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Light Weight Metal (Steel) Building Construction

The application of metal buildings for living purpose and commercial purpose is increasing day by day. This new building technology came to the foreground because of the rapid development in the building industry, surely it has a lot of advantages from the technological point of view, which meet all the requirements these days. But it is more important beside the points of view mentioned above that the construction of these buildings protects the natural environment, and suits the standpoints of sustainable development and guarantees a healthy environment for the users for the whole lifespan of the building.

Copyright: Mlenny Photography :: A.Hafemann -


The light construction residential house’s frame is assembled from cold-formed steel profiles. In the gaps between the elements of the frame heat insulation material is placed and the frame is supplied with surface layers made of various materials, forming a layered structure. Generally, the elements of the frame structure are constructed of C and U profiles with a dry, assembly style building technology. Numerous steel fasteners, stiffeners, and other complementary profiles are connected to the basic elements of the structure. The applied materials filling the gaps between the elements of the frame not only perform heat insulation but also meet acoustical requirements and they are an efficient fire protection tool.


With the application of efficient heat 134 A. DUDÁS insulation materials a good level of fire protection and excellent heat and sound insulation can be achieved. The inside cover is mostly made of plasterboard. Composite layers by wood as basic material (e.g. OSB) are preferably used as outside wallboard cover and floor slabs. With this, we can exploit the advantage of high strength, which provides a stiffening function.              

How steel is used in Buildings and Infrastructure

The possibilities for using steel in buildings and infrastructure are limitless. The most common applications are listed below.

For Buildings

  • Structural sections: these provide a strong, stiff frame for the building and makeup 25% of the steel used in buildings.
  • Reinforcing bars: these add tensile strength and stiffness to concrete and makeup 44% of steel used in buildings. Steel is used because it binds well to concrete, has a similar thermal expansion coefficient, and is strong and relatively cost-effective. Reinforced concrete is also used to provide deep foundations and basements and is currently the world’s primary building material.
  • Sheet products: 31% is in sheet products such as roofing, purlins, internal walls, ceilings, cladding, and insulating panels for exterior walls.
  • Non-structural steel: steel is also found in many non-structural applications in buildings, such as heating and cooling equipment and interior ducting.
  • Internal fixtures and fittings such as rails, shelving and stairs are also made of steel. 

For Infrastructure

  • Transport networks: steel is required for bridges, tunnels, rail track and in constructing buildings such as fueling stations, train stations, ports and airports. About 60% of steel use in this application is as rebar and the rest is sections, plates and rail track.
  • Utilities (fuel, water, power): over 50% of the steel used for this application is in underground pipelines to distribute water to and from housing, and to distribute gas. The rest is mainly rebar for power stations and pumping houses.

Benefits of using Steel in Construction

        • Is reusable and endlessly recyclable.

        • Contains at least 25% recycled steel

        • Enables energy efficiency in buildings and construction projects. 

        • Strong, requiring fewer beams and providing more usable open space.

        • Light, requiring reduced foundations.

        • Less material implies resource-saving and a lesser impact on the environment.

        • Flexible in combination with other materials.

        • Earthquake resistant due to steel’s ductility.

        • Fast on-site build for prefabricated buildings.

        • Durable

Environment and Health Protection Viewpoints

The ecological approach has pointed out that the current high-level energy consumption, characteristic of people’s activity nowadays, the level of exploitation and the pollution of the natural environment lead to a global catastrophe. To decrease this danger, it is absolutely necessary to economize basic materials and energy, as well as extended protection of nature is required. The macro-level changes mentioned above should appear in all micro-level processes in the construction generally and in the building of concrete houses. This can be put in reality by following the directives of environment-friendly, energy-conscious design and building. In ecological architecture, the most important issue is the enforcement of the viewpoints of environment protection and public health protection. During the building, the environment protection is reachable by reducing significantly the energy consumption by

        • application of building materials with low embodied energy;
        • employment of recyclable building materials;
        • Usage of building technology with low energy need,

The health protection viewpoints have to be taken into consideration during the total lifespan. Naturally, health protection refers not only to the inhabitants but also to people living in the wider environment and globally to the whole of humanity. The principles of health protection suggest the application of possibly natural materials and technologies, which are absolutely harmless to people.

