Structural steel

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Various structural steel shapes Structural-steel-icons.jpg
Various structural steel shapes

Structural steel is a category of steel used for making construction materials in a variety of shapes. Many structural steel shapes take the form of an elongated beam having a profile of a specific cross section. Structural steel shapes, sizes, chemical composition, mechanical properties such as strengths, storage practices, etc., are regulated by standards in most industrialized countries.


Most structural steel shapes, such as I-beams, have high second moments of area, which means they are very stiff in respect to their cross-sectional area and thus can support a high load without excessive sagging. [1]

Structural steel roof at Manchester Victoria Station Manchester Victoria roof view.JPG
Structural steel roof at Manchester Victoria Station

Common structural shapes

The shapes available are described in many published standards worldwide, and a number of specialist and proprietary cross sections are also available.

A steel I-beam, in this case used to support timber joists in a house. I-Beam 002.JPG
A steel I-beam, in this case used to support timber joists in a house.

While many sections are made by hot or cold rolling, others are made by welding together flat or bent plates (for example, the largest circular hollow sections are made from flat plate bent into a circle and seam-welded). [2]

The terms angle iron, channel iron, and sheet iron have been in common use since before wrought iron was replaced by steel for commercial purposes. They have lived on after the era of commercial wrought iron and are still sometimes heard today, informally, in reference to steel angle stock, channel stock, and sheet, despite that they are misnomers (compare "tin foil", still sometimes used informally for aluminum foil). In formal writing for metalworking contexts, accurate terms like angle stock, channel stock, and sheet are used.


Standard structural steels (Europe)

Most steels used throughout Europe are specified to comply with the European standard EN 10025. However, many national standards also remain in force.[ citation needed ]

Typical grades are described as 'S275J2' or 'S355K2W'. In these examples, 'S' denotes structural rather than engineering steel; 275 or 355 denotes the yield strength in newtons per square millimetre or the equivalent megapascals; J2 or K2 denotes the materials toughness by reference to Charpy impact test values; and the 'W' denotes weathering steel. Further letters can be used to designate fine grain steel ('N' or 'NL'); quenched and tempered steel ('Q' or 'QL'); and thermomechanically rolled steel ('M' or 'ML').

1. S275JOH Specification S275JOH is steel grade in EN 10219 specification, EN 10210 standard. And the most widely used specification is EN10219 standard, which is Cold formed welded structural hollow sections of non-alloy and fine grain steels.
EN10219-1 specifies the technical delivery conditions for cold formed welded structural hollow sections of circular, square or rectangular forms and applies to structural hollow sections formed cold without subsequent heat treatment.
Requirements for S275JOH pipe tolerances, dimensions and sectional s275 pipe properties are contained in EN 10219-2.
2. S275JOH Steel Pipes manufacture Process
The steel manufacturing process shall be at the discretion of the steel producer. S275JOH carbon steel pipes can be made in ERW, SAW or seamless process. All S275JOH steel material and S275JOH pipes should conform to EN10219 standards. [3]

The normal yield strength grades available are 195, 235, 275, 355, 420, and 460, although some grades are more commonly used than others e.g. in the UK, almost all structural steel is grades S275 and S355. Higher grades are available in quenched and tempered material (500, 550, 620, 690, 890 and 960 - although grades above 690 receive little if any use in construction at present).

A set of Euronorms define the shape of a set of standard structural profiles:

Standard structural steels (USA)

Steels used for building construction in the US use standard alloys identified and specified by ASTM International. These steels have an alloy identification beginning with A and then two, three, or four numbers. The four-number AISI steel grades commonly used for mechanical engineering, machines, and vehicles are a completely different specification series.

The standard commonly used structural steels are; [4]

Carbon steels

  • A36 - structural shapes and plate.
  • A53 - structural pipe and tubing.
  • A500 - structural pipe and tubing.
  • A501 - structural pipe and tubing.
  • A529 - structural shapes and plate.
  • A1085 - structural pipe and tubing.

