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What Building Construction System Is Right For You?

You have been planning for a new building for months, maybe years, and now the stars have aligned and you have the property you need and the funding to build your facility, but, do you know what construction system is right for you and your project?

If you do not build new construction everyday you might not know that there are options out there, each with their own intended applications and accompanying benefits and challenges. In this day and age, there are three primary building systems:

1. Concrete Frame Structures

Concrete frame structures are a very common and might be one of the most common modern building systems used around the world.  This type of building structure consists of a frame of concrete supported or reinforced by rebar or steel bars. The mix of concrete and steel provide a very strong and relatively inexpensive building system.

Concrete structures can be built traditionally or your builder may use Tilt-up construction  process where the building's walls are poured directly at the jobsite in large slabs of concrete called "tilt-up panels" or "tilt-wall panels" which are then raised into position around the building's perimeter forming the exterior walls.

Concrete frames are great for:
  • Skyscrapers
  • Roads, bridges, and sidewalks
  • Dams and Power Plants 
Tilt-up Construction is more often used for:
  • Low to mid-rise office buildings
  • Retail centers
  • Warehouse and distribution centers
  • Call centers
  • Manufacturing and other commercial / industrial structures 
Concrete frames are beneficial for:
  • Almost any walling materials can be used with them.
  • They can accommodate heavy loads. 
  • They can be clad with any kind of cladding material.
  • Concrete can be recycled, time and time again. 
  • From a designer’s perspective, concrete offers a dramatic range of colors, finishes and unlimited design possibilities.
  • Concrete structures are highly energy efficient. 
  • Concrete facilities provide flexibility should the occupancy of the building change.
Concrete frames are challenging for:
  • Concrete is susceptible to water and freezing temperatures, resulting in cracks and damageswhich need to be monitored and repaired.
  • Because it is porous, concrete is susceptible to staining and molding issues.
  • The material is also heavy, which makes it impractical for some jobs.
2. Steel Frame Structures

Steel frames are just that, mild steel. However, when it comes to steel systems, you can deliver them traditionally or in a modular fashion. For the modular systems, there are three different common approaches:
  • Kit of parts – where the same columns, beams, girders and connections are used throughout the project to aid in the speed of both fabrication and erection of the steel. Also known as the “erector set” approach. 
  • Panelization  - uses, you guessed it, panels for the floor, room and lateral systems. Sometimes the panels are assembled off-site, and sometimes they are assembled on but at ground level. 
  • Modular (volumetric) – requires individual components of the projects to be fully assembled off site then delivered just in time for erection and installation. This is also know as the "building block" model and is commonly used for manufactured residential housing developments and criminal justice facilities.
Steel frames are great for:
  • High rise buildings 
  • Industrial and warehouse buildings 
  • Residential buildings (mainly light gauge steel)
  • Temporary Structures 
Steel frames are beneficial for:
  • Steel is very strong and durable.
  • Steel framing is known for flexibility, bending without cracking when exposed to wind and even earthquakes. 
  • It also has elements of plasticity or ductility allowing it to slowly bend out of shape versus cracking like glass.  
  • Steel structures rarely fail or collapse and when they do, it is not sudden. 
  • Steel structures are relatively lightweight, quick to erect, and cost effective. 
  • Steel structures also lend themselves to Pre engineered buildings which are factory-built buildings of steel that are shipped to site and bolted together.
Steel frames are challenging for:
  • Steel quickly looses its strength under fire and requires added support with fire protection. 
  • Steel is prone to corrosion in humid or marine environments.
3. Wood Framed Structures

Wood framed structures, or stick-built facilities are made of wood. The wood could be lightweight, like what is primarily used for residential housing,

Wood frames are great for:
  • Residential housing units, both single family homes and multi-family or student housing. 
Benefits of wood frames include:
  • Wood is light and allows quick construction with no heavy tools or equipment, nearly every component can easily be carried by hand. An added benefit to being light, wood has a high strength-to-weight ratio. As a result, properly designed and built wood-frame structures perform well during seismic activity.
  • Wood adaptsto any geometric shape and can be clad with a variety of materials.
  • Wood-frame structures have numerous nailed connections and joints. This provides inherent ductility – much more so than most rigid masonry and concrete systems. Wood-frame buildings can flex, absorbing and dissipating energy when subjected to sudden earthquake forces.
Wood frames are challenging because:
  • It is prone to fire.
  • The Georgia market is currently experiencing a severe labor shortage for wood framers. 
  • It is not strong enough to resist major wind events such as tornadoes and hurricanes.
Each of these systems has earned their place in the design and construction industry. Consider your budget, schedule, desired aesthetics, durability and maintenance when choosing or give us a call if you need help making an educated decision.

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