There is an on-going debate about the worthiness of pre-engineered steel frame versus the traditional framework which has been followed till date.
But it is a fact that each has its own use and since the end-result is the same in both the processes, it depends on the contractor’s decision which he has to professionally take to ensure that the owner’s objectives are met.
While much is known about the traditional method of building construction, the use of pre-engineered steel frame is a relatively new concept. This deals with the use of pre-fabricated elements generally made of steel to construct the basic skeleton of the building.
In order to understand the practical utility of the concept of pre-engineered steel building, it is important to understand its pros and cons.
Advantages of pre-engineered steel building
There are 4 stages to the construction of a building i.e. creating the design, laying the foundation, steel frame erection and them construction of the walls.
In relation to these basic stages of construction, the advantages of pre-engineered steel building are:
- Reduction in the construction time: This is facilitated by the fact that when the foundation of a building is being laid, the fabrication of the structural components is already taking place inside the factories. Thus there is a huge reduction in time since these structures can be easily erected thereby resulting in the early completion. On the other hand in the traditional process, the steel frame is constructed after the foundation is laid and hence is relatively time consuming.
- Reduced cost: Since most of the fabrication of the steel frame is done at the factories, there is a reduced need for labour at the construction worksite. This process of using pre-engineered steel thus leads to a minimisation of the overall expenses involved in the construction of a particular project.
- Architectural flexibility: The use of computer graphics to design the pre-engineered steel structure and its subsequent fabrication in machines enables the construction of the desired shape without having to compromise on its dynamics. The use of bolts to connect these pre-engineered steel frames leaves ample scope for length-wise expansion thus increasing their flexibility.
- Low maintenance: The availability of modern metal coatings and finishes and their use on the pre-engineered steel frame makes the steel panels resistant to corrosion, rusting, chemical attacks etc. These steel frames can also be easily repaired and are thus easy to maintain after their construction.
- Seismic resistant: Pre-engineered steel buildings are lightweight and very flexible. This enables it to offer relatively greater resistance to oncoming seismic waves in comparison to the traditional structures.
Disadvantages of pre-engineered steel buildings
But as every coin has two faces, along with the advantages, pre-engineered steel buildings also have certain disadvantages.
Since steel is a good conductor of heat, the use of pre-engineered steel structures for buildings makes it susceptible to damages caused from fire. Thus in instance of a fire, it is able to spread easily and also has the potency to cause excessive damage including an increased risk to life of those people residing within it.
This conductivity also tends to make the buildings warm during the summers thereby resulting in an uncomfortable situation within the building. Thus buildings made from pre-engineered steel frames have a low thermal resistivity and can also result in an increase in the utility bills due to the excessive use of air conditioners.
Another disadvantage results from improper finishing of the steel frames wherein the metallic coating is not correctly done. This improper way of coating the steel frames can make it susceptible to corrosion and rusting. This leads to an increase in the maintenance cost of the building since the metallic frames need to be refinished with an anti-corrosive coating on a regular basis.
Thus after knowing about the pros and cons of pre-engineered steel building frameworks, it becomes easy to make a choice between the traditional method of constructing a building and using pre-engineered steel frameworks. This also enables the owner to choose the process which best suits his needs.
Source: Azimuth Builders LTD (A Pre-Engineered Steel Building Company in Calgary)