Why steel is an improvement on timber for construction

It is fairly unusual for timber to be selected as a permanent framing material for medium- to high-rise buildings. Whilst it may be selected for certain aesthetic requirements and possess an aura of environmentally friendliness, when compared to the precision, practicality and performance of steel, timber simply does not meet the needs of the modern construction industry.

The benefits of steel outweigh those of timber in a number of key areas, with steel framing systems such as voestalpine Metsec SFS delivering benefits that timber cannot beat. These areas include sustainability, fire protection, efficiency and stability:-

Sustainability – The environmental impact of Steel

Steel and sustainability might not be a connection that everyone makes immediately, particularly when compared to timber, but whilst steel may not be grown in forests, its credentials make a compelling case for its use in construction, particularly in the form of Steel Framing Systems (SFS). Here are a few:

  • Steel is easily recoverable and is 100% recyclable – SFS has a reuse and recovery rate of 94%, compared to just 13% for timber
  • SFS does not contribute to deforestation
  • Accurate design and manufacturing processes result in virtually zero waste
  • SFS is a lighter material, thereby having less environmental impact when shipping
  • Steel is impervious to pests so has greater lifecycle potential
  • Although steel has a higher thermal transfer rate than timber, this can be mitigated by insulation and thermally isolated fixings.
  • The accurate nature of SFS construction provides improved potential for air tightness when installing windows and doors.

Fire protection

Steel is inherently non-combustible unlike timber. Whilst fire protection and retardant treatments are available for timber, these additional measures add cost to a project.

Comprehensive fire performance test data is available on SFS used in conjunction with a variety of the most popular plasterboards and sheathing. SFS solutions are designed and manufactured to precise tolerances specifically for the project and facilitate accurate installation, ensuring that fire performance is not compromised. At voestalpine Metsec, our Steel Framing System framing range has new features including new fire tested solutions based on British Gypsum, Siniat and Knauf plasterboard. This exemplifies just how tailored Steel Framing Systems can be made in order to improve fire safety in some cases, depending on the manufacturer.

One further consideration in the area of fire protection is that insurance premiums for timber-framed structures tend to be higher than for their steel counterparts.

Efficiency of Steel

Steel Framing Systems are both time and cost efficient with savings achieved at all stages of design, manufacture and installation contributing to economies throughout the project.

Solutions are designed to suit the needs of each project and value engineered to minimise material wastage and maximise construction efficiency.

SFS lends itself perfectly to modern methods of construction, where pre-panelisation can be employed to deliver faster, more efficient build programmes.

Site efficiency is also assured by the light weight of SFS studs which makes them easier to handle and install on site with simple screw fixings.


Steel is a very stable material. It is not prone to warping, rotting or mould, whilst rusting can be prevented through simple, economic measures.

Expansion and contraction with temperature changes is negligible and steel is not affected by the shrinkage and settlement issues that are associated with timber, which can have implications for maintenance costs.


Steel’s advantages over timber, especially when used in the manufacture of Steel Framing Systems are many and varied. The ability to easily recover and reuse steel from decommissioned buildings makes it a highly sustainable construction material, whilst precision in the design, manufacture and installation of lightweight construction solutions such as voestalpine Metsec Steel Framing Systems (SFS) contribute towards time and cost efficiencies as well as enhancing its environmental credentials.

Little wonder, then, that steel and steel framing systems have become the preferred solution for many construction projects. They deliver the ultimate solution for modern methods of construction and deliver projects which stand the test of time.

To find out more about our steel framing solutions, visit Steel Framing Systems (SFS).