High strength low alloy steels

  • A441 - structural shapes and plates - (Superseded by A572)
  • A572 - structural shapes and plates.
  • A618 - structural pipe and tubing.
  • A992 - Possible applications are W or S I-Beams.
  • A913 - Quenched and Self Tempered (QST) W shapes.
  • A270 - structural shapes and plates.

Corrosion resistant high strength low alloy steels

  • A243 - structural shapes and plates.
  • A588 - structural shapes and plates.

Quenched and tempered alloy steels

  • A514 - structural shapes and plates.
  • A517 - boilers and pressure vessels.
  • Eglin steel - Inexpensive aerospace and weaponry items.

Forged Steel

  • A668 - Steel Forgings
Non-preload bolt assembly (EN 15048) Non-preload bolt assembly (EN 15048).png
Non-preload bolt assembly (EN 15048)
Pre-load bolt assembly (EN 14399) EN 14399 Pre-load bolt assembly (System HR).png
Pre-load bolt assembly (EN 14399)

CE marking

The concept of CE marking for all construction products and steel products is introduced by the Construction Products Directive (CPD). The CPD is a European Directive that ensures the free movement of all construction products within the European Union.

Because steel components are "safety critical", CE Marking is not allowed unless the Factory Production Control (FPC) system under which they are produced has been assessed by a suitable certification body that has been approved to the European Commission. [5]

In the case of steel products such as sections, bolts and fabricated steelwork the CE Marking demonstrates that the product complies with the relevant harmonized standard. [6]

For steel structures the main harmonized standards are:

The standard that covers CE Marking of structural steelwork is EN 1090-1. The standard has come into force in late 2010. After a transition period of two years, CE Marking will become mandatory in most European Countries sometime early in 2012. [7] The official end date of the transition period is July 1, 2014.

Steel vs. concrete

Choosing the ideal structural material

Most construction projects require the use of hundreds of different materials. These range from the concrete of all different specifications, structural steel of different specifications, clay, mortar, ceramics, wood, etc. In terms of a load bearing structural frame, they will generally consist of structural steel, concrete, masonry, and/or wood, using a suitable combination of each to produce an efficient structure. Most commercial and industrial structures are primarily constructed using either structural steel or reinforced concrete. When designing a structure, an engineer must decide which, if not both, material is most suitable for the design. There are many factors considered when choosing a construction material. Cost is commonly the controlling element; however, other considerations such as weight, strength, constructability, availability, sustainability, and fire resistance will be taken into account before a final decision is made.

Reinforced concrete

Structural steel

The tallest structures today (commonly called "skyscrapers" or high-rise) are constructed using structural steel due to its constructability, as well as its high strength-to-weight ratio. In comparison, concrete, while being less dense than steel, has a much lower strength-to-weight ratio. This is due to the much larger volume required for a structural concrete member to support the same load; steel, though denser, does not require as much material to carry a load. However, this advantage becomes insignificant for low-rise buildings, or those with several stories or less. Low-rise buildings distribute much smaller loads than high-rise structures, making concrete the economical choice. This is especially true for simple structures, such as parking garages, or any building that is a simple, rectilinear shape. [15]

Structural steel and reinforced concrete are not always chosen solely because they are the most ideal material for the structure. Companies rely on the ability to turn a profit for any construction project, as do the designers. The price of raw materials (steel, cement, coarse aggregate, fine aggregate, lumber for form-work, etc.) is constantly changing. If a structure could be constructed using either material, the cheapest of the two will likely control. Another significant variable is the location of the project. The closest steel fabrication facility may be much further from the construction site than the nearest concrete supplier. The high cost of energy and transportation will control the selection of the material as well. All of these costs will be taken into consideration before the conceptual design of a construction project is begun. [10]

Combining steel and reinforced concrete

Structures consisting of both materials utilize the benefits of structural steel and reinforced concrete. This is already common practice in reinforced concrete in that the steel reinforcement is used to provide steel's tensile strength capacity to a structural concrete member. A commonly seen example would be parking garages. Some parking garages are constructed using structural steel columns and reinforced concrete slabs. The concrete will be poured for the foundational footings, giving the parking garage a surface to be built on. The steel columns will be connected to the slab by bolting and/or welding them to steel studs extruding from the surface of the poured concrete slab. Pre-cast concrete beams may be delivered on site to be installed for the second floor, after which a concrete slab may be poured for the pavement area. This can be done for multiple stories. [15] A parking garage of this type is just one possible example of many structures that may use both reinforced concrete and structural steel.

