One major question that arises when constructing a new building is whether to use steel or concrete. Both materials have inherent positives and negatives. They differ in terms of cost, ease of use, the amount of time required to use them, availability and many other factors.
When you are constructing a new building, safety issues are one of the most important considerations. You will want to be confident that the structure you are creating can withstand natural disasters, floods, or even terrorist attacks. You will also want to know how well your building will fare in a fire, which begs the question: will concrete or metal buildings fare better in a fire?
In a fire, how well a building maintains its structural integrity is crucial. Obviously, a burning building is a big problem. A burning building that partially collapses is a total disaster. One of concrete's main benefits is that it can endure fire for a long time without losing its structural integrity. Concrete's thickness and lack of ductility make it a good safeguard that can keep a fire from becoming worse. Thick concrete walls are also able to withstand very high temperatures without deforming or cracking. They can also potentially block explosions.
Concrete walls and partitions effectively split a building into compartments, separating different areas from each other, reducing property damage and making it easier for firefighters to contain a fire. Concrete buildings generally are less expensive to insure because of this.
Steel buildings almost always require additional fireproofing to meet fire codes. That said, a steel building in its most basic form will not protect against a fire, explosion or earthquake as well as a concrete building.
However, advanced engineering and protections such as spray-on fireproofing, and high-quality sprinkler systems can greatly increase a steel building's ability to withstand a fire. Also, the choice of other materials used when constructing a steel building can make a big difference. For example, a steel building that was built with a large amount of wood will be more susceptible to fire.
Steel is non-combustible, but can potentially bend in a hot fire, putting the structural integrity of the building at risk. Conversely, steel's ductility can be a benefit to safety. In an earthquake zone, steel buildings are more common because they can better withstand massive shock. In an earthquake or a large explosion, stiff concrete walls are more likely to fall than concrete.
Steel is often used to build rigid frame that allow builders to cover large spans with less support. This is a very beneficial characteristic in many ways, but it can increase fire risk by creating a large, open space for a fire to spread throughout.
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