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Structural steel framing solutions have again been confirmed as faster and cheaper to build than reinforced concrete alternatives in the latest update of a cost comparison study that dates back to 1993. The cost comparison study considers two typical modern commercial developments, Building A which is a 2,600m? office in Manchester, and Building B, which represents an eight-storey prestige office building of 18,000m? in London. Graph A (Comparison of steel and concrete frames and floor costs Buildings A and B – average of all schemes, over page) shows that steel is the cheaper option, as it has been for many years. Graph A tracks the average cost per m? for the steel and the concrete frame and floor options.
At June 2007 prices the concrete frame and floor options cost an average of ?164.25 per m?, as Graph A illustrates. Comparing the constructed component costs of the alternative framing solutions over the same period, Graph C, BERR statistics show that the relative costs of the key steel framed building components fire protection and metal decking, have fallen when compared to ready mix concrete and reinforcement bar, which are key components of concrete frames. The most recent results, see Graph D: Market share for steel and concrete frames UK Multi storey buildings, show that steel is preferred as a framing solution for over 73% of multi-storey commercial buildings, while insitu concrete accounts for 18%.
Mr Todd concluded: ’This strong performance in driving down costs in real terms over so many years is testament to the commitment of the entire constructional steelwork sector to first of all improving its own productivity and then sharing these benefits with customers. Structural change in the steel industry will change pricing patterns for moldmakers in the next several years. It is fairly well known that the primary cause of the increase in global prices has been a rapid increase in steel consumption in China. Coke Probably more critical at this stage than scrap or iron ore is the global supply of coke.
The questions most people are contemplating are: to what extent will steel prices retreat in future months, and will they stay low? The wave of steel making capacity built in the 70s and 80s by emerging economies, coupled with the capacity released from the dissolution of the USSR in the late 80s, led to a large amount of excess capacity in the global steel market.
Cause #4: Global Pressure Our discussion of shortages has been to highlight the fact that the increase in steel demand in China has put pressure on the global infrastructure for steel. Based on the understanding of the world supply and demand situation, it is difficult to see prices retreating a great deal. Cost is a fundamental consideration in the selection of structural frame material and form, which is a key early decision in the design process. This article outlines a number of key cost drivers that must be considered in order to make steel frame rates project specific, and provides guidance on current cost ranges for different building types and locations. The information presented here is based on a series of articles written by Gardiner & Theobald LLP, and published in Building Magazine from October 2011 onwards. For most projects, the decision on the frame material choice and form happens early in the design process, often on the basis of early design principles, limited information and budget costings. While the decision on frame type for most developments will not be based on cost alone, it is nevertheless a key consideration in the decision making process and it is vital to support informed decision making with realistic cost information at this early stage, before refining during the detailed design stages.
For those with limited previous experience of steel framed construction, the unique characteristics of the sector may not be immediately apparent. Steel’s high market share of just under 70% and a review of recent industry trends highlights the importance of maintaining current, market tested cost advice for structural steelwork.
As the selection of frame material is a key design decision and impacts on so many related building elements – foundations, finishes, wall to floor ratio and cladding to name but a few – once the decision has been made and design has progressed, it is disruptive and generally abortive to make fundamental changes to the frame type or form. By its very nature therefore, the decision is commonly based on outline design proposals, with a limited amount of information available to the cost consultant.
Where the initial budget estimates of steel frame costs are not realistic, the wrong frame solution can be selected at a higher cost of not only the frame but potentially also the related building elements. At the early design stages of any project, cost models, benchmarks and historic cost data are key tools used by cost consultants in the estimating of all building elements. Typical cost ranges for different frame types can be developed through cost models, and there are some indicative ranges given as part of this article, but how should one pitch the rate for any specific project? Rather than arbitrarily using the highest rate of a range, it is key to interrogate and understand what those rates buy and how the standard ranges can be adapted to suit project specific factors. A number of factors can be considered to have a key impact on the price of structural steel frames.
Different building functions across different sectors have varying typical frame costs due to their different usages of the created floor space.
A requirement for fewer columns will lead to longer spanning beams and heavier steel sections, which can increase the overall weight of the frame and therefore the cost range for the building.
It is also important to remember that the rate per m² is based on gross internal floor area, which will not account for variances in floor-to-floor heights. The complexity of the structure is closely related to building form and function, as well as specific site conditions. Complex structural solutions, such as transfer structures, and fabricated beams may also need to be introduced to overcome project specific features or restrictions such as retained facades, adjacency of other buildings, ground conditions and so on.
