Progression of Materials
Since the dawn of man we have searched for ways to improve our way of life, from progressing to agriculture after settling away from foraging, to raising livestock as opposed to hunting for every meal. But perhaps the most profound leaps forward have been in the field of architecture. For the longest time, architects and builders were limited by the materials available to them. Woods has been the staple building material ever since the first men realized how sturdy and easily workable the natural and abundant material was, but wood has its weaknesses. It can burn, warp, bloat, and split, and it’s vulnerable to damage from insects and the ravages of time. When a stronger, sturdier material was needed to build larger structures, stone became the go-to source. Carved stone and brick buildings predominated most of history, but even stone has its downsides. Stone is difficult to work with, and the weight alone can be inhibitive. Stone buildings can only grow to a certain height before they can longer reach higher due to the weight of the stones. It wasn’t until wrought iron, followed soon by steel, that architects had the door to the sky opened before them.
The Ultimate Material: Steel
Gaining popularity in the early 1920’s, steel buildings exploded in number during World War II with the availability of cheap steel, and after the war their popularity only continued, due to the cost efficiency of steel and its durability compared to other materials. Steel has several distinct advantages over other materials, such as wood. First, steel is classified as a ‘green’ product; only the highest quality product will pass the strict regulations necessary for the production of industrial steel, and it is energy efficient and recyclable. Steel won’t warp or buckle as wood will, and it is much more flexible and easy to control. Steel is also much easier to install than wood. It requires less maintenance and offers more strength and safety, and protects against mold and mildew infestations.
Steel also offers opportunities that wood simply can’t compete with. Skyscrapers were not possible until the introduction of steel, due to the lack of viable material to build tall, stable buildings. Vibration tests along with acoustic and countless others have been done to show that steel is the best material for long term, stable, and safe architectural projects. Building with steel is faster than building with stone or concrete, more energy efficient than building with wood, and more economic than any other option available. Even for individual family dwellings, steel can not be beat for its dominance as a building material. It’s just common sense; steel has no equal in the architectural world.