Wood or Steel for Your Commercial Building?

For decades now, steel has been the material of choice for construction project owners and developers. This is mainly true for commercial buildings, as property owners and investors typically want the real estate to appreciate over time. There are also more obvious benefits of steel over wood, including protection against water damage (rotting and warping) and fire. The fire risks for wood can obviously be mitigated through protection strategies.

The use of timber in commercial buildings has been increasing over the past few years, though, as the sustainability movement continues to gain traction. The ever-changing style and aesthetic preferences have also been more friendly to wood-framed buildings. Below are some things to consider when deciding between timber and steel. 

Wood is Not Always More Environmentally Conscious

Because wood is theoretically a renewable resource and captures carbon, timber is commonly believed to be better for the environment. However, many people would be surprised to learn the amount of raw timber needed to build something as small as a 1,500 square foot house—much less a multi-story commercial structure. Also, steel can often be recycled. While timber is often easier on the environment, whether or not that’s true in your case depends on many factors.

Price Issues

As mentioned above, steel buildings are much more likely to appreciate than wood-framed structures. Additionally, re-staining or re-painting timber is a significant expense for maintenance of wood-framed structures. Generally, owners of steel-framed buildings are able to slowly make back their money over time. 

However, raw timber is undeniably less expensive than steel, which usually comes prefabricated to the construction site. As wood does not transfer heat nearly as effectively as steel, you can save money on insulation and utilities. The overall cost-effectiveness of timber vs. steel depends on your long-term goals for the structure. 

Aesthetic Considerations

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but many people like the general feel of timber-framed structures and the rustic characteristics. At a fundamental level, we understand that the structural integrity of your next project is of paramount importance. However, the character and feel of the structure contributes almost as much to the longevity of the commercial structure.

Professional and Adaptable Structural Engineering Services are a Phone Call Away

Plenty of structural engineering firms place little emphasis on the aesthetics of their projects. DDA Engineers, P.A. makes sure to accommodate every aesthetic preference we can without sacrificing the structural integrity of commercial buildings. Give us a call at (305) 666-0711 to find out how we can add value to your next construction project.

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