The inclusion of non-standard sections will also increase the overall frame rate as fabrication costs are higher.
The location of a project is a key factor in price determination and indices are available to enable the adjustment of cost data across different regions. Not only is the geographic location of the site an important consideration, site specific features also need to be reviewed. Working in city centre or occupied areas can mean restrictions to working hours, noise, deliveries and craneage, all of which influence installation costs and can result in an extended on site programme. Accurate forecasts of steel frame costs are challenging due to the uncertainty of general economic conditions and the fluctuation of material prices experienced in the UK steel industry through the economic cycle.
One feature of the economic recession has been an increase in the relative prevalence of single stage procurement routes, particularly design and build, compared to the previously dominant two stage approach.
There were initial signs of improvement in the financial services sector in early 2011 and optimism that the commercial sector may begin to see returned demand. In addition to understanding the cost drivers discussed above, it is also important to appreciate the different elements that make up the overall cost of the structural frame, their typical relative proportions and the interrelationship between them.
The construction of the steel frame typically accounts for around 10-15% of the total frame cost. As already highlighted, before using such ‘standard ranges’ it is important to confirm the anticipated frame weight and variables such as the floor-to-floor heights with the design team to determine whether they are above or below the average and to adjust the rate used accordingly.
Low rise buildings with a regular, short span structural grid are typical features of business park offices and teaching facilities.
The buildings often need to be easily subdivided into smaller units and have large floorplates, typically are two to four storeys and have floor-to-floor heights of 3.75-4m. Multi-storey city centre project, Snow Hill 2, Birmingham (Image courtesy of ASD Westok Ltd. City centre buildings are generally constructed on existing confined or irregular sites, which influence the building form and is likely to prevent the use of a regular column grid and may result in alterations to floor plates on the upper storeys. In mixed-use schemes, transfer structures may reduce the wider grids of office or retail areas at lower levels to a more rationalised residential grid on upper floors. The rate range given in the cost table below is generally applicable for buildings up to about 15 storeys; tall buildings above 15 storeys start to have fewer comparables in terms of benchmarks and are likely to have a much higher proportion of complex elements, non-standard sections sections and complicated logistics, especially when constructed on tight city centre sites.
Industrial buildings can cover a range of uses, including warehouses, non-food retail, science parks and distribution centres. Fire protection requirements may also be considered as part of industrial building frame costs. Another key factor in determining the frame cost of industrial buildings is the storey height of the warehouse space.
The cost table summarises the structural frame costs of the three building types and also provides some indicative cost information on floor types and fire protection. The indicative range given for fire resistance is suitable for buildings with a requirement for 60 minute fire resistance. For other locations, the rates should be adjusted using location indices; the table provided contains a selection of indices as published and updated by the BCIS.
Once the early optioneering process is complete and the configuration of the proposed building has been established, the decision on the framing material has usually been made. As the design develops and more information becomes available, the cost planning methodology changes and it is possible to quantify the key materials and test the initial allowances made at the outline design stages against the actual building. For a cost effective structural steelwork frame, minimum weight does not necessarily mean minimum cost. Consideration of these key factors along with early consultation with the supply chain, or market testing, in particular with a steelwork contractor, can ensure that realistic costing of the steel frame and associated elements is maintained and improved as the design develops.
As decisions on frame material and configuration will be based on a number of factors, not simply cost, the study also considered the programme and buildability implications for each option. G&T provided cost information for each frame option and Mace considered buildability, logistics and programme. The study illustrates that for both building types, on a like for like basis steel framed solutions are highly competitive, with the frame and upper floor costs for the steel framed options being potentially up to 16% lower than for concrete.


The total building cost for the steel options are on average around 5% lower than the concrete options as a result of the frame and upper floor costs noted above and smaller foundations, lightweight roofs, lower storey heights reducing cladding costs and reduced preliminaries costs. Furthermore, the construction durations of the steel framed solutions are also shorter than the concrete framed buildings (up to 7% for Building 1 and 10% for Building 2). As mentioned, The study also considers embodied carbon, an element often overlooked as part of recent comparisons, but which is projected to become an increasingly important criterion for design options moving forward.
Over 3 key assessment criteria, The study has illustrated that steel framed solutions can outperform concrete options and provide lower cost, shorter programmes and lower embodied carbon.
