Construction is one of the most important steel-using industries, accounting for more than 50% of world steel production. Buildings – from houses to car-parks to schools and skyscrapers – rely on steel for their strength. Steel is also used on roofs and as cladding for exterior walls.
Steel can provide the solutions to infrastructure and construction needs in developing countries and in climate resilient cities by enabling protective coastal and wind-resistant designs.
Steel offers strength, versatility, durability and 100% recyclability allowing for improved environmental performance across the entire life cycle of buildings.
The advanced high-strength steels used in steel-plate applications also find uses in a number of related industries. Offshore oil rigs, bridges, civil engineering and construction machines, rail carriages, tanks and pressure vessels, nuclear, thermal and hydroelectric plants – all these applications benefit from the attributes of modern steels.
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.
- Structural sections: these provide a strong, stiff frame for the building and make up 25% of the steel use in buildings.
- Reinforcing bars: these add tensile strength and stiffness to concrete and make up 44% of steel use 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.
- 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.