Have you ever wondered why the roof doesn’t fall on your head or how there can be 50 floors in a skyscraper? Architects, engineers and builders all make sure that there are beams to prevent a house or a building from collapsing.
Beams can be made of wood, alloy steel, or reinforced concrete. Beams, together with the columns under it, are structural supports that should be able to withstand the load resting above. The beam spreads the weight of the load pressing down on it to the columns or walls. Beams should neither buckle nor sag. However, beam bending occurs as the beam tries to accommodate the pressure of the load on top of it.
Architects and structural engineers have to make the necessary calculations with regard to the stress distribution a particular type of beam can accommodate. Timber beams may be right for a two-story house. But as load and spans between the beam and column connections increase, steel beams would be the better choice.
Steel beams, made from an alloy of carbon and iron, are used in construction because:
- Steel is very strong making it structurally safe. It has the highest strength-to-weight ratio compared to other beam materials.
- Steel is very stable compared to materials that shrink, warp or twist as they age. Materials with these properties cause problems for building owners who have to pay for costly repairs.
- Steel beams are more stable and will not rot.
- Beams come in a wide range of standardized lengths and shapes. Suppliers can also cut, weld and mold steel sheets to the builder’s specifications.
- Because of advancements in steel fabrication, beam bending or curving is now possible. A construction beam can be bent to a certain radius to follow the shape of an arch, dome or other irregularly formed facades.
- Steel beams take up less space, which can be used for putting in insulation.
- A steel beam is non-combustible. Although steel can melt in extremely high temperatures, after the steel has been cut or molded, it can be covered with a fire resistant substance to further protect the building.
- Insect infestation in not a problem. Termites and other insects do not find steel beams particularly tasty.
- Steel beams are more resistant to the damaging effects posed by hurricanes and tornados on buildings. They are also ideal to use in areas that are earthquake-prone because of their ability to absorb stress.
Steel beams have made it possible for architects to design buildings that are visually exciting. Because of the flexible properties of steel, beams can now be curved to create dramatic archways while maintaining its structural integrity. Traditional homes still use wooden beams and even concrete beams. However, a number of homes have been built using steel beams and the numbers are expected to go up. Steel stands up well against the elements and natural disasters. Although steel may be more expensive than other materials, over time steel proves to be the more economical choice.