A Look at How a Steel Structure Can Withstand Hurricanes
The last few years, it’s felt like “once-in-a-lifetime” storms are coming several times a lifetime.
It’s not just perspective: the data backs it up. The average strength of hurricanes has been increasing since 1980. And that trend is projected to continue.
Most recently, the eyes of the world watched in terror as Hurricane Michael tore through the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean. It was the third strongest storm to ever hit the American mainland.
As communities assess the damage and rebuild, there’s a nervousness in the air. After all, the 2017 hurricane season caused more damage than any other year. How can we rebuild when a bigger storm is likely right around the corner?
If you want to withstand the worst Mother Nature can throw at you, consider building a steel structure.
Here are some reasons why.
As far as building materials go, steel has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any other material.
Imagine that you build two identical structures: one out of steel, the other out of wood. It should come as no surprise that the steel structure would be able to withstand more damage from the elements.
Commercial and agricultural construction has known this for a long time. But so far, residential construction has been slow to adopt steel frame construction — even in hurricane-prone areas.
Lighter Than Wood
Imagine two pieces of the same size, one made of steel and the other made of wood. You might expect the steel object to be heavier. And you’d be right.
But because steel is so much stronger than wood, you can build a steel building with much less material than a wood building of equal strength.
This reduced weight can help save you money too. Not only do you have to buy less material, but it can get built with less labor. It also reduces shipping costs.
A Reduced Build Time
As the old adage goes, “measure twice, cut once.” But through all the hustle and noise of a construction site, accidents can happen.
Boards get cut to the wrong length or at the wrong angle. You have to scrap the piece and start over.
But when you’re building with steel, you can order your pieces to the specifications you need directly from the factory. Instead of counting on your four-fingered foreman to cut all of his planks to the right size, your supplier can ship them just as you need them.
Pieces arrive prefabricated to the worksite. Your crew just needs to put the pieces in place and fasten them.
Not only does this cut down on time lost to human error, but it also cuts out all time your crew would spend cutting. You can get the job done sooner without ever touching a saw.
When you’re racing the start of next year’s hurricane season, you need all the time you can get. Steel’s shortened build time can make all the difference between finishing your job and losing everything to the storm.
Steel is Sustainable
Have you ever thought about how many trees went into building your house?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average home built in 2017 was 2,400 square feet. Just framing the house would require at least twenty mature pine trees. It typically would have taken each tree twenty years to get to that height.
On the other hand, steel doesn’t require any raw materials. Steel can get recycled and reformed to forge building materials. A steel beam might have had a previous life as a pickup truck or a speedboat.
This can also save money if you ever decide to have your building removed. Wood buildings basically have to be destroyed to be taken down, and most landfills charge a fee to accept wood and construction debris. Not only can steel be recycled, bypassing these fees, but many times a steel structure can be sold to someone who will unassemble it for reassembly elsewhere.
You might be reading this thinking, “I guess I have to build a new structure from scratch.” But that’s not exactly the case.
It’s true that a steel frame will make for a strong structure, but that’s not the only way you can use steel in a building.
Steel can be forged into almost any shape you want. Some steel companies form their steel to mimic the appearance of shingled roofs or wood siding.
Because steel requires less material to create a strong structure, it gives architects and designers more freedom with their designs. In a structure with a wooden I-beam, you may need to add pillars or crossbeams to add strength.
But a steel I-beam can offer the same structural support without being forced to adopt these clumsy supports.
Steel is also used to strengthen wooden structures. Many construction companies use a combination of wood and steel to create buildings that have the strength of a steel building while maintaining the timeless charm of wood.
A Steel Structure Saves Money
If you compare prices per pound, you might think there’s no way that you can afford to use steel in your construction. And looking at base cost, steel is typically much more expensive than wood.
But consider what we’ve already looked at.
Steel has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than wood, so you need less of it. Pieces can be prefabricated to the correct length, so it requires less labor.
And most importantly, since it’s stronger than other building materials, it needs to be replaced less frequently.
Considering all these factors, using steel can be cheaper, especially in the long run.
And when hurricane season shows its ugly face, the last thing you want to worry about is construction costs to rebuild your home, barn, or business.
Ask the Experts
Whatever you’re building, we can help. We build a variety of structures from the foundation up. Our engineers can design a steel structure to withstand whatever weather your region throws at you.
Interested in learning more about how we can help you survive hurricane season? Contact us today.