Steel surprises me with its versatility. Uses are varied - from a safety pin to a skyscraper. Its versatility is progressively and potentially being explored each day. The spectrum of sectors which rely on steel are – automobile and transport industry, healthcare industry, energy sector, packaging industry, domestic and electronic appliances, mechanical equipment’s, electrical equipment’s, construction industry, etc. We are here to explore the excessive, extensive and exhaustive use of this exceptional material in the AEC (Architecture, Engineering and Construction) Industry. It is currently the world's primary building material.
Steel is a man-made alloy, under the classification of Ferrous metals. It contains Iron (a metal element that occurs naturally on Earth), Carbon, and Other elements (viz. chromium, manganese, cobalt, tungsten, silicon, nickel, titanium, copper, etc.). The changing proportions of each render the profuse properties and thus the diverse uses.
Steel = Iron + Carbon + Other elements
The use of steel in the AEC Industry has extensively fulfilled the Architect’s aspirations of aesthetics and adaptability and the Engineer’s expectations of strength and durability. The use of steel facilitates fast and safe construction so as to optimize cost and timely completion of projects to benefit the client, the contractor, and all the other project partakers.
Types of steel commonly used in the AEC industry:
Steel because of its versatility is available in various combinations and proportions of iron along with other elements (metals and non-metals) which proffers several types and grades of steel each varying in its physical, chemical and environmental properties. Some commonly used types of steel are:
They have a high percentage of ‘other elements’ apart from iron and carbon.
In this carbon is the main alloying element.
Type of carbon steel with low amount of carbon, also known as low carbon steel.
Alloy steel with a high chromium content that forms an invisible layer on the steel to prevent corrosion and staining.
A type of alloy steel which has a stable rust like appearance, also known as weathering steel.
Variety of alloy steel that are particularly well-suited to make tools.
General properties of Steel:
Properties of steel vary depending on its combination with iron and other elements. However, some generic properties which hold steel up high and make steel an important and indispensable material of the AEC industry, all set to mirror the expeditious growth of the construction industry.
Steel has high tensile strength, it is a good conductor of heat and electricity, ductile, flexible, tough, durable, temperature resistant, easy formability and fabrication, low-maintenance, modifiable, attractive appearance, light weight, recyclable, relatively high embodied energy, etc. Resistance to corrosion is a special property of stainless steel.
Applications and Uses:
50% of the world’s steel production is consumed by the construction industry, this surely ascertains the importance of this versatile material with ingenious applications and uses in the construction industry.
The application and the uses of Steel have been categorized into 3 categories –
1. Interior applications
2. Exterior applications
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3. Construction related applications (site work)
Thus we see that steel allows its users from different domains to explore and exploit its potential to the fullest. Technology and Research & Development have added value and validity to the creativity and innovations of the stakeholders and the urge of the AEC Industry to grow. Here, I would like to quote J.R. D. Tata, “Making steel may be compared to making a chappati. To make a good chappati, even a golden pin will not work unless the dough is good.”