Romans created the first concrete mix in the third century BCE by combining water, volcanic dust, aggregate, and gypsum or lime. More than two centuries later, concrete has earned its place as a reliable architectural building material.

In contrast, steel was not widely used in building and construction until the mid-19th century because of its difficult manufacturing process. As new manufacturing methods were invented in the 1850s, steel quickly gained fame as a solid and sturdy structure product. During the next 150 years, steel’s appeal continued to grow, and today, along with concrete, it’s one of the most commonly used architectural materials.

Which of these materials is most suitable for your project?

Consider these factors when deciding whether to use concrete or steel for your project’s main construction material. They both deserve to be used as structural materials. Although concrete costs more, it probably offers much better overall performance. To determine which product is best for your task, you need to know how they differ in terms of durability, strength, fire resistance, sustainability, and also cost.

Pre-engineering buildings: Strength

The compressive strength of a product is its ability to withstand a crushing force. In a building, slabs, beams of light, columns, and structures can withstand vertical loads without sustaining damage.

When stretched, a product’s tensile toughness determines its resistance to failure. When a ton is placed on top of a light beam, its bottom is prevented from elongating or fracturing due to tensile strength.

Shear failure occurs when two unaligned pressures act upon a structure in different directions, usually during a quake or because of strong winds. A product’s sheer stamina refers to its ability to withstand this type of failure.

While concrete has excellent compressive strength, it is very weak and cracks easily when under tension. A tension-resistant product is embedded right into it to reinforce this weak point. Typically, these bars are steel, but composite options are also available.

The general toughness of enhanced concrete comes from the concrete’s compressive strength and the steel rebars’ tensile strength. The vertical bars running along the length of the architectural member are tied with shorter, perpendicular bars called stirrups that give the member its shear strength.
The tensile strength of steel is one of its best-selling features, but well-made steel structures can be as strong as reinforced concrete structures. To achieve adequate compressive, tensile, and shear strength in a steel framework, a sound structural design is essential.

Pre-engineering building is long-lasting

A material’s longevity describes its ability to weather its environment. If concrete and steel are fine-tuned to their setups, they can last for a very long time without deteriorating.

Reinforced concrete can withstand freeze-thaw cycles, chemicals, salt water, wetness, solar radiation, and abrasion when it is properly adjusted. Concrete does not struggle with vermin attacks since it is not natural. In addition, it does not burn or melt.

The same corrosion-prone steel support that makes enhanced concrete stronger hides a potential problem – its sturdiness. When rebar rusts, it loses its bond with concrete and develops iron oxide, which expands, resulting in tensile stresses and eventual deterioration. Concrete’s all-natural alkalinity reduces rebar corrosion, but seawater or large quantities of deicing salt may require more protection. This function is well served by epoxy-coated, stainless-steel, or composite rebar.

As with rebar, structural steel is susceptible to rust and requires additional protection. The use of paint, powder finishing, sacrificial layers, as well as deterioration hindering chemicals can all prevent corrosive damage to structural steel.

Fire Resistance

A reinforced concrete’s structure makes it essentially inert, and therefore fireproof, while its reduced heat transfer rate prevents fire from spreading.

However, both concrete and steel can lose their toughness when exposed to high temperatures for an extended period. At temperatures between 800°F and 1,200°F, concrete might lose its compressive strength depending on its aggregate type. Due to the shielding properties of lightweight concrete and poorer fire resistance, research indicates that lightweight concrete has the most effective fire resistance due to its shielding properties and poorer heat transfer rate.

Reinforced concrete is more fire resistant than architectural steel. At temperatures over 550 ° F, it begins to lose strength and keeps just 50% of its space temperature yield strength at 1,100 ° F. There are many ways to slow down the rate of temperature increase in structural steel. Among these are fire-resistive finishes, barriers, cooling systems, concrete coverings, and energetic procedures, such as sprinklers.



When used in construction, both concrete and steel provide environmental benefits. Approximately 85% of all steel consumed on the planet is recycled at some point. Considering the abundance of scrap steel and the ease of recycling, it makes sense. Aside from reducing the need for new resources, steel recycling consumes only a third of the power used during steel production.

In addition to its durability, concrete has a number of other advantages. Most of it originates from family members near the construction site, which reduces the amount of energy required for delivery. When it is demolished, it can be recycled into gravel, aggregate, or paving materials for road construction, disintegration control, landscaping, and marine coral reef repair, among other uses. New blends can be made from uncontaminated concrete.

Concrete recycling has many environmental benefits. The system helps keep debris out of landfills, reduces building waste, and replaces crushed rock and accumulations that would otherwise be mined and delivered.



Compared to architectural steel, enhanced concrete is often more expensive. Formwork and also rebar, concrete, and also ensuring that it cures effectively can account for a considerable portion of the complete cost of a project.

Despite this, concrete rates remain relatively steady. The cost of concrete products has increased steadily since 2000, and also this is a crucial factor to consider when valuing future tasks.

Insurance experts recognize concrete’s toughness, durability, as well as fire resistance despite its higher cost. On average, insurers provide concrete structures with higher safety ratings as well as lower premiums.

It is less expensive and faster to put up than concrete, but it has a longer lead time. Steel frameworks tend to have higher insurance premiums due to their lower fire resistance.