Steeling the Construction Business
Steel is an important component in construction as it’s sturdy, malleable, corrosion-resistant, cost-effective and has a low carbon footprint
Steel is synonymous to strength and durability. From most of our kitchen appliances to sometimes our wardrobes, steel is preferred due to the safety and robustness that it promises. Similarly, steel has given a structure when it comes to construction that no other metal has even come close to, so far. The material provides strength that cannot be matched for buildings constructed with wood frames and brick walls. It is in high demand in construction as it does not warp, buckle, twist, or bend and is malleable and can be easily installed. It is getting more and more common for steel to be used in construction not only for its strength but also because it resists mold and mildew, a common problem that is sometimes found in wood-frame buildings. Along with being highly resistant to fire and termites, another major advantage of using steel is that it is sturdy enough to resist the damage caused due to natural disasters.
Steel is used in various frames such as clearspan, modular, single slope, etc. Due to the fact that steel is much easier to install and less time consuming when it comes to construction, along with its numerous other features that have proved advantageous, steel, these days, has become the most sought-after way of constructing buildings.
With steel, architects can pursue different shapes and textures due to its flexibility and malleability. The material’s slender framing offers buildings to have more openness compared to any other material. These appealing qualities are perfected by steel’s functional characteristics that include its exceptional spanning ability, dimensional stability over time, its acoustic noise dampening abilities, endless recyclability and the speed and precision with which it is manufactured and assembled with minimal on-site labour.
Steel is considered to be more cost-effective than any of its counterparts due to various factors. Much of the cost savings are gained from the labour and cost benefits of decreased construction time. Other than this, since it is recyclable, construction companies prefer it rather than paying landfill fees for non-recyclable construction waste.
Speaking on the subject, Rakesh Reddy, director, Aparna Constructions & Estates, said, “Cost-effectiveness and responsible sourcing of steel are critical issues for the construction sector. Since the majority of savings result from stages prior to construction, we are always trying to address inefficiencies in steel vendor management and procurement processes. We have a continuously evolving system that is designed to increase efficiency and mitigate risk. This system covers the entire steel procurement process from planning and strategy to selection and contract management.”
Reddy added that one of their four key principles of steel procurement is the use of automation, especially since the cost of steel fluctuates regularly. Automation at the bid level can help manage the aggregation and analysis of incoming data. It helps create a smart system that can quickly determine cost savings and opportunities. “As a rule, we engage with as many bidders as possible to ensure diligence and widen our pool of suppliers. Automation helps manage this ecosystem,” he stated.
Commenting on the importance of steel and its cost-effectiveness, Ashok Mohanani, chairman EKTA World and VP, NAREDCO, Maharashtra, explained, “Cost is an essential consideration in the selection of structural frame material and form, which is a crucial primary decision in the design process. While steel can be a volatile commodity, it is one of the most important materials used in a building. Most buildings being high-rises, plenty of steel is used, therefore steel is a big cost driver for developers. Most of it is routed directly or indirectly through contractors on a monthly or yearly basis, depending on the consumption. The materials of a steel-framed building, when demolished, can be recycled and reused by the steel industry.
Another key principle of steel procurement is transparency. Ensuring transparency across the board is the basis of successful procurement operations. A transparent system makes it easy to move from a macro view of projects to micro details on bids, documentation, reviews, and conversions.
Keeping in mind the high demand, steelmakers around the world are increasingly providing construction solutions that enable energy-efficient and low-carbon-neutral buildings. Steel solutions bring down the cost of electricity and district heating. Not only is steel affordable, readily available and safer, but its intrinsic properties, such as strength, versatility, durability and 100% recyclability also allow for improved environmental performance across the entire lifecycle of buildings. Steel is also used in pre-engineered buildings and they are extremely popular in industrial, warehousing, commercial, etc.
