet wide, a wood post frame is considered the better choice because of design flexibility.

It is much easier to get higher-pitched roofs, overhangs, interesting roof lines, and dormers on wood-frame buildings than when working with a steel-frame. This is the reason why steel buildings almost always have an extremely low-pitch roof and no overhangs.

The concept of environmental performance is clear cut when you compare buildings utilizing wood or steel. Indeed, anyone can recognize the unique differences between them in terms of their environmental impacts. The environmental advantages of wood over steel in construction are quite evident considering that wooden remnants are significantly less burdensome to the environment.

Steel-framed houses tend to use more energy, they have a more global warming potential, and the air emission from steel houses is significantly higher compared to that of the wooden houses. It’s also imperative to know that wood comes from a renewable source, trees, unlike steel that is derived from a scarce metal ore.

Timber is also considerably less expensive than manufactured steel beams. The lower the material costs translates into savings for you. In addition, structural timber is sourced from sustainably managed forests and if used internally, it provides a healthier environment for occupants as it helps to maintain a better relative humidity.

Steelwork in construction is gaining popularity based on the advantages that using steel has over using wood. Some of the advantages include speed and efficiency, sustainability, the reduction of on-site risks, and waste reduction. Steel is a structurally efficient building material implying that the buildings that utilize steel are lighter since their foundations can be smaller. Steel’s offsite fabrication also relieves congested and hard to access sites.

Timber, on the other hand, offers more architectural design flexibility, which creates more design options without sacrificing structural requirements. Wooden buildings also tend to have some aesthetic value and architects have come up with more creative building designs utilizing wood than they have when using other building materials.

An example of the creative architectural designs that have utilized wood as a building material is the Metropol-Parasol-Seville-Spain_1, which is a 14-storey (49-metre) apartment in Bergen whose building material is wood. You can view the building here.

Structural timber, a byproduct of wood, presents significantly lower risks to the environment when compared to the remnants of steel. Wood-based materials also are among the best green building materials in a world where concern for environmental sustainability is advocated.

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Kevin Schultz is a professional journalist with over 15 years of writing and media experience. He is a full-time contributor to the Themocracy Online News Blog and his insightful writing has been enjoyed by thousands.