There are various potential ways to reduce the cost of the steel construction beginning from the efficient layout and design of the structure which require an early engagement of the steel fabricator.
Economy begins with an efficient design and layout by the architect and structural engineer, and can be maintained during fabrication and erection by close coordination and communication by all parties. The layout of the job site and sequence of the construction activities significantly affects the equipment hire and erection speed of the steel buildings. Early ordering of steel raw material can yield significant savings of time and cost.
2. Methods to cut steel construction costs
- Using repeating steel profiles with the same length and dimension will save the amount of time needed to set up the machine settings, fabricate the parts, and install the structure. Sometimes, in order to retain repeating assemblies and cut down on fabrication time, it may be reasonable to increase the weight of particular components.
- Bigger spans and spaces means less items to fabricate, install and less connections. Bigger spans means less number of foundation and anchoring work which may also reduce the foundation labour cost. Several iterations might be needed to find out the ideal layout
- The selection of the steel grade is also effects the cost significantly. High strength steel members will reduce steel size and may reduce the total material costs.
- Simplification of connections can save significant amounts of fabrication. Changing the connection type of framing type can simplify the connections and reduce the risk of faulty fabrication.
- Incorporating the façade and cladding frames into the steel structure of the building will avoid repetitive work and save materials. For some type of steel construction cladding systems, special cladding connection plates can be added to the steel frame of the building in order to simply the installation of the cladding material.
- Expensive finishing methods such as hot dip galvanizing or special painting requirements should be avoided when possible. The specification of special coatings will add significant cost to the project. Surface preparation, painting, handling, and paint touch-up, are all increased by the use of special coatings. Where architecturally exposed steel is to be used on the project, these coatings may not be avoidable. However, fabricators should be consulted during preparation of specifications to determine the appropriate coatings and their ability to apply them. When steel is to be completely enclosed, painting may not even be necessary.
- The selection of the right paint for the steel construction is also essential in order to prevent unnecessary cost derived from excessive or expensive paints. The environmental corrosion class of the building should be accessed properly to decide the right coating. Paint trades have a tendency to offer special coatings to fulfil their annual quotas but sometimes even simple or no paints would be enough if steel structure is properly enclosed.
- The procurement of the steel is also a tricky issue when it comes to saving budget. Steel mills generally offer better prices compared to the steel service centres or traders. Also due to the fluctuating nature of the steel prices, it may be helpful to discuss with the steel mills in advance and ask their forecasts if time is not a problem.
- Steel shapes which have cost premiums should be avoided when possible. Some structural shapes, such as bent plates and tees require metal fabrication to achieve the shape. The use of angles instead of bent plates may save project costs.
- Not all the steel profiles / sections have same prices. Generally speaking, frequently used steel sections are cheaper than the others. Also due dates of the frequently used steel sections are lower than the others. On the other hand, built up sections are always more expensive than the mill sections due to their fabrication costs.
- Structural engineers should avoid connections which require on site welding as much as possible. If it is necessary, the location of the weld should be decided considering the safety of the welder.
- The type and quantity of the machinery and tools as well as the amount of time needed to erect the structure depend on factors including site layout and design and erection sequence. The erector, fabricator, and the general contractor should work closely together to maximise the effectiveness of the erection team and minimise erection costs.
- Detailed and clearly written contracts between the parties is essential to properly distribute the responsibilities of each party and to avoid any overlaps or uncovered works.
The ability of the steel contractor to modify the structural engineer’s design may be constrained but still the steel fabricator can optimize costs through various methods. The steel fabricator’s early engagement to the construction may allow them to contribute feedback to the design which could result great savings in the end.