The use of steel framing in the UK traces its history back to 1879 when National Liberal Club in London was constructed. Built-up columns and girders made of steel helped form the building. In the 1890s, the Gilbey’s Gin warehouse in London was also framed in moderate amounts of steel. The Royal Insurance Building in Liverpool, built in 1895, and was the first building in the UK to boast a complete frame of steel. Designed by by J.F. Doyle and Norman Shawhe, the building has seven stories and two basements.
Today, steel internal supports and I-beams commonly comprise the skeleton of a steel frame skyscraper. As the concept of using steel to frame has grown in popularity, numerous residential and commercial construction projects now depend on galvanized steel. Known as steel stud construction or light steel framing, the use of steel over wood has become more commonplace throughout the U.K.
The advantages of steel over standard wood is undeniable.
Steel is resistant to pests such as termites. Unlike wood, steel frame buildings do not require treatment with a pesticide, preservatives or glues. Steel framed buildings have better wind resistance and seismic strength than standard wood framing.
Framing with steel is usually faster than wood. Off-site prefabrication allows the building to be quickly assembled once the pieces are all onsite.
Steel resists moisture, so harmful molds do not grow.
Non-flammable, steel does not ignite.
Exceptionally strong, large span distances and curves can be made with steel. Steel is also more lightweight than wood which makes it easier to work with.
Each year, more than 500 million tons of steel is recycled worldwide. The Waste Resource Action Programme (WRAP) states that approximately 60 percent of all the steel used for framing in the UK comes from recycled steel. There is less waste when using steel to frame a building compared to wood.
Steel will not warp and does not rot.
Despite the many advantages of steel framing, there are a few drawbacks that need to be taken into consideration.
Using steel to frame a building generally costs more than wood for framing. A construction crew must have specialized to tools and training to successfully work with steel.
A construction crew must take extra steps to make a steel framed residence or business energy efficient because of the thermal efficiency of the steel. Steel lacks adequate insulation ability, so additional insulation is required compared to standard wood framed buildings.
Builders in the UK have turned more and more to steel framing for lofts and two-story homes. Despite the ever-growing popularity of steel framing, skilled labor that specializes in steel is sorely lacking and often difficult to find. The general home buying public also shows a resistance to steel framed homes and often opts for more traditional construction methods.
Commercial steel framed buildings have become routine in the UK. Aircraft hangers and agricultural buildings are almost always constructed from steel framing.
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