In the construction world there are ultimately two camps. On the one side you have the contractors who swear by steel for its myriad of positive uses. On the other, the workmen who will defend concrete until they become part of the dust themselves.
While there are pros and cons to both building materials, picking one over the other for favoritism or emotional reasons versus a logical, researched, fact-based choice can be the death knell of a construction project, depending on what that project is.
So let’s break it down. Here are some criteria to consider when choosing the right building material for your site:
1. Fire resistance
- Steel can become extremely malleable at high temperatures, causing it to buckle under the strain of weight above it.
- Concrete is naturally fire resistant and can withstand the hottest of temperatures without losing its dexterity.
- Steel is susceptible to rusting if in contact with water for to long, and can dissolve if corrosive materials are applied to it.
- Concrete doesn’t rust, however the rebar inside the concrete can rust if exposed.
- The majority of steel used these days is mostly recycled. However, steel plants are often a distance from the work site, costing additional fuel and carbon emissions in the transport.
- Concrete Is most often locally sourced, and cost little to transport. However, there are mixed reports as to whether or not crushed concrete can be used again in new mixes.
Chicago has used equal amounts of concrete and steel since its inception. High rises utilize both almost equally, concrete for the floors, and steel for the girders and skeleton. But one thing all Chicago natives can agree on without a doubt, that concrete stairs in chicago are much better than steel. Those hot Chicago summers, steel stairs can get pretty toasty.
For ease of form, strength, and cost consistency, the winner is concrete. Steel wins in ductility, speed of use, and versatility. Over all, concrete has more pros than cons over steel, but once again, it depends on the type of project.