Lifespan Analysis

Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a quantitative means for assessing the environmental impact of an object. In structural engineering, the object of interest may be a building, bridge, or other structure. In order to provide a complete picture, the environmental impacts from the entire life-cycle of the object is considered: from the acquisition of the raw materials needed to form the members, through the energy and ancillary materials involved in the processing and transportation of these materials and members, excavation required during construction, future maintenance such as redecking or painting, up to the end use or disposal of the members.


Once the inventory of all of these items is completed, the associated environmental impacts on climate, air quality, water quality, human health, and resource depletion can be characterized using standardized methods. For example, the global warming potential of a project can be expressed in terms of the equivalent mass of CO2. Such an analysis can be completed using various methods and software to reveal the potential for minimizing environmental impacts on a project, for comparing alternative design concepts, and for obtaining credits in sustainability guidelines such as Envision and LEED.


In civil engineering construction, we should have present the life cycle assessment while we select the materials in order to valuate the whole environmental impacts that are directly associated. In order to accomplish reliable results, we should not only define criteria or requests, but also establish a methodology of valuation and environmental characterization of materials in analysis.

Life-Cycle Cost Analysis

On the other hand, life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is a well-known concept for evaluating the economics of a structure, typically used to evaluate whether a particular investment or initial cost has a long-term economic advantage for reasons such as reduced maintenance or longer useful life. While LCCA and LCA originated and are typically applied with very different goals in mind – determining the most cost-effective option versus determining the most sustainable option – the two concepts are not unrelated.


Contrary to a common misconception, the most sustainable option is also often the most cost-efficient option when considering the full life cycle. For example, the use of fly ash in place of ordinary portland cement results in significant reductions in CO2 and hence global warming potential as well as cost savings and improved durability in typical applications.

Phase of Establishment

At the inspection of building material’s production, we have to focus on the steel profiles, which form the frame structure. This is the differential specialty of the analyzed building system. The embodied energy needed for steel production is high, but as a result of the good mechanical properties, it is used in a much smaller quantity than traditional bricks to reach the same bearing capacity.


The production of the various heat insulation materials, which are built-in in a high quantity, depends on the type. But the invested energy for production could be multiply regained by significant energy savings of heating in the whole lifespan.


The production of the building structure and the building is realized with an assembly technology, which has a lot of positive aspects. The result of the dry construction technology is a fast building because there is no need to wait for the structure to dry. The building is independent of the weather, so the house is instantly inhabitable. Due to the precise, assembly style technology, there is less waste.


The damage of the natural environment has a smaller extent on the site and it is much easier to remedy. In respect of induction energy the light construction building system has also a lot of advantages, because the small weight and bulk of the building materials, transportation, and storage demands decrease.

Phase of Using

The inspected buildings with properly designed building structures and heat insulation save energy, at the same time they provide almost the same level of comfort with appropriate layered form – as the highly efficient silicate-based ones. For instance, in the case of careful design, the building materials do not harm health. For example, the good property of the plasterboard is that it can regulate on the optimal way the indoor space’s relative moisture.


The steel-framed buildings adapt well to the fast-changing requirements, they are easy and quick to transform, on the one hand, because of the assembly style technology, on the other hand as a result of the fact that the separation walls are independent of the frame structure.


With careful usage and maintenance, the assembled, steel-framed building’s lifespan may reach that of the traditional ones. It is also acceptable and satisfactory if we consider the constant change of demands caused by the quick rhythm of life, which leads to a fast moral depreciation.

Phase of Abolition

The result of the light construction building system is the possibility of a rapid demolition. The abolition circumstances causes less charge to natural environment than the liquidation of silicate based ones, and a large amount of building materials from the demolition are recyclable. The elements of the steel-frame can be fully reused primarily (i.e. rebuild), or secondarily (recycling steel). Plasterboard is also recyclable, but the other, undamaged removed elements of the building can also built in again.


The light construction building systems characteristics mentioned above justify the environmental friendly properties. A steel-framed building inspected for the whole lifespan causes low level charge for the natural environment and insure a healthy life space for the users. Consequently it equally fulfils the natural protection’s and the healthy protection’s requirements and besides this, the building and the maintenance of it are also economical.


About the Author

This article is written by Engr. Shoaib Azam.  

Who is a Civil Engineer by Profession.

(c) Some Rights Reserved.

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