Cost-effective solutions in steel

Advantages of working in steel


As with any construction material, the benefits offered by steel are best enabled by taking a holistic view of steel’s unique combination of properties.

In particular, those benefits include steel's speed of construction, its light weight, longer spans and improved site safety. ‘Cost’ should not be measured in financial terms alone and certainly not just in terms of the upfront financial cost of the initial build.

Steel's cost dimensions

Among the ‘cost' dimensions that need to be considered when working in steel are:

  • Time cost: reduction from early handover due to the inherent speed of steel construction. Speed of construction can amount to a reduction of up to 20% in the overall construction period for multi-storey office buildings, hospitals, etc.
  • Foundation cost: the weight of the structure and floors is typically 50–60% of that of a concrete-based solution, leading to reduced foundation costs, which could represent a saving of 3–5% of total building cost
  • Flexibility/adaptability cost: longer spans lead to more flexible use of internal space. Prefabricated bolted assembly allows for easy reconfiguration or addition
  • Whole-of-life cost: use Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) to understand the true whole-of-life cost of choices for structural and ancillary framing. Value engineering provides a mechanism to specifically focus on value considerations
  • Reputational cost: for projects completed on time and on budget with the high quality that a managed steel solution can bring.

Value engineering steel structures

There is significant scope to value engineer steel structures finding the right balance between standardisation and bespoke, between on-site construction and off-site prefabrication or modularisation, and between simple details and more complex but efficient details. Our value engineering focus area provides a good starting point to appreciate the range of possibilities available to provide your client with cost-effective structures.

Cost-effective solutions in steel

The range of cost-effective solutions in steel is continually evolving, driven by innovation and specific demands in different market segments.

Listed below are potential cost-effective solutions for different market segments, but remember that actual value must be assessed around your specific project:

  • Multi-level building: The mainstream market for multi-level buildings is constantly innovating towards more cost-effective outcomes. Guidance is available regarding costing for multi-level buildings
  • Modular construction: Modular construction describes a form of construction where factory-produced pre-engineered building units are delivered to site and assembled as large volumetric components to form a complete building. The modular units may form complete rooms, parts of rooms or separate service units such as kitchens and bathrooms. The modular units may be self-supporting and stackable or, for taller structures, may be supported by a separate structural frame. 

    Modular construction is often used for accommodation-intensive facilities such as student residences and hotels, but the health sector is also a potential focus as it requires highly complex services and medical installations that could be commissioned and tested off-site.

    Modular construction can offer cost-effective high-quality solutions with very quick site construction. 

    Modular unit being lifted into place on high-rise building. Courtesy Hickory Building Systems.

Resources


MCCB publication – Handbook for the design of modular structures