Stainless steel provides many clear benefits for the building and construction industry. The built environment sector plays an important role in reducing carbon emissions globally and using stainless steel as a material helps tackle the embodied carbon.
Designing stainless steel structures is still more rare than designing carbon steel structures – and this might create an uneasy feeling of stepping out of one’s comfort zone – but it can and should be just as uncomplicated.
Stainless steel structures have traditionally been used in environments demanding good corrosion resistance, surface hygiene and little maintenance. The offshore industry, healthcare and pharmaceutical settings and food and beverage industry come to mind when thinking about such requirements.
For the building and construction industry, some other evident advantages are fire resistance and a visually attractive, aesthetic appearance. Thanks to their ductility, strength and good energy absorption properties, stainless steels are safe and reliable materials also in earthquake prone areas.
Building a better future together
Building and construction industry has faced a need to reduce both operational and embodied carbon emissions. Embodied carbon refers to materials and construction; essentially, the carbon footprint of constructing a building. The World Green Building Council’s vision is to reduce embodied carbon by 40 % by 2030, and reach net zero embodied carbon by 2050.
Optimizing the dimensions of stainless steel structures further lowers the environmental footprint. At the same time, it lowers weight and reduces supply price and transport, assembly, and maintenance costs.
Using stainless steel structures can reduce embodied carbon: the hollow sections and profiles we provide are manufactured from over 2/3 recycled raw material, and at the end of their long service life, they are still fully recyclable. No coating is required, which not only increases sustainability and lowers maintenance costs but also helps designing.
Optimizing the dimensions of stainless steel structures is a way of further lowering the environmental footprint. At the same time, it lowers weight and reduces supply price and transport, assembly, and maintenance costs.
Designing Stainless Steel structures should be easy
This is something we realized a while back: designing stainless steel structures should not be a challenge. The material itself can bring tremendous value, and we do not often hear disagreements about its benefits. We have noticed, though, that due to it still being less used than carbon steel, designing with it has not yet become routine for many. Some design engineers might find themselves seemingly on new territory although, not that much is different compared to designing with carbon steel.
Previously, there have not been many tools for designing stainless steel structures, either. In fact, some modeling software packages do not include stainless steel modules at all. This might raise the threshold especially for those who work with stainless steel only occasionally. Our point of view, however, is this: using a material that brings so many benefits should be made as easy as possible.
With this in mind, we some time ago launched a Toolkit on our website. The free toolkit currently covers a selection of digital tools, design libraries, application guides and stainless steel handbooks to help designers.
An app for designers, by designers
Our free-of-charge software Stalafit PRO is one of the digital tools found in the Toolkit and as a mobile app, giving access to all Stalatube’s hollow sections and I-beams – including user defined RHS dimensions. It has been developed with designers, for designers.
Our goal was to provide designers and structural engineers with an easy-to-use, fully functional design software that produces ultimate limit state, serviceability limit state and fire design in accordance with Eurocodes.
We have wanted to also consider different types of needs. As a result, the software can be used conveniently for quick direct member design but also with FEM results, serving those who use separate finite element analysis programs.
The tool starts with material selection. Stalatube’s enhanced strength classes STALA 350 for Austenitics, STALA 400F for Ferritics and STALA 630D for Duplex steels are also available. Steel grade selection can optionally be done according to EN 1993-1-4/A1:2015, defining corrosion risk based on chloride and sulphur exposure as well as cleaning regime or exposure to washing by rain. This way, those perhaps feeling more unaccustomed to designing stainless steel structures can also get started quite easily.
Fire resistance, one of stainless steel’s most interesting properties for the building and construction industry, is another useful detail worth mentioning. The reduction factors in Stalafit PRO are according to the latest SCI Design Manual (which one can download from our Toolkit) and the tool allows for fire design with user defined R-class.
Going briefly back to material selection, the top-performing Austenitic grade in terms of fire resistance, EN 1.4571, is available as well. Using EN 1.4571, it is possible to achieve a minimum fire resistance class R 30 in many applications without additional fireproofing or oversizing the ultimate limit state (ULS).
Optimized structures, increased benefits
Optimizing stainless steel structures is essentially at the core of what Stalatube does. While customers can make use of our large standard dimension range, we have long tailored outer dimensions to them as a service.
When building Stalafit PRO, it made sense to also give customers the opportunity to optimize structures through it themselves.
In addition to hollow section standard dimensions, designers can freely choose dimensions by 1 millimeter’s precision all the way up to 300x300x12 mm or 400x200x12 mm.
Smart optimizing of structures brings down the supply prices of stainless steel and allows for sensible life cycle costs. We can effectively cut down the weight of the structure as well as its material, manufacturing, and transportation costs – while simultaneously enacting our ecological values by not creating redundant material waste.
After all, sustainability is a growing concern for everyone involved in creating the built environment. It is also embedded in the way we do our business, in our attempts to literally build a better future with our customers.