Why Steel?

Building Your Most Cost-Effective Mid-Rise Building

Builders can meet market needs, meet safety requirements, and build cost-effective and environmentally sensitive mid-rise buildings with these five tips.

The state of the global economy has changed the construction market for the next several years. Growing demand for mid-rise buildings, including apartments, condominiums, senior living, affordable housing, and mixed-use commercial/residential development is creating opportunities and challenges for builders and developers as they work to implement strategies to maximize return on investment.

Even with today’s heightened environmental awareness, most builders and designers are still focusing on their bottom line. Some builders are fighting the increased environmental regulations and safety requirements, while others embrace them and find ways to simultaneously reduce consumption, increase safety, and increase return on investment for owners and developers. The question that arises is: How can builders meet market needs, maintain safety, and build cost-effective and environmentally sensitive mid-rise buildings?

Here are five essential tips that can help make your next mid-rise project your most cost-effective one yet.

Choose the Right Material

Mid-rise structures, which are 3 to 9 stories in height, are frequently used for hotels, motels, apartments, dormitories, barracks, condominiums, and multi-family housing. The structural details play a critical role in the cost and configuration of the building. That means choosing the right material is critical. Every additional square foot built onto a project means more potential revenue for the building owner. More stories and higher density mean more revenue from the same urban footprint.

Consider cold-formed steel (CFS) framing, which is a cost-effective solution for mid-rise buildings. With the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any construction material, less material is required to carry the same structural loads as other materials. Cost savings in steel buildings start at the foundations, where the loads imposed by a steel frame are up to 50 percent less than those of a concrete alternative, and therefore foundation costs can be considerably less. The light-weight quality of CFS framing also means that it is possible to build in difficult soil conditions where heavier materials would require expensive deep foundations.

Construction cycle time is another important factor. Take the example of a five-story residential project in Brantford, Ontario, where CFS framing reduced the construction timeline by six weeks and resulted in a significant cost savings.

Additionally, the consistent, high quality and dimensional stability of steel framing results in few warranty claims and call-backs. Builders can also trim their insurance costs. Using non combustible steel construction will minimize the risk of fire-related incidents and subsequent legal action, resulting in significant insurance savings for the builder during construction and for the owner over the life of the structure.

Make it Safe

Along with its design flexibility, steel construction offers inherent safety advantages. Virtually all steel construction is manufactured offsite, which means most of the work is carried out in safer, factory controlled conditions, and fewer workers are required on site. There are fewer deliveries of materials and equipment to the site, which means fewer potential jobsite hazards. And using steel means shorter building programs, hence less pressure on workforces to reach completion targets.

Speed Up Your Project and Maximize Value

More efficient construction methods available for cold-formed steel projects can significantly reduce the construction schedule. Steel allows an early start on site and structures can be erected quickly. The predictability and accuracy of steel components allows follow-on trades to get to work sooner. This delivers time savings. In fact, speed of erection is often one of the main criteria for selecting steel. In many high-density urban projects, it is critical to reduce disruption to nearby buildings, minimize impact on neighboring residents and avoid causing traffic congestion. Short construction periods leads to savings in site preliminaries, earlier return on investment and reduced interest charges.

Faster construction schedules can help building owners earn money on their investment faster by moving clients in sooner. It also leads to lower financing costs because shorter construction time means reduced interest charges. Time related savings can easily amount to between 3 and 5 percent of the overall project value reducing the building owner’s requirements for working capital and improving cash flow.

Speed is achieved without jeopardizing safety, making steel construction inherently safer than alternatives.

Make It Sustainable and Profitable

Consumer and market demand are driving more builders to use sustainable materials. According to a World Green Building Trends 2016 report by Dodge Data & Analytics, the global green building sector continues to double every three years, with survey respondents from 70 countries reporting 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018.

The additional benefit is that a sustainable building is a cost-effective building when constructed properly. As more green codes and standards are being adopted, using CFS framing in your next mid-rise project will help you meet the highest sustainability standards. Steel is recognized in all major green building standards and rating programs, including the National Green Building Standard (ICC-700) for residential buildings, ASHRAE Standard 189.1 for commercial construction, and the US Green Building Council’s LEED program that covers all types of buildings.

When properly integrated into the building, steel can be the most sustainable of construction materials. Not only can it all be recycled or re-used again and again without ever degrading its quality, but major advantages flow from the decision to select steel as a solution. These  advantages can add up to significant benefits to the users of steel and society as a whole.

In 2013 alone, 81 million tons of steel were recycled in North America. Moreover, for mid-rise construction this is particularly beneficial because use of steel components can contribute to obtaining LEED points for building owners seeking certification. Additionally, savings result during construction as the use of steel building components generates very little onsite waste, since components are manufactured to tight tolerances prior to being delivered to the building site. Any onsite steel waste generated can be easily collected for recycling or reuse. For example, for a residence framed with steel, less than 2 percent of the steel is typically left over and would be recycled. That same house built of wood would generate 20 percent waste that would be burned or sent to a landfill.

Take Advantage of In-depth Industry Support

Over the past two decades, the steel industry has devoted significant resources to develop design standards, guides and manuals covering all aspects of steel construction. The industry offers comprehensive and in-depth technical back up to ensure that builders using steel have all the guidance and support they need at their fingertips.

For example, a relatively new methodology that is increasingly popular in construction is Building Information Modeling (BIM), which has been playing a major role in reducing waste during the design and preconstruction phases. BIM processes employed by industry design professionals are highly compatible with steel manufacturing processes; both support minimization of time, materials and the generation of construction waste. Steel framing is produced to precise tolerances at any length and lends itself well to component assembly (e.g., wall panels and trusses), making it very compatible with the material takeoffs and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) produced from BIM software models.

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