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What Advantages Do Steel and Aluminum Structure Buildings Offer?

steel structures
Updated: February 4, 2024
Published: November 7, 2023

Shelter Structures is the international brand for aluminum structure buildings, providing space solutions in terms of events, sports, industrial storage and more. Our expertise is not only involved in events shelter sector, but also in industrial applications for temporary and semi-permanent warehouse & storage buildings, involving the scenarios of oil & gas, mining storage and operations, aircraft and vehicle storage, agricultural storage etc.

Many people and some of our clients thought about steel structures when talking about industrial use, after consulting from our experts, they distinguished the purposes and applications of their shelters’ usage, they eventually opted for the aluminum structures from Shelter Structures.     

So, what are the difference between aluminum structures and steel structures in industrial applications? We will cover the below for your better understanding.

  • What kinds of shelters are (suitable) for industrial applications?
  • What are steel structures?
  • What are aluminum structures?
  • Difference between aluminum structures and steel structures
  • Knowing your purpose and select the best appropriate structures for your case

What kinds of shelters are suitable for industrial applications?

Shelters or structures used under industrial applications, are emphasizing on the buildings’ efficiency, safety, and longevity, and can be of aluminum structures or steel structures. And they always have the following features, which are medium to big size, located in industrial areas (most of the cases in remote zones), and requiring more robustness and versatility.

The smaller industrial shelters start from the width of 10-20 meters, for the length, they vary, and some can be over 100 meters. Under most of the cases, they have adequate height, as big machinery vehicles are likely to enter the shelters, and/ or other situations like the vertical space needs to be used to store more assets and may be used for bridge cranes or high racks. They normally start from 2-3 meters eave height, and reaching 5-6 ridge height of the top.

The shapes of industrial shelters can be various, like A frame, polygon shape, arch shape etc. However, they all have one thing in common, as the dimensions increase, their columns will become thicker and the structures become more complex. This is for the purpose of increasing structure stability under harsh weather conditions.  

What are steel structures?

steel structures

As the name it is, steel structures indicate the buildings with steel frames. Their roofing and wall cladding vary a lot, and are possible to have, for example, PVC roof/ steel roof/ PVC walls/ steel walls/ ABS panel walls etc.

Moreover, those steel frames, normally are made of painted steel or galvanized steel. Simply speaking, the painted steel is the steel which is sandblasted and painted with a protective coating; while the galvanized steel is the steel that has been covered in a zinc coating. In more detail, painted steel frames are of the painted zinc layer of average 64 to 90 µm, which are not very resistant to scratching and easy to corrosion after years.

in the meantime, galvanized steel frames are of the average thickness of 85 µm protection, which are hard and with more corrosion resistance. No matter which coating, for steel structures, there are still risk that the structures can be corroded after decades and will lead to high maintenance cost.

With steel structures, the roofing can be fabric cover or with steel cladding, and the walls can be of various materials, like metal cladding, fabric cladding and other cladding.

What are aluminum structures?

steel structures

With aluminum as the main frame, this material is more sustainable and never to be corroded. However, in stiffness and hardness, they are not as tough as steel structures. At Shelter Structures, we focus on alu structures with alu 6061-T6. This 6061 alloy is a precipitation-hardened aluminum alloy that contains magnesium and silicon as its major alloying elements. The “T6” refers to the tempering process, indicating that the aluminum has been thermally treated to produce artificial aging for increased strength.

With aluminum structures, the roofing is fabric cover, in most of the cases, due to the load-bearing capacity of the roof is not as strong as for steel structures. For the walls, they can be metal cladding, fabric cladding, ABS panel cladding and more.

Difference between aluminum structures and steel structures

Aluminum structures and steel structures have many differences, we will focus on the difference in industrial applications sector.

Flexibility

At Shelter Structures, our aluminum structures are prefabricated in modular design, as well as the lightweight feature, which indicates our structures are flexible for scaling up and down. For example, you have the industrial shelter of 50 meters, under another situation, you can easily make it into 25 or smaller/ larger scale.

You may have the occasions of relocation, for example, from this mining