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Engineering in America

What You Need to Know About Engineering with Steel

Charles J. Carter, the president of the American Institute of Steel Construction, tells Mediaplanet what makes steel such a great building material.

Charles J. Carter

President, American Institute of Steel Construction

Is structural steel a sustainable building material?

Absolutely. Today’s domestically produced steel beams and columns are made with more than 90 percent recycled material and over 98 percent of structural steel is reclaimed at end of life for reuse and recycling. In fact, steel is the most widely recycled material in the world by weight. The major environmental impact from the production of steel is related to energy use,  and as we move more and more towards greener energy production, steel’s environmental footprint continues to shrink. When you pick domestically produced and fabricated steel, you are making a strong environmentally responsible choice.

Is structural steel made in America?

Yes. Today, roughly 80 percent of the steel used in buildings and virtually all that used in bridges is produced right here in the United States. Moreover, our domestic mills have the capacity to produce all of the structural steel used currently and in the near future in the construction industry.

What’s the biggest advantage to designing with structural steel?

Steel is the most resilient material you can choose for the construction of buildings and bridges. Steel is stronger than concrete or wood, offers superior performance and predictability for earthquakes, can span longer distances without columns (great for both bridge crossings and column-free office space), better resists blast impacts (from terrorist activities or accidents) and it’s faster to complete a steel-framed building than a comparable concrete one.

Is structural steel fire resistant?

Yes. Steel is a non-combustible material and we protect it in construction with heat resistive coatings or enclosures and, when needed, sprinkler systems. Unlike a wood building where the building itself burns, in a structural steel framed building, the building frame does not burn.  A protected steel frame offers a level of life safety in a fire that is unmatched by any other option.

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