A structural engineer understands that there are an infinite number of designs that will produce an efficient, safe, and affordable building. It is the engineer's job to work alongside the owners, contractors, and all other parties involved to produce an ideal product that suits everyone's needs. [10] When choosing the structural materials for their structure, the engineer has many variables to consider, such as the cost, strength/weight ratio, sustainability of the material, constructability, etc.

Thermal properties

The properties of steel vary widely, depending on its alloying elements.

The austenizing temperature, the temperature where a steel transforms to an austenite crystal structure, for steel starts at 900 °C (1,650 °F) for pure iron, then, as more carbon is added, the temperature falls to a minimum 724 °C (1,335 °F) for eutectic steel (steel with only .83% by weight of carbon in it). As 2.1% carbon (by mass) is approached, the austenizing temperature climbs back up, to 1,130 °C (2,070 °F). Similarly, the melting point of steel changes based on the alloy.

The lowest temperature at which a plain carbon steel can begin to melt, its solidus, is 1,130 °C (2,070 °F). Steel never turns into a liquid below this temperature. Pure Iron ('Steel' with 0% Carbon) starts to melt at 1,492 °C (2,718 °F), and is completely liquid upon reaching 1,539 °C (2,802 °F). Steel with 2.1% Carbon by weight begins melting at 1,130 °C (2,070 °F), and is completely molten upon reaching 1,315 °C (2,399 °F). 'Steel' with more than 2.1% Carbon is no longer Steel, but is known as Cast iron. [16]

Fire resistance

Metal deck and open web steel joist receiving spray fireproofing plaster, made of polystyrene-leavened gypsum. Owsj deck fireproofing.jpg
Metal deck and open web steel joist receiving spray fireproofing plaster, made of polystyrene-leavened gypsum.

Steel loses strength when heated sufficiently. The critical temperature of a steel member is the temperature at which it cannot safely support its load. [17] Building codes and structural engineering standard practice defines different critical temperatures depending on the structural element type, configuration, orientation, and loading characteristics. The critical temperature is often considered the temperature at which its yield stress has been reduced to 60% of the room temperature yield stress. [18] In order to determine the fire resistance rating of a steel member, accepted calculations practice can be used, [19] or a fire test can be performed, the critical temperature of which is set by the standard accepted to the Authority Having Jurisdiction, such as a building code. In Japan, this is below 400 °C. [20] In China, Europe and North America (e.g., ASTM E-119), this is approximately 1000–1300 °F [21] (530-810 °C). The time it takes for the steel element that is being tested to reach the temperature set by the test standard determines the duration of the fire-resistance rating. Heat transfer to the steel can be slowed by the use of fireproofing materials, thus limiting steel temperature. Common fireproofing methods for structural steel include intumescent, endothermic, and plaster coatings as well as drywall, calcium silicate cladding, and mineral wool insulating blankets. [22]

Concrete building structures often meet code required fire-resistance ratings, as the concrete thickness over the steel rebar provides sufficient fire resistance. However, concrete can be subject to spalling, particularly if it has an elevated moisture content. Although additional fireproofing is not often applied to concrete building structures, it is sometimes used in traffic tunnels and locations where a hydrocarbon fuel fire is more likely, as flammable liquid fires provides more heat to the structural element as compared to a fire involving ordinary combustibles during the same fire period. Structural steel fireproofing materials include intumescent, endothermic and plaster coatings as well as drywall, calcium silicate cladding, and mineral or high temperature insulation wool blankets. Attention is given to connections, as the thermal expansion of structural elements can compromise fire-resistance rated assemblies.


