Monday, March 18, 2013

What Factors Affect the Overall Design a Steel Building?

A number of things should be thoroughly considered when designing a steel building. Carefully taking them into account will ensure a structurally safe and stable steel building that will last for a long time.

Construction with steel building systems has become one of the most preferred methods for a wide variety of building projects, ranging from commercial and residential applications to industrial and agricultural use. Such popularity is not surprising at all considering that such systems allow for the creation of structures that are attractive, flexible, sustainable, and offer lower life cycle cost. As a matter of fact, steel buildings are considered as the best alternative for traditional building materials like wood and stone.

What makes them all the more attractive for both builders and end users is that they present high degree of accuracy, lending them their stability and also enabling them to resist a number of elements, such as high winds, heat, cold, water and even earthquake. Hence, they are considered as the most viable solution for housing people, animals and commodities.

It should be regarded that in order for a steel building to become structurally stable, provide protection against different forces, and ensure the comfort of those who will be using it, sound consideration should go into its design. There are a number of critical factors that could greatly influence the design of structural steel and all of them must be taken into account at the earliest design stage. Below are some of them.


As with any other structure, a steel building can be configured to suit a wide variety of applications. Thus, during the design phase the use and occupancy of the structure should be determined so that it can be properly configured to meet specific needs. For instance, if the building will be for human occupancy or, perhaps, multiple functions will be assigned to the structure, the design would entail higher engineering requirements or hazard rating so as to make it more secure.


The engineer or designer must know the site before beginning the design. Proper site evaluation, will  help determine pre-existing conditions that may influence the look, shape and dimensions of the building. Location variables such as topography, utility lines and climate and weather are critical information that should be factored in by the designer to come up with a structurally sound steel building design.

Structural Loads

Structural loads refer to the forces applied to the building and its components. Since a steel building is likely to be exposed to a number of forces during its lifetime, great emphasis should be given toward its loading design to ensure that all the components that will be used to construct it  will be able to resist those stresses.
There are different kinds of loads that should be taken into account when designing a steel building and they can be divided into four basic categories: dead load, live load, collateral load and environmental load.

Dead load refers to the weight of the steel building system, such as the frame and roofing components. Live load is a load produced (1) during the construction and maintenance of the building and may include workers, equipment and materials and (2) during the life of the structure as imposed by the people and movable objects that the building may house. Collateral load refers to the weight of additional permanent materials that will be used in the structure, such as sprinkler systems, HVAC equipment, ceilings and mechanical and electrical systems. Meanwhile, environmental load is the force imposed by nature. This includes the pressure coming from snow, rain wind and seismic force.
Early identification and calculation of the aforesaid loads will provide the building the ability to better  withstand those forces, thereby ensuring the safety of persons and the items it will house .

Building Codes

Building codes are a set of minimum requirements for safe and serviceable construction usually imposed by the city, state or region or a combination of all three. The main purpose of building codes is to protect public health by eliminating unsafe structural design, poor construction practices and substandard building materials.
As a steel building is a major build, its design should be in compliance with the imposed building codes in the area so that its construction will be approved by the local building department. Since codes are complicated, cover various phases of the design and construction, and differ from one area to another, end users and designers are advised to discuss the implemented codes in the area where the structure will be built with a code official. That way, the necessary safety precautions will be taken during its design phase, ensuring that it will be able to meet those requirements.

Future expansions or configurations

A typical steel building can be expanded to accommodate different functions and way of use. However, such flexibility should be incorporated at the early phase of the building's design so that structure will be able to take on additional loads that the expansion or configuration will impose.

For instance, if a client anticipates that the steel building's space requirements will demand increasing at a later date and he or she is looking to add a lean-to to the structure, then the designer should be able to design the structure in such a way that it will allow for easy and non-disruptive expansion without affecting its integrity; e.g. reinforced support system will be integrated to the building's eaves so that it will be able to support the weight of the lean-to.

Final words
Apparently, there is more to a steel building's design than taking its length, width and roof height or regarding its aesthetics. It also entails assessing a number of factors that could affect its stability as well as its long term use.

By carefully  looking at the factors mentioned above, builders and end users will be able to come up with a steel building design that is both precise and suffices to the quality standards imposed by the industry. Likewise, taking the said factors into account will also ensure the continued satisfactory performance of the building, eliminating the possibility of malfunction or failure in the long run and ensuring the safety of its future users.

This article was written by one of the regular contributors of Steel Buildings UK is one of the best suppliers of premium quality and competitively priced steel buildings.

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