IN THE KNOW: Commercial shift to steel and prefab concrete

Nov 5, 2020 | News

Framing on commercial buildings is a hot topic these days. The debate continues as to whether steel, wood or precast concrete framing is best, but the market is seeing the trend toward steel and concrete framing continue to rise.

All three framing types have their pros and cons. Here we break them down and have a close look at each.

Reports show that projects featuring concrete floors and walls are the cheapest option for a structural system when compared with structural steel or wood framing.

While wood or steel frames were initially less expensive than the precast concrete structures, concrete’s added benefits can make it the most cost-effective framing material in the long run. Because concrete is extremely hard-wearing, fire and damage resistant, its long-term durability outweigh steel and wood structures’ lifespan.

Precast concrete has a lot going for it. It is extremely durable and ideal for large-scale buildings. It can last up to 100 years. It is also very attractive and modern and can be tailored with colours and stones, etc, to give a lovely effect. Concrete also has wonderful thermal insulation quality, which reduces ongoing energy costs.

Steel framing looks clean and modern and is another popular choice. The rise of off-site steel manufacture and 3D modelling technology make steel a relatively straightforward material to engineer. Because of these technologies, there is a reduction in labour costs. Steel also has an environmental benefit in that it can be reused or recycled in the future.

The classic timber frames still have their purpose, but because of the reasons mentioned, they are far less common for larger-scale commercial builds.

Yes, timber has a lower initial cost. But this is soon outweighed by replacement and upkeep costs. Wood is a beautiful material to build with – it has character and warmth. But for internal framing and modern-looking long-life architecture, concrete and steel come out on top. They will give any school, business, apartment, factory or workspace the strength for many years to come.