Steel continues to be overwhelmingly the structural framing material of choice for multi-storey non-residential buildings, according to the latest survey from independent market research consultants Construction Markets. The survey, commissioned by BCSA and Tata Steel, is the latest in a series going back to 1980 and is thought to be the biggest of its type in the UK, involving 750 interviews with construction specifiers. Here’s a fabulous little article showing you how stainless steel is a cheaper material to use in the long term than mild steel when a whole picture is taken. Life Cycle Cost (LCC) analysis is a means of quantifying the choice of materials for a product or construction, with the aim of selection of the most economic alternative. There’s a splendid LCC equation and a splendid little case study with enough facts and figures to inwardly digest and befuddle your boss with it over a brew or confound your average customer with. Just try not to become too pathologically supercillious when waffling about this to somebody just wanting a splashback. AboutThe Tinbasher is the award-winning company blog of Butler Sheetmetal Ltd UK, a small fabrication shop in the darkest recesses of North West England. Automakers are faced with a double-fold challenge: while called on to reduce vehicle weight, they are asked to improve safety and maintain affordability, requirements that are in direct opposition to each other. Moreover, the high material costs of aluminium, driven by the energy required to produce it, represent only 15% of the cost premium, the remainder being a result of the high manufacturing and assembly costs associated with this low-density material. Optimized steel body structures using AHSS can be constructed at little or no additional total system cost relative to a conventional steel body structure.
Automotive manufacturers have been able to duplicate these results in their own designs and have reached the same conclusions on the affordable weight-reduction enabled by optimized advanced steel designs. A presentation at the International Aluminium Conference by Richard Schultz, aluminium consultant and former President of Alcoa Automotive Structures, concludes that an aluminium car body structure costs automakers between US$1,400 to US$4,600 per vehicle more on average depending on production volume, or a 65% premium over a steel car body frame. Through the Future Steel Vehicle (FSV) programme, WorldAutoSteel commits to Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS) that ensure the continuing cost advantage of steel.
This lightweight—cost connection will be enhanced over time with the delivery of body concepts that address alternative powertrains, such as advanced hybrid, electric, and fuel cell systems. Its results help explain why steel framing solutions continue to dominate as the first choice for multi storey buildings and other structures, as confirmed by a market share survey. A range of steel, composite and concrete based frame solutions for both buildings were fully designed, costed and programmed (see table below). The conclusions hold good for other building types in sectors like healthcare, education and retail.
The figures are derived from the cost study conducted by Davis Langdon and are tracked using Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR – formerly Department of Trade and Industry) cost indices. This has helped ensure that the relative competitive position of concrete and steel frames remains unchanged. This position is reflected in another long established independent industry-standard survey, which has measured the relative market share of structural frames annually since 1980.
The remaining 9% of the market is attributed to load bearing masonry, pre-cast concrete and timber.
Figure 1 demonstrates how dramatic this increase is, showing world steel demand over the past few years. Coke is made from coal by furnaces that bake off impurities, such as sulfur and ash, and bring out the pure carbon in the coal.
Veterans in the steel industry and steel users have seen steel prices spike many times in the past, only to quickly retreat, many times to new all time lows. Since the early 1980s, profitability in the global steel industry has been well below its cost of capital.
As recently as last summer, conventional wisdom put global steel supply at about one billion tons and global steel demand around 850 million tons. This infrastructure includes more than just steel making capacity and rolling mill capacity. The Chinese government recently announced that it plans to add 120 million tons of steel making capacity in the next few years. We will probably see prices level off and plateau soon and they are likely to retreat some time in the second half of this year.
If we accept the premise that the market dynamics on a global basis has changed, how does a steel consumer move forward? In talking to one of our mold base suppliers, he has had problems getting steel and stated that it costs more now for #1 steel than #2. Our molds are small high precision molds where steel cost is a very small part of the cost. Manitowoc Foodservice continuously monitors and invests in advanced supply chain, materials, engineering and manufacturing management to deliver higher performance to our customers through innovation and technology in our various brands. This article briefly covers the effect that each element has on the steel and why it is important or really not wanted. This selection should be based on project specific costings, and the challenge to the cost consultant is to recognise and reconcile fluctuations in material prices in relation to returned tender price data all in the context of limited available design information during early estimates. Through the identification of the key factors relevant to each project and the adjustment of typical rates accordingly, the accuracy of budget structural steel estimating can be significantly improve. Once selected, the frame material is unlikely to change, as to do so can have significant programme implications from the consequential impact on the design of other major elements, such as cladding, service installations etc.
This is a challenging task as the cost of structural steel may fluctuate through the economic cycle, and reconciling material price information with returned tender prices is not always straightforward. Through a consideration of a number of key factors and consultation with the market and supply chain, budget structural steel estimating can be quickly and successfully tailored to specific projects.
To do so would involve going back over design stages already completed and will involve most of the design disciplines.
It can also have an effect on buildability, logistics and the construction programme, as the frame construction is a critical path activity.
At this stage, elemental costs, including that of the structural frame, will usually be expressed as a rate per m² based on the Gross Internal Floor Area (GIFA). To do this most accurately, the cost consultant needs to ask relevant questions of the design team and to speak to the supply chain to use this information effectively. The usage of the building will influence the design loadings considered by the structural engineer and the building function will also result in different requirements for clear spans and floor-to-floor heights. Clearly, these factors need to be considered when determining the rate for the structural frame for early estimates. If for a specific project these are outside the normal range utilised in cost models, a higher or lower rate should be considered to tailor indicative rates to the project. The building form will have an impact on the regularity of the structural grid, and the need to introduce non-standard sections, a wide range of different sections and connections in order to achieve structural stability. Complex connection details may also impact on installation costs, tolerances and interfaces. While the designed frame solution of two buildings may be very similar, the logistics and access arrangements will vary significantly between a city centre congested site and an easily accessible, isolated business park or industrial estate site, or even between alternative city centre sites. As the frame construction is generally a critical path activity, any increase to the construction programme will have an associated impact on project cost. The form that the construction industry’s recovery from recession will take is a subject of deep debate among economists and industry commentators; clearly it will not be felt across all sectors and all regions in the same way. This has aligned main contractor selection and price establishment more closely together and has increased the emphasis on ‘market pricing strategy’ where, while risks may be identified they may not be priced in to tender returns as cost has been further strengthened as the major determinant of contractor selection. These largely failed to materialise and the economic outlook remained changeable through 2012.
However, as the figure (left) shows, the raw material cost typically accounts for only 30-40% of the total frame cost, with fabrication costs also accounting for 30-40%.
It is therefore necessary to consider whether there are features of the proposed building that would significantly affect the erection cost as this will see a corresponding impact on the total cost of the frame.
The rates have been developed from cost models of the different building types and for each the average weight of the structural frame has been given.
Similarly, all of the other key cost drivers of complexity, site conditions, location, function, logistics, programme and procurement strategy should be considered in turn. A key feature of these buildings is flexibility, particularly for speculative business park developments that need to appeal to as many potential occupiers as possible. These buildings will typically have a uniform grid of 6-9m that provides largely column-free space and relatively high floor-to-floor heights.


The traditional structural frame for an industrial building is a steel portal frame, as flexibility of the internal space is a priority, necessitating regular column spacings and long spans for a clear internal area. For example, a steel portal frame incorporating northlights would need consideration when adjusting the standard cost ranges. Buildings with a requirement for 90 minute fire resistance or higher will be outside of this range. During the detailed costing of structural steelwork, a number of factors should be considered alongside the overall volume of materials, including the type of frame (for example, braced or continuous), steel product availability, the use of specialist systems, allowances for connections and fittings and the required fire resistance period and choice of materials to achieve it. The study builds on previous comparisons to reflect developments in construction techniques and changes in prevalence of different structural frame solutions. The study has also highlighted the importance of considering total building cost not just structural frame cost, as the choice of the structural frame material and configuration will have associated impacts on many other elements, including the substructure, roof and external cladding.
Competitive materials, such as aluminium, are at a significant cost disadvantage over steel for all aspects of the car body structure manufacturing process. Both the 25% lighter ULSAB high-strength steel and the 25% lighter ULSAB-AVC AHSS design, while meeting the aggressive 2004 crash requirements, represent no cost penalty for manufacturers. So the cost differential between the average steel and concrete options is actually wider today than in 1995 when the steel options were ?14.03 cheaper. However, the selection of a steel frame reduces timescales and has a beneficial effect on other major variable cost items such as foundations, cladding and services, leading to significant cost savings for the overall project. The purpose of this article is to explain the primary causes of the sudden increase in prices and to provide some insight into the future direction of prices based on an understanding of long-term factors.
The basic message of this graph is that nearly all of the world's increase in consumption has occurred in China; for the rest of the world, steel consumption has been flat.
In the developed world, environmental regulation has forced most old furnaces to shut down. Are we likely to see a return to this type of pattern any time soon or have we seen a true structural change in the global steel industry, one that will alter the familiar pattern of pricing?
When an industry does not earn it's cost of capital it does not re-invest in infrastructure.
Since that time this overhang in supply has melted away due to the increase in demand from China and the rest of the world ending its cyclical economic downturn. Since these costs have gone up across all companies all companies have sought to recoup the extra costs.
However, the shortages of scrap, iron ore and coke have had the effect of taking capacity out of the market.
One of the reasons international trade grew so much over the past decade is that shipping costs went down. The best strategy for the future, for steel consumers, is to work to establish a relationship with a steel supplier.
This will build a picture of the current and short term future market, rather than relying on indices to adjust benchmark or historic rates. Confirmation of the design assumptions and principles with the structural engineer is essential to clarify this. Even with forecasts of material prices continuing to rise over 2012 and into 2013, the relatively low position of demand in relation to capacity in the structural steel industry and continued intense competition in the construction industry generally, meant that contractor pricing strategies remained an important feature in securing work acting as a downward pressure on prices.
For more complex frame designs, with higher proportions of non-standard sections, complex connections or specialist systems with higher fabrication requirements, the overall rate per tonne is likely to be higher than for a standard frame.
The extent of repetition, piece count, the type of connections to be used and access can all have a significant impact on the cost of constructing the frame. Due to the low rise nature of these buildings, the fire protection requirements are not as onerous as for high rise developments and 30-60 minute fire protection would be considered standard. Hopefully, this information will be helpful to those moldmakers with regard to planning for the short and long term. Most countries in the world simply do not consume enough steel objects to generate significant quantities of scrap. The cause of this dis-investment in iron ore was the belief that the electric furnace was the production method of choice since it had an apparent cost advantage over the integrated steel making blast furnace approach. We have experienced a structural change in the steel industry and that this will change pricing patterns for at least the next several years.
As a result, throughout the last 20 years there has been little investment in infrastructure. As China's steel consumption has been growing, it has not only filled up the world's excess capacity, but it has also put pressure on the global supply of raw materials for steel making. There are not enough raw materials to go around; therefore, additional capacity will only add to the problem, not solve it.
A 20 percent drop in prices may be likely, but it is just as likely that prices will rebound shortly thereafter, maybe not to current levels but not very far from them either. A real old- fashioned relationship where companies work together to solve problems and look for ways to work together that are in the best interest of both parties. In its pure form iron is quite soft and adding up to 2% carbon gives it toughness and strength. Therefore, although the period of time to identify and select the best value frame is not a long one, it should not be rushed. It was not until the last quarter of 2013 that the commercial sector began to see returned demand and increased tender prices. Since 1997, China has increased consumption from about 100 million tons to around 260 million tons in 2003. This was supported by the misguided belief that there would be an endless supply of cheap scrap in the world. For the past several years, these kinds of relationships seem to have gone out of style and were replaced by an adversarial system designed to drive down prices to the lowest point possible. Scrap prices have always been volatile, but the variation has been around a much lower price trend. As the amount of carbon increases in the steel the strength increases but the ductility decreases. Figure 3 shows the rapid run-up in scrap in just a few months; scrap prices increased at a great speed. Now that the demand for steel has increased due to China, the shortage of iron ore capacity is starting to become apparent.
It appears that the current infrastructure cannot support global consumption near the level of one billion tons even though theoretical capacity says that it can.
I asked him how often that happens and he told me twice in the last two months." -Russ Westergaard, Tooling Manager, All West Plastics, Inc. It is too early to know for sure how 2004 will finish, but most analysts estimate that China's total consumption will be at least in the area of about 290 million tons. The imbalance between production from the basic oxygen furnace and electric furnace production is going to continue to put pressure on the scrap supply. The top priority for shipyards is to build tankers, especially with the demand for double hull tankers increasing. It's a bit scary that not only has China had a major impact on what we put out the door it seems now they can affect what comes in our door. At the same time China's steel making capacity has also increased, but not as fast as the increase in consumption.
This is going to keep scrap prices higher than historic trend levels for the next several years.
It is also useful in increasing strength and hardness but is less effective than Manganese in doing so.
Again, since scrap is 100 percent of their supply, mini mill steel makers have no choice but to pass the increased costs on to their customers. The automotive as well as most other industries in the U.S and other countries could and most likely will be affected.
It is expected that it will take years to build enough bulk carriers to relieve the shortage. Phosphorus increases steel embrittlement which reduces the toughness and ductility of the metal. We used Wikipedia for this and to be honest the prices of elements were all over the place – covering retail purchase of Sulphur to bulk purchase of Copper.
With 40,000 metric tonnes of heavy carbon steel plates in stock Ancofer is able to supply large quantities of heavy plate to projects that need fast delivery.Ancofer is fully owned by Dillinger Hutte. Oakley Steel is Ancofer's agent in AsiaDillinger Hutte is the world's leading heavy plate mill.



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