What’s the Role of Steel in the Australian Economy?
As far back as 4,000 years ago, steel production has been important in global economies. Steel’s early uses were predominantly for military and ornaments. But now, the construction sector is now the main “consumer” of steel.
This material has become popular because of its low cost and high tensile strength. Recent advances have made it possible to produce more lightweight steel (in a more environment-friendly way), which is great because it minimises the load on foundations. Its low cost has also made steel important in pursuing large-scale infrastructure projects.
In fact, a slight increase in the price of steel can blow up the cost of the entire construction project. Whether it’s for residential and mixed-use buildings, retail buildings or structures for healthcare, education, leisure and transport, the cost and supply of steel affects them all.
Using steel in various applications
Let’s start with residential and mixed-use buildings. Approximately, a steel structure is only 50% of the weight of an equivalent concrete structure. As mentioned earlier, this influences the load on foundations.. The reduction in foundation loads can result in up to significant savings in total construction cost. Aside from upfront material cost savings, there are also opportunities to save costs during the construction. For instance, purchasing and installing structural steel can speed up construction time (e.g. estimated 20 to 40% time savings). This in turn lowers the site management costs and speeds up project completion. As a result, residential and mixed-use buildings will experience early occupancies. The developers will then be on their track to gain some early returns from their investments.
That can be up to 20 to 40% reduction in construction time can also minimis disturbance to neighbouring buildings and communities. There will be potentially minimal disturbance to the flow of goods and services in the area. As a result of this flow, the local economy remains vibrant. It’s a similar case in promptly completing supermarkets and other retail buildings. Other methods might double the construction time and slow down the realisation of ROI.
Upfront, there will be huge cost savings because of early completion and lower labour costs. Business owners (who own both the business and the property) can also gain long-term benefits from steel construction. The strength and durability of structural steel will maximise the service life of the structure. This results to cost savings in future repair, maintenance and replacement.
Upfront cost savings and rapid construction are priorities in almost all building projects. Whether it’s for residential, commercial, healthcare, education or leisure, steel has a huge role in controlling costs while still achieving the desired outcomes.
Use of steel in transport infrastructure & construction
A vibrant and growing economy is often about easy and fast access to goods and services. If there’s a lot of movement (and that movement is efficient), expect to have a growing economy.
Bridges have a major contribution to that. They make access from point A to point B much faster and more efficient. This makes the flow of people, goods and services much faster. The adjoining areas (and far beyond) will receive a boost to their local economy.
For example, the completion and opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 efficiently connected the Sydney central business district (CBD) and the North Shore. The bridge now carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Over 160,000 vehicles use the bridge each day.
Aside from connecting two locations, transport infrastructure projects also open growth opportunities between different locations . After all, a site becomes more attractive if there’s transport infrastructure in place. Notice that when a major transport infrastructure project is completed, other major structures (residential, commercial, industrial, government) also sprout around the area. This is definitely the case in Sydney over recent years, for example in Mascot, Green Square, Macquarie Park and Waterloo.
The use of steel has a huge role in the timely and economical completion of transport infrastructure projects. This is most pronounced in the lightweight property of steel (remember that a concrete structure is approximately 2x heavier than an equivalent steel structure). Also, steel has a high strength-to-weight ratio. The combination of those attributes further lowers the cost in construction (e.g. minimising substructure costs, similar to reduction in foundation loads).
Aside from the upfront cost savings, steel also presents broad architectural possibilities and sustainability superiority. Engineers and architects can design bridges and transport infrastructure in any shape or form. When it comes to sustainability, steel also has an advantage. Up to 99% of the structural steel may be reused or re-processed to create new steel products. Whether it’s the construction of a beam or arch bridge, steel always presents some clear advantages in terms of costs, strength, versatility and sustainability.
Why steel is widely used
We’ve discussed why steel is widely used in the construction of buildings (residential, commercial) and transport infrastructure. But we’ve not yet discussed how it came to be.
Steelmaking has a long and rich history (goes way back 4,000 years ago). However, the use of steel perhaps was only for military and luxury. And back then, high-rises and other large infrastructure were not that widespread compared to our modern times.
But due to industrialisation, a huge demand for lightweight, strong and cost-effective material emerged. Concrete itself was not enough to fill in the demand (concrete requires reinforcements in many cases). That’s where the modern version of steel came in.
The chief raw material for steelmaking is already abundant (iron). In fact, iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Virtually it’s easy and cost effective to acquire. However, the cost effectiveness didn’t apply to steel production especially in large scale.
Thankfully, a major breakthrough came during the 1850s.. The Bessemer process is the earliest cost-effective industrial way to mass produce steel. During the early days (plus some more innovations on the process), the process can yield 5 tonnes of steel in 20 minutes.
This early breakthrough accelerated industrialisation and altered the course of history. It’s still happening today as more economic means of producing steel is under development. The entire supply chain of steel fabrication and delivery has become a lot more efficient.
The role of steel in the Australian economy cannot be underestimated. From what we’ve talked about, steel is a major contributor in the construction sector and the entire economy. This strong and cost-effective material makes it possible to accomplish major construction projects in a prompt and economical way.
We share the same goal here at Mascot Steel. As a 100% Australian-owned business, we’re committed to supporting the local economy by delivering steel products at economical rates and superior quality. It’s been our commitment for more than 40 years.
As the largest steel fabrication factory (with a 4,000m2 workshop) in South-East Sydney, we always deliver complete fabrication solutions. We also cut most steel products according to your specified size. Aside from complete steel fabrication, our value-added services also include:
- Prime painting
- Profile plasma & saw cutting
- Press brake folding, bending, rolling & guillotining of sheet and plate
It’s our end-to-end solution as a steel supplier and fabrication service. This way, the entire supply chain becomes more efficient and encounters less friction. As a result, you get significant savings in time and costs.
You can contact us through the following:
- Phone (02) 9313-1313
- Email email@example.com
- Fax (02) 9313-1323
We are open 7am – 5pm Monday to Friday (last cutting orders 4.30pm) and perform deliveries Sydney-wide.