Rohit Poddar, managing director, Poddar Housing and Development and joint secretary, NAREDCO Maharashtra, said, “With steel, a developer can create lightweight structures that reduce the load on the core foundation of the building. It is largely looked upon as a process that comprises of design and construction in sequence. One of the major parameters any developer should consider before buying steel equipment is to understand the flexibility, elongation, corrosion resistance and the grade of the steel. For instance, A Fe 415 steel grade can withstand loads in extreme conditions. It can also be bent beyond 900 without developing any cracks. This ensures that the overall structure is strong and durable. Using steel in the construction of a building provides design freedom to architects while ensuring that there are fewer columns and more space which are earthquake resistant. Steel is inherently ductile and flexible making it withstand loads in extreme conditions.”
The properties of steel include durability, versatility, recyclability and strength making it an ideal material for use in building and construction activities. Because of its versatility, steel is available in various combinations of iron along with other metals and non-metals to offer over 3500 grades of steel, each grade having different environmental, chemical and physical properties.
“We conduct our own independent laboratory tests to ensure that the type of steel is optimal for its use. With structural steel, we test for low weight, high strength, ease of use and uniformity of properties. We specifically test for carbon density, as it is the element that provides strength. Other elements including manganese, sulphur, phosphorus, aluminium and copper are added to iron and carbon in varying amounts to give steel different grades of strength, ductility, weldability and corrosion resistance,” Reddy explained
Eco-friendly and durable
With the construction sector accounting for a quarter of global CO2 emission, the optimum utilisation of steel also presents many opportunities for reducing emissions and mitigating climate change. Builders are increasingly seeking construction solutions that enable energy-efficient and low-carbon-neutral buildings. The 100% recyclability of steel allows for improved environmental performance across the entire life cycle of buildings.
“Stainless steel is largely used in different industries and is popularly known for its strength and resistance to corrosion. While buying steel, the important factor is to buy government-approved/ISI marked material, which indeed guarantees the quality of the material. It is advisable to ask for a chemical composition test from the supplier before buying the steel bars. A metal building agreement should be looked into and considered for detailed analysis followed by the code of compliance, where the municipalities and standards need to be reviewed,” Mohanani stated.
Mohanani further added that steel has several inherent qualities, which make it desirable as a building material. To begin with, steel can be totally recycled, and it will not produce any waste when it is applied in construction. The material is stronger than any other material. Around 31% of the sheet products are used in building, roofing, purlins, internal walls, ceilings, cladding, and lastly, insulating panels for exterior walls. Internal fixtures and fittings, such as rails, shelving, stairs and elevators are also made of steel. On the other hand, structural steel is useful to build parking garages and is also light in weight, which helps the developer on cost-cutting and easy-to-use or move the material. Lastly, structural steel is the most preferred material to be used for all construction projects.
According to the new United Nations report released in 2019, the world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050. This will result in rapid urbanization as the need for buildings and infrastructure will increase all over the world.
The possibilities of using steel in buildings and infrastructure are limitless. From structural sections to reinforcing bars, steel is not only used for its strength and stiffness but also because it binds well with concrete and has a similar thermal expansion. Reinforced concrete is used to provide deep foundations and basements and is currently world’s primary building material.
Steel is also used in infrastructure such as building transport networks. The material is required for bridges, tunnels, rail tracks and in building structures such as railways stations, ports and airports and fueling stations. It is also used for utilities like fuel, water, power, etc. Over 50% of the steel used for utilities is in underground pipelines to distribute water to and from housing and to distribute gas. The remaining is mainly rebar for power and pumping stations.
Talking about their company’s take on steel construction, Reddy elaborated that innovation is a core tenet for their company. Since customer satisfaction is their final goal for every process, new products are continuously tested and old products are audited to see how a customer can be offered the best value and quality. Their gated communities are designed for optimum efficiency and resource allocation. They integrate the best technology into their projects for greater accessibility and connectivity.
To conclude, steel is an important component of construction. Developers prefer steel to any of its counterparts due to its various qualities including being eco-friendly, cost-effective, sturdy and malleable among other things.