Cutting workpieces to length is usually done with a bandsaw.[ citation needed ]

A beam drill line (drill line) has long been considered an indispensable way to drill holes and mill slots into beams, channels and HSS elements. CNC beam drill lines are typically equipped with feed conveyors and position sensors to move the element into position for drilling, plus probing capability to determine the precise location where the hole or slot is to be cut.

For cutting irregular openings or non-uniform ends on dimensional (non-plate) elements, a cutting torch is typically used. Oxy-fuel torches are the most common technology and range from simple hand-held torches to automated CNC coping machines that move the torch head around the structural element in accordance with cutting instructions programmed into the machine.

Fabricating flat plate is performed on a plate processing center where the plate is laid flat on a stationary 'table' and different cutting heads traverse the plate from a gantry-style arm or "bridge". The cutting heads can include a punch, drill or torch.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Structural engineering</span> Sub-discipline of civil engineering dealing with the creation of man made structures

Structural engineering is a sub-discipline of civil engineering in which structural engineers are trained to design the 'bones and muscles' that create the form and shape of man-made structures. Structural engineers also must understand and calculate the stability, strength, rigidity and earthquake-susceptibility of built structures for buildings and nonbuilding structures. The structural designs are integrated with those of other designers such as architects and building services engineer and often supervise the construction of projects by contractors on site. They can also be involved in the design of machinery, medical equipment, and vehicles where structural integrity affects functioning and safety. See glossary of structural engineering.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reinforced concrete</span> Concrete with rebar

Reinforced concrete (RC), also called reinforced cement concrete (RCC) and ferroconcrete, is a composite material in which concrete's relatively low tensile strength and ductility are compensated for by the inclusion of reinforcement having higher tensile strength or ductility. The reinforcement is usually, though not necessarily, steel bars (rebar) and is usually embedded passively in the concrete before the concrete sets. However, post-tensioning is also employed as a technique to reinforce the concrete. In terms of volume used annually, it is one of the most common engineering materials. In corrosion engineering terms, when designed correctly, the alkalinity of the concrete protects the steel rebar from corrosion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rebar</span> Steel reinforcement

Rebar, known when massed as reinforcing steel or reinforcement steel, is a steel bar used as a tension device in reinforced concrete and reinforced masonry structures to strengthen and aid the concrete under tension. Concrete is strong under compression, but has weak tensile strength. Rebar significantly increases the tensile strength of the structure. Rebar's surface features a continuous series of ribs, lugs or indentations to promote a better bond with the concrete and reduce the risk of slippage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seismic retrofit</span> Modification of existing structures to make them more resistant to seismic activity

Seismic retrofitting is the modification of existing structures to make them more resistant to seismic activity, ground motion, or soil failure due to earthquakes. With better understanding of seismic demand on structures and with our recent experiences with large earthquakes near urban centers, the need of seismic retrofitting is well acknowledged. Prior to the introduction of modern seismic codes in the late 1960s for developed countries and late 1970s for many other parts of the world, many structures were designed without adequate detailing and reinforcement for seismic protection. In view of the imminent problem, various research work has been carried out. State-of-the-art technical guidelines for seismic assessment, retrofit and rehabilitation have been published around the world – such as the ASCE-SEI 41 and the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE)'s guidelines. These codes must be regularly updated; the 1994 Northridge earthquake brought to light the brittleness of welded steel frames, for example.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hollow structural section</span> Type of metal profile

A hollow structural section (HSS) is a type of metal profile with a hollow cross section. The term is used predominantly in the United States, or other countries which follow US construction or engineering terminology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">I-beam</span> Construction element

An I-beam, also known as H-beam, w-beam, universal beam (UB), rolled steel joist (RSJ), or double-T, is a beam with an I or H-shaped cross-section. The horizontal elements of the I are flanges, and the vertical element is the "web". I-beams are usually made of structural steel and are used in construction and civil engineering.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steel frame</span> Building technique using skeleton frames of vertical steel columns

