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Old 01-27-2011, 07:09 AM   #1
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


Hi There, Hardly DIY but a building question non-the-less, hoping one of you knowledgeable builders can enlighten me on why the building methods in high rise buildings of North America seems to be in strong contrast to the methods of Australian built city buildings, namely the frame work being used to support the structure. North America uses primarily steel girders bolted together (as picture below shows) and Australia use concrete reinforced with steel.

Why does such a difference exist between these methods of North America and Australia? Anyone who knows the facts that have led to these starkly different materials becoming the status quo in opposite ends of the world I invite to share with us why this is so.

Speculation welcome but please let me know you are speculating .


US Style building using steel bolt-together frame
[img]http://www.featurepics.com/FI/Thumb3...ion-306455.jpg[/img]

Sydney/Australian style building using form-work to hold rio and poured with concrete
[img]http://cdn.wn.com/pd/bd/d2/badb1ab16...5b0_grande.jpg[/img]

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Old 01-27-2011, 01:30 PM   #2
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


Ayuh,... I see Both of those forms of construction, All the time here in the US....

Donno about down-under...

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Old 01-27-2011, 07:59 PM   #3
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


I could be wrong but pretty sure the concrete beams are still steel beams inside, just added rebar and concrete over it. At least that's my guess
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Old 01-27-2011, 08:08 PM   #4
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


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Originally Posted by Bondo View Post
Ayuh,... I see Both of those forms of construction, All the time here in the US....

Donno about down-under...

Ok, so North America uses concrete pouring too. Good to know. I still speculate that the steel frame is the predominant method in the main east cost cities.

We in Australia rarely use Steel, so curious to understand the driving forces behind this trend, perhaps there are localized commercial/political influences??
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Old 01-27-2011, 08:18 PM   #5
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


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Originally Posted by Red Squirrel View Post
I could be wrong but pretty sure the concrete beams are still steel beams inside, just added rebar and concrete over it. At least that's my guess
Actually the steel frame is the primary (only) structure of these building i refer to. The majority of New York buildings are steel. These still use concrete but not as the primary structure, the World Trade Centers were steel structure only, and the use of steel in that instance is understood to has allowed the buildings to collapse - as the designs were never calculated to accommodate the burning of 9000 gallons of jet fuel across a couple of floors. When architects use concrete to design buildings obviously they too didn't factor the jet fuel scenario but it is understood concrete would have retained its structural integrity.
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Old 01-27-2011, 08:30 PM   #6
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


we used to build like that until the early 1900's. Steel allows a faster build and is more flexible, which is critical in a high rise.

and it is hard to compare the WTC buildings to anything else. They were unique in their engineering.

what's the tallest building in Oz? or the top 3 or 4 so we have more of a feel of your general building design

and I suspect a steel frame is less expensive as well.

Last edited by nap; 01-27-2011 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 01-27-2011, 09:38 PM   #7
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


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Originally Posted by nap View Post
we used to build like that until the early 1900's. Steel allows a faster build and is more flexible, which is critical in a high rise.

and it is hard to compare the WTC buildings to anything else. They were unique in their engineering.

what's the tallest building in Oz? or the top 3 or 4 so we have more of a feel of your general building design

and I suspect a steel frame is less expensive as well.
Actually i don't think that these statements are quite true "we used to build like that until the early 1900's" and the WTC was "unique"

From the list of Tallest buildings in New York I quickly checked the structure method used in the top 5 buildings and all are Steel, even as recent as 2009. I believe if we check the full listing you will see all are steel with maybe a couples of exceptions

New York Top 5 tallest buildings - All Steel Framed
1. Empire State Building -1931 - 1,250 feet
2. Bank of America Tower - 2009 - 1,200 feet
3. Chrysler Building - 1930 - 1,050 feet
4. The New York Times Building - 2007 - 1,046 feet
5. American International Building - 1932 - 952 feet
source - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of..._New_York_City

Australia Top 5 tallest buildings - All concrete structure
1. Q1 - 2005 - 1060 feet
2. Eureka Tower - 2006 - 975 feet
3. 120 Collins Street - 1991 - 866 feet
4. 101 Collins Street - 1991 - 853 feet
5. Bourke Place - 1991 - 833 feet
source - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...s_in_Australia


The Australian buildings are all concrete as mentioned, slightly shorter but very comparable. In Australia there will be no exceptions when looking for steel structures.....none of them are steel based.


