The Do’s and Don’ts of Selecting Construction and Building Materials

Published on February 7, 2019 by Structural Innovations in Structural Engineering

There are many different types of construction and building materials from which to choose when planning to create a new bridge, fabricate a new roof, or erect a new home or office building. You can design and manufacture a concrete or steel bridge, a metal or wood roof, or a brick or stone office building—and those are just a small sampling of the building material options on the market.

So how do you choose which construction and building materials are best for your upcoming project? If you are unsure about which mediums to use for fabrication, you should consult with a structural engineering company to decide on the building materials that would best suit your construction or structural design needs.

What to Look for When Choosing Construction and Building Materials

The first thing that you need to consider when selecting construction and building materials is for what purposes these materials are going to be used. Are you wanting to fabricate a new office building in the heart of downtown that will last for hundreds of years, or are you looking to create architectural intrigue and detail along an existing structure’s roofline, doors, and windows?

If you are looking for the latter, an architectural firm could help you select materials that will help you accomplish your goal. However, if you are fabricating a new bridge to span across one of the large rivers in your city, or replace the roof on a home or business, it would be best to consult with a structural engineering company to see which construction and building materials—like concrete or steel—would best support heavy dynamic loads and environmental stressors.

Another point to consider when selecting construction and building materials is, of course, the price point. For example, if you are erecting a new home or office building, you are more than likely going to be working with concrete construction and building materials. There are different grades of concrete with different price tags attached of which you should be aware in order to stay within your project’s budget.

If you are looking to create a standard building foundation on sturdy ground, you may select concrete with a 4,000 psi (pounds per square inch) strength. This grade of concrete is plenty durable, and can support heavy loads. Now, if you are constructing a building on a soil mix that is not a solid as you would hope, and you have to sink piles into the ground to anchor and support your building’s foundation, you may opt to use concrete with a higher psi strength for extra stability and support. A higher psi concrete will cost more than a lower grade concrete; however, you may be able to use less of a 6,000 psi strength concrete than a 4,000 psi strength concrete to carry the same load.

The Best Kinds of Construction and Building Materials

The best types of construction and building materials to use in your next new fabrication or renovation project, once again, depends on if you want to add architectural detail to a new or existing structure, or if you are wanting to ensure a building’s, bridge’s, or road’s durability for decades without having to perform major maintenance.

For instance, if you are designing and fabricating a bridge, some of the best construction and building materials you can use are structural steel and reinforced concrete. Structural steel includes angle iron, channel iron, and the like, and is a lighter-weight building material option when compared to brick or concrete; however, it can still bear extremely heavy loads and withstand environmental stressors.

Along with steel, pre-stressed concrete is a great medium due to its incredible stability and durability—provided by the high-strength steel tendons around which the concrete is poured. These two mediums are often used in conjunction with one another to bear structural and transitional loads for decades or longer. Oftentimes, bridges have structural steel support joists and frames, and a solid pre-stressed concrete base.

Another excellent kind of construction and building material is masonry. Traditionally, masonry was composed of clay, and was used in home, building, and road construction for centuries. Many masonry products today are constructed of higher strength concrete materials. Not only does this medium have the ability to withstand the outdoor elements and bear heavy loads, but it is also a cost-effective material that will not break the bank when compared to other strong materials like stone.

The easiest and best way to select the proper construction and building materials for your next construction or renovation project is to contact a structural engineering firm, and discuss your specifications with a trained structural engineer. These professionals can work in conjunction with architectural firm to help you create a building, bridge, or roadway that is not only structurally sound, but appealing to the eye as well.

Problematic Construction and Building Materials

Although you can create a structure out of many different construction and building materials, some mediums are less durable than others over time. For example, lumber must be considered carefully when selecting a long-lasting building material. There are various grades and treatments of wood that provide an array of strength and durability.

The most common problems with lumber are water damage, rot due to fungi that develop when moisture seeps in through the cracks, and bugs that eat through and destroy wood. However, if you choose to use lumber in home or building construction, incorporating smart building practices will help extend your structure’s lifespan.

Similar to wood, you should also be aware of the susceptibility of steel to degrade when exposed to the elements. There are many coating systems including advanced, multi-part paint systems along with conventional galvanizing that will protect exposed steel structures for many years.

Again, the best way to find out which construction and building materials to use sparingly or avoid altogether when designing and fabricating your next project is to reach out to a structural engineering company like Structural Innovations. Although our offices are headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, we offer consultations across the United States. Give us a call today at (704)-837-0337 to get answers to your structural design questions.

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