Steel frame is a building technique with a "skeleton frame" of vertical steel columns and horizontal I-beams, constructed in a rectangular grid to support the floors, roof and walls of a building which are all attached to the frame. The development of this technique made the construction of the skyscraper possible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Formwork</span>

Formwork is molds into which concrete or similar materials are either precast or cast-in-place. In the context of concrete construction, the falsework supports the shuttering molds. In specialty applications formwork may be permanently incorporated into the final structure, adding insulation or helping reinforce the finished structure.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fireproofing</span> Rendering something (structures, materials, etc.) resistant to fire, or incombustible

Fireproofing is rendering something resistant to fire, or incombustible; or material for use in making anything fire-proof. It is a passive fire protection measure. "Fireproof" or "fireproofing" can be used as a noun, verb or adjective; it may be hyphenated ("fire-proof").

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Girder bridge</span> Bridge built of girders placed on bridge abutments and foundation piers

A girder bridge is a bridge that uses girders as the means of supporting its deck. The two most common types of modern steel girder bridges are plate and box.

Fiber-reinforced concrete or fibre-reinforced concrete (FRC) is concrete containing fibrous material which increases its structural integrity. It contains short discrete fibers that are uniformly distributed and randomly oriented. Fibers include steel fibers, glass fibers, synthetic fibers and natural fibers – each of which lend varying properties to the concrete. In addition, the character of fiber-reinforced concrete changes with varying concretes, fiber materials, geometries, distribution, orientation, and densities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Deep foundation</span> Type of foundation

A deep foundation is a type of foundation that transfers building loads to the earth farther down from the surface than a shallow foundation does to a subsurface layer or a range of depths. A pile or piling is a vertical structural element of a deep foundation, driven or drilled deep into the ground at the building site.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rebar spacer</span>

A rebar spacer is a device that secures the reinforcing steel or "rebar" in reinforced concrete structures as the rebar is assembled in place prior to the final concrete pour. The spacers are left in place for the pour to keep the reinforcing in place, and become a part of the structure.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voided biaxial slab</span>

Voided biaxial slabs, sometimes called biaxial slabs or voided slabs, are a type of reinforced concrete slab which incorporates air-filled voids to reduce the volume of concrete required. These voids enable cheaper construction and less environmental impact. Another major benefit of the system is its reduction in slab weight compared with regular solid decks. Up to 50% of the slab volume may be removed in voids, resulting in less load on structural members. This also allows increased weight and/or span, since the self-weight of the slab contributes less to the overall load.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">T-beam</span>

A T-beam, used in construction, is a load-bearing structure of reinforced concrete, wood or metal, with a T-shaped cross section. The top of the T-shaped cross section serves as a flange or compression member in resisting compressive stresses. The web of the beam below the compression flange serves to resist shear stress and to provide greater separation for the coupled forces of bending.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Structural material</span>

Structural engineering depends on the knowledge of materials and their properties, in order to understand how different materials resist and support loads.

In the Eurocode series of European standards (EN) related to construction, Eurocode 2: Design of concrete structures specifies technical rules for the design of concrete, reinforced concrete and prestressed concrete structures, using the limit state design philosophy. It was approved by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) on 16 April 2004 to enable designers across Europe to practice in any country that adopts the code.

In the Eurocode series of European standards (EN) related to construction, Eurocode 3: Design of steel structures describes how to design of steel structures, using the limit state design philosophy.

Concrete has relatively high compressive strength, but significantly lower tensile strength. The compressive strength is typically controlled with the ratio of water to cement when forming the concrete, and tensile strength is increased by additives, typically steel, to create reinforced concrete. In other words we can say concrete is made up of sand, ballast, cement and water.

This glossary of structural engineering terms pertains specifically to structural engineering and its sub-disciplines. Please see glossary of engineering for a broad overview of the major concepts of engineering.


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