So hence this is the basis of my wonder..... .why is this stark difference in building designs so entrenched in US versus Australian buildings? Considering concrete is considered more-indestructible than steel, I would have expected to see this method being used in new US buildings since 2001.

I would love the know the truth behind this question i have I would have posted this on the professional forum but you need to be a contractor to get on there!
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Old 01-27-2011, 10:25 PM   #8
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


Quote:
Jado;579299]Actually i don't think that these statements are quite true "we used to build like that until the early 1900's"
there has always been some concrete buildings and still is but the bulk of high rise buildings are steel superstructure. After the creation of the steel superstucture method, the US went to that for the greatest percentage of commercial high rise buildings.

Quote:
and the WTC was "unique"
then you need to study the engineering of the building. It don't know how common the structural design is but so far, I have never heard of anybody speak of one built using similar methods.

Quote:
From the list of Tallest buildings in New York I quickly checked the structure method used in the top 5 buildings and all are Steel, even as recent as 2009. I believe if we check the full listing you will see all are steel with maybe a couples of exceptions
ok


It appears the tallest concrete building is the Trump building in Chicago, Illinois, USA. http://www.constructionweekonline.co...dings/1/print/

Maybe you folks are just ahead of the curve.





Quote:
So hence this is the basis of my wonder..... .why is this stark difference in building designs so entrenched in US versus Australian buildings? Considering concrete is considered more-indestructible than steel, I would have expected to see this method being used in new US buildings since 2001.
cost for the given area and moment in time, material availability, entrenched building methods causing continued use of the status quo methods, and I'm sure many other reasons.

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I would love the know the truth behind this question i have I would have posted this on the professional forum but you need to be a contractor to get on there!
here is something I found while looking around a bit:http://www.buildings.com/ArticleDeta...1/Default.aspx

and I'm not all that sure about the "concrete being more "indestructible" than a steel building.
and I did see this on Wikipedia on the Q1 page:

Quote:
In 2009, reports of disrepair and poor building conditions emerged.[5] Peeling paint which has revealed rusty steel inside and outside, as well as shattered glass panels are amongst the visible concerns. The Building Services Authority has confirmed it has received complaints in relation to the building.[5] The north stairwell was assessed as defective due to the stairwell pressurisation system not meeting the minimum air flow requirements during a fire emergency.[6] The Building Services Authority asked Q1's builders to rectify the problem in July 2010.
that building was only 4 years old at the time of that review. I don't know if the concerns are all merely superficial or if there are some serious concerns. Either way, for a building that is only 5 years old now, it doesn't speak well of the quality in general.

Last edited by nap; 01-27-2011 at 10:31 PM.
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Old 01-27-2011, 10:41 PM   #9
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


Quote:
Originally Posted by nap View Post
here is something I found while looking around a bit:http://www.buildings.com/ArticleDeta...1/Default.aspx

Wow, thanks for the link, i will read later when i have some more time! That may just answer my question......will let you know.


Quote:
Originally Posted by nap View Post
and I'm not all that sure about the "concrete being more "indestructible" than a steel building.
and I did see this on Wikipedia on the Q1 page:

that building was only 4 years old at the time of that review. I don't know if the concerns are all merely superficial or if there are some serious concerns. Either way, for a building that is only 5 years old now, it doesn't speak well of the quality in general.
Yeah they are just quality issues, not a measure of the overall strength of the concrete structure. I guess a side-point to what i am saying is for anti-terrorism defense concrete is a safer option. I am surprised that the US have not opted this considering the past and anti-terrorism efforts. But i must say i hope and pray that no building or people will ever be subject to a similar tragedy again.
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Old 01-27-2011, 11:00 PM   #10
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


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Yeah they are just quality issues, not a measure of the overall strength of the concrete structure. I guess a side-point to what i am saying is for anti-terrorism defense concrete is a safer option. I am surprised that the US have not opted this considering the past and anti-terrorism efforts. But i must say i hope and pray that no building or people will ever be subject to a similar tragedy again.
we never let security take precedence over saving a dollar.

actually though, this is a testament to the strength of steel buildings:

http://history1900s.about.com/od/194...mpirecrash.htm

and a testament to the guys that built that building:

http://www.generalcontractor.com/res...e-building.asp13 months to build a 1453 foot building.

but to the WTC design, here is one site that explains it and speaks to the collapse as well (didn't read the entire thing. If there are a bunch of conspiracy theories discussed, I disagree with them). If you notice though, the WTC buildings use a central core for support and cantilever off of that with lighter steel. One engineering report I read stated that was one of the causes the situation was so devastating. I will try to find some pictures that explain a lot of why the building collapsed.

http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/jom...agar-0112.html
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Old 01-27-2011, 11:29 PM   #11
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


Thanks again, i will look at those tonight.....
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Old 01-28-2011, 08:46 AM   #12
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


Quote:
Originally Posted by nap View Post
we never let security take precedence over saving a dollar.

but to the WTC design, here is one site that explains it and speaks to the collapse as well (didn't read the entire thing. If there are a bunch of conspiracy theories discussed, I disagree with them). If you notice though, the WTC buildings use a central core for support and cantilever off of that with lighter steel. One engineering report I read stated that was one of the causes the situation was so devastating. I will try to find some pictures that explain a lot of why the building collapsed.

http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/jom...agar-0112.html
I studied the engineering and it is unique, but unique in that is was built to an unusual cost-effectivness, "The towers represented a new approach to skyscrapers in that they were to be very lightweight and involved modular construction methods in order to accelerate the schedule and to reduce the costs."

Can my answer to the question of Steel versus Concrete be as simple as expense? But our developers in Australia work with the same cost concerns that the bulders in the US do.......so why wouldn't they opt to save money if the lead cities in the US do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by nap View Post
and I'm not all that sure about the "concrete being more "indestructible" than a steel building.
if you have a few minutes to read those links you gave me, you will be left with no doubt that concrete i far superior in strength ...... i was surprised by how conclusive the information you provided was. It appears that no informational reference of merit that can be located on the web suggest that steel constructed buildings are safer/stronger than concrete.....i am leaning to say that it is fact that concrete is safer/stronger.




So i am left where i started; why do US use predominately steel and Australia use concrete? What were the commercial/political/material/industry influences which have lead to the US being dominated by steel buildings, and Australia to be dominated by concrete?

So far in this thread there has been some speculation to my above question (and some good convo and links ) , hoping i can get some help in answering this question though.....
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Old 01-28-2011, 03:21 PM   #13
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


In the US both steel and concrete frames are used. The decision to use one material over the other is based on several factors.

Steel is rolled at a mill in predefined shapes (cross sectional dimensions). It is delivered to a fab shop where it is cut to length, holes are drilled, and connection material is bolted/welded on the member. The members are then delivered to the job site and erection starts immediately and doesn't (or shouldn't) stop until the structure is completed. On the other hand, concrete requires that forms be built on site prior to pouring. In addition, the vertical progress of concrete construction is limited by the cure time needed to support the upper floors and the construction of additional forms (notwithstanding slip forming). I won't go into all of the phases of construction, but, in the end, steel goes up faster than concrete.

Steel is much heavier than concrete (490 pcf) than concrete (150 pcf), but steel is much stronger than concrete (depending on the concrete mix it could be anywhere from 2-1/2 to 16 times stronger. The end result is that a steel frame will weight less than a concrete frame for a given set of load conditions. This means that the foundation will be less expensive and will take less time with a steel frame. In addition, steel is typically easier to connect to for follow up trades as they can drill & bolt to steel or weld to it whereas concrete requires you to fasten to it with mechanical or epoxy anchors.

The decision over the material is also based on material availability. The US has a significant mill capacity, so steel frames are not a problem here. I don't know what Australia's mill capacity is, but I imagine it is limited if few steel frames are constructed there. If this is the case, then one would have to import the steel from overseas, which takes time and there may also be an issue with trade tariffs that increases he cost of the steel. In the case of concrete, the materials can be found in most countries with the limiting factor being how close the mixing plant is to the job site. If the project is big enough and concrete is the desirable material, a contractor may budget for building a mixing plant near the site. If it is not and there is not adequate mixing capacity in the area, then you're back to steel.

In the US, steel out of the mill runs about $1,100/ton and concrete runs about $90/yard. One ton of steel is about an eight of a yard and a yard of concrete weighs roughly 4,000 lbs. While steel is much stronger the cost per unit weight is so much more than concrete and mass is typically the design feature in blast proof structures. Having said that, I don't see the US or any other country designing high rises to be blast proof as the cost would be prohibitive.

In the case of fire damage to steel structures, there are a series of UL ratings for various steel assemblies that offer different levels of fire proofing. Concrete beams do encase the reinforcing steel and the concrete acts as a heats sink, which offers more protection to the softening of steel, but concrete structures are still susceptible to fire damage. I don't recall what the relative levels of protection are between the two materials other than to say that concrete stands up better.

A few more notes.....steel members can be encased in concrete, but that is not typical. What is typical is to spray cementitious fireproofing on the steel, but it adds no strength. Most high rises are a combination of steel an concrete in that the frame is steel, but the concrete cores (around elevators and stairs) are typically used to provide overturning stability to the structure as opposed to steel braces or steel moment frames. (I believe the WTC used a steel moment frame, but I'm not sure. I would assume that they made use of the concrete cores, but I don't know that either. The Chrysler building used exterior steel bracing, which is evident from the street.) And, of course, the slabs are always concrete. The ability to use concrete in tall structures usually requires high strength concrete, and it's unclear to me where that stands. Twenty years ago they were concerned about sustained loads on HSC, sustained being 5 or 10 or 20 or more years.

Finally, it seems to me that a steel mill requires a lot more capital to start up and operate compared to a concrete mixing facility. It's a comparison between and electric arc furnace vs a series of conveyor belts and drums. My comment may be a little simplistic, but I think it points in the right direction. So, some countries, which are poor or underdeveloped (like the Middle East) are more apt to rely on concrete than steel. Why barge steel in from Belgium when there's a mixing plant is al-ahaft?

I canít guarantee that this answers your question, but these are my thoughts and speculations.
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Old 01-28-2011, 07:44 PM   #14
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Thanks for your detailed response WirelessG. Good answer...and well structured too

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In the US both steel and concrete frames are used.
Granted, but the main USA buildings are using steel from early 20th century to a couple of years ago, Australia has predominantly used concrete

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Originally Posted by WirelessG View Post
The US has a significant mill capacity, so steel frames are not a problem here. I don't know what Australia's mill capacity is, but I imagine it is limited if few steel frames are constructed there.
No Austrlia has a strong steel industry without limiting factors excluding the potential of steel structured buildings. Australia is second in the world in iron ore production, and after third placed Brazil the other ore producing countries are out of the ball park. Steel production per person in Australia is 347kgs per person in 2008, and the US is 298kgs per person.

We have icons such as The Sydney Harbour Bridge which established the steel mills and production in the early part of 20th century and we still have strong steel manufacturing.


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Originally Posted by WirelessG View Post

I can’t guarantee that this answers your question, but these are my thoughts and speculations.
The answers were an excellent read......thanks.


I guess i am looking for an answer such as "Steel has always been the cheaper material giving a 10% difference in construction costs, and hence has always been decided on for the premier buildings in the US"

but then again that doesn't quite make complete sense to me as the cost of insuring the steel framed buildings is higher due to the insurance industry deeming the steel frames less safe. "a Class-A, cast-in-place reinforced concrete-framed office tower with a concrete core and wider egress stairs will save nearly 25 percent annually on the cost of property insurance.” source: http://www.buildings.com/ArticleDeta...1/Default.aspx


So what am i saying?


There must be other larger factors involved than merely costs or availability in the case of comparison of Australia and US cities (New York in particular). The factors discussed would lead to a more mixed scenario (i.e Australia having some steel frames and the US having more Concrete frames). Apart from the Trump building in Chicago, most are steel frames, AND the Trump building was originally designed AND started as a steel building, only to be changed to allow a more expansive window design throughout the building, so the building would have been steel if it were not for a desire for greater window size....

So what are the factors not yet discussed? political? Steel Industry dominance? I really don't know, but i do know for a ratio as is the reality of my example there is a extremely likelihood of a factor(s) to cause such dominant preferences of these two first-world building building countries.
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Old 01-28-2011, 08:07 PM   #15
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High Rise Building methods - US versus Oz - Steel versus Concrete


You might want to email AISC (American Institute of Steel Construction, AISC.org) and ACI (American Concrete Institute, concrete.org) as well as the Australian counterparts to these two organizations and see what they all have to say. As they all have their own interests, I would pose the questions in a simplistic manner and avoid leading them to any particular answer (I'm sure you realize this...just thought I would mention it). If you do, let us know what they say. It would be interesting. However, I'm afraid that you won't find a silver bullet answer, but you may find a broad brush answer, which may be enough to satisfy your curiosity. Good luck.

PS - One more source may Thorton-Tomasetti. They are a highly reputable engineering firm located throughout the US. They may be able to shed some light on your question if you get a hold of a knowledgeable person and not the communications clerk.

http://www.thorntontomasetti.com/

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