Steel Construction

Strong, light, flexible and fast to build, steel frame has long been a standard method of construction in the USA and Australia. Introduced to the Algarve in recent years, steel frame has nowadays gained favour among those seeking a cost-efficient, adaptable and modern solution to building a home.

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Advantages of steel frame construction:
  • Speed-of-build: A typical steel frame home of 200m² takes 5-6 months to complete, instead of 8 - 10 months using traditional brick-and-concrete.

  • Cost: Reduced construction time results in significant labour-cost savings.

  • Adaptability: The weight of a steel frame building is distributed evenly throughout its structure. This reduces the need for interior supporting walls, allowing greater interior space. Furthermore, steel beams can be curved, allowing for unrivalled freedom of architectural design.

  • Stability: Unlike other building materials, steel will not warp, twist, crack, bow, swell, shrink or rot. Steel's strength-to-weight ratio is unmatched.

  • Flexibility: Steel buildings settle easily on their foundations, minimising risk of superficial cracks etc. This flexibility also offers a high degree of resistance to earth tremors.

  • Insulation: Steel frame walls use modern in-fill materials that deliver far superior thermal values to conventional brick construction.
  • Internal environment: Steel frame technology, and the insulating materials it uses, delivers a property with excellent thermal values (saving energy bills) and remarkably healthy air quality with no humidity.

  • Façade: The render used on the outside of a steel frame building can be treated in a wide variety of colours - so there is no need to paint.

  • Investment: The substantially reduced construction time means a faster return on investment. This offers a significantly attractive advantage to commercial developers.

    The first Light Steel Frame (LSF) systems for the UK market were developed in the 1980s. LSF has recently become an established form of construction recognised with inclusion in the current Building Regulations.

    LSF is extensively used for infill walling in multi-storey structures for both commercial and residential use. Provision for rooftop extensions and penthouses is facilitated through using a lightweight construction away from the load bearing structural lines. LSF is commonly used to form the structural frames for residential housing and apartment constructions from 2 to 12 storeys.

    Benefits of LSF construction include:

    • Speed
    • Accuracy
    • Dimensionally stable in the changing environments from construction site to occupied building
    • Typical construction details achieve a very good thermal performance and are very air tight
    • Lightweight, reducing the bearing loads on foundations
    • Flexibility in design, can accommodate most design features including curved walls

    The LSF industry has been capacity constrained over the last few years, however a number of new entrants to the market and capacity increases from the established players will allow significant growth over the next few years. Traditionally the industry has been dominated by the roll formers of the sections (studs & track), who also supplied the know-how to assemble them. More recently down stream players such as dry lining or cladding sub-contractors have diversified into LSF, bringing with them a more practical knowledge of the construction industry and its requirements.

    As a result, the service to the main contractor is improving. These new suppliers are developing diverse, new, practical and more cost effective methods of designing, assembling and constructing LSF. These include field factories next to the job site to reduce transport costs and lead-time from design to erecting. Most importantly, the more enlightened are now offering integrated packages including internal and external claddings and the roof element to provide the main contractor with a true, rapid dry envelope from a single sub-contract package.

  • Steel framing is 60% lighter than timber frame and many times lighter than traditional methods of construction.
  • Build times for light steel frame structures are 50-60% less than traditional methods.
  • Steel offers the highest strength to weight ratio of any building material.
  • Framed buildings are easier to insulate and are more comfortable! They are warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
  • Framed buildings are much faster to construct and are very cost efficient.

Questions and Answers Steel Frame Houses

Will a steel framed home look different to other homes ?
No. A steel frame home will look exactly like any other home. The same exterior finishes can be applied to a steel frame
as those applied in standard construction.

Can a steel framed house be remodelled?
Yes. Since steel framing enables larger spans in the design of the home, fewer interior load bearing walls are needed, making renovation very easy while allowing more flexibility in design.

Will a steel frame home rust?
No. The use of zinc coating on the steel framing protects the steel from corrosion for the life of the structure.

Is a steel frame safe during an earthquake?
Yes. Steel has less probability of damage during an earthquake. A lighter structure with stronger connections results in less damage from seismic force.

Is a steel frame safe from lightning in storms?
Yes. A steel frame actually allows more protection for the occupants since it provides a direct path to the ground in the event of a lightning strike. This reduces the likelihood of explosions or secondary fire.

Does it cost more for electrical or plumbing work with steel frame?
No. The studs and plates have pre-punched holes to facilitate easy cable installation. Grommets are fitted to protect the cable sheathing.

What about the cost of steel frame?
Steel frame is a comparable alternative to traditional building methods in cost comparisons.

Is it easy to hang pictures on steel framed walls?
Yes. Lighter pictures can be hung from the drywall with toggle bolts or hangers. Heavier objects can be hung with screws attached directly into a steel stud, easily found with a magnet.

Will my project be built more quickly?
Yes. On average steel frame buildings are completed at least 25% faster than traditional methods of construction.

What about fire?
Steel frame houses are fire resistant. Studs, joists and rafters do not add fuel to a fire. Actual case studies show steel houses perform very well in house fires, with little or no damage to the framing structure.

Steel expands or contracts as the temperature changes. Is this a problem?
With steel framed houses, this movement is negligible due to minimal direct heat transfer to the frame, even in hot weather. Steel has a compatible expansion coefficient with that of plasterboard, so minimising the incidence of cracking.

Is steel framing mould resistant?
Yes. Steel frame structures are built so that there is adequate ventilation, while allowing for controlled environments inside the building to be safe and energy efficient. Using steel limits the sources of food for mould, preventing its growth.

Are steel frames electrically safe?
Yes! Steel frames are safe because the frames are earthed and if exposed to a live wire, the circuit will short and trip the residual current safety switch, so there is little chance of touching anything active.

Is steel framing energy-efficient?

Yes. Home owners experience significant reductions in their heating and air conditioning bills. Many find that once their homes are heated or cooled, it takes much less energy to maintain a desirable temperature.

Breathe easier!
The Healthy House Institute recommends steel frame homes for good indoor air quality. Home owners are exposed to fewer toxins in a steel framed building.