Steel VS. Wood. Which is better for building?

When starting a new construction project, the thing people give the most thinking to is the material they are going to do it with, which goes hand in hand with the company they are going to develop their project with, also one of the main preoccupations. Among the various material options out there on the market today, this article will be aimed to compare steel to wood. The first is the most modern way, while the second has been present in the building industry for thousands of years. 


Environmental Sustainability

The environmental impact of both building methods can be argued as to which is a greener or less impactful method. Both methods have an environmental impact, however, as exposed by many articles steel is a much less impactful method. Why? Basically, because for the production of wood the cutting of trees is required, which is one of the main causes of deforestation in the whole world, which surely has a negative and worrying impact on the environment. It is true, however, that wood could be considered a renewable resource only in cases in which it was harvested from properly and sustainably managed forests, which is not the usual practice. Deforestation has been the cause for ancient tree specimens part of cultural heritages to disappear. Unlike wood, steel is recyclable. All steel can be reused again and again. Because of its strength and density which collaborate to its durability it can also be reused. As exposed in the articles “Gastronomy and Steel Structures” and “Steel Structures: Accessible Building” steel can be repurposed in countless ways. 


Performance

Steel framing will not rot, warp, split, crack, or creep, like wood would and it is also not vulnerable to termites or wood-eating ants either, and wood is. Additionally, steel does not expand or contract with moisture content, while moisture is a big problem related to wood given that it could rot it to the point of fracturing. Given that steel is a noncombustible material it will not contribute to the spread of fire, which reduces the fire risk to occupants and property or business owners.


Aesthetics

Steel buildings and wood buildings generally have vastly different styles and aesthetic values. Wood is the most typically used home building material, so its use in homes is safe but also not bold. Wood feels traditional in a home or building and evokes ideas of tradition and history and could even give a warmer feeling to a home. However, given that steel is an unusual material to use in a home and is much more related to big industries and factory plant its use will feel modern and unusual and even highly stylistic. It evokes ideas of power. Needless to say, with today’s emphasis on decoration, a wooden home could be decorated and styled to evoke feelings of power just as a steel home could be adorned and styled to evoke homey feelings. 


Costs

As described in the article “Steel Buildings: The future of Architecture” The average cost of steel framing for a house is between $9.50 and $11 per square foot only for materials, but it can vary between an average of $10 – $25 in total. Of course that depending on the infrastructure and the location mainly (snow and wind conditions require a more complex and so more expensive infrastructure) the price could go as high as $120 dollars per square foot. The cost of a wood framing house, meanwhile, averages between $1 and $5 per square foot. 

On normal conditions, disregarding the snow and strong wind factor, steel costs, on average, 5 times more than wood, but it also has 10 more times the resistance and strength wood has. In the short term, steel is in fact more expensive, but on the long term it turns out to be way more functional, given that it does not require of constant maintenance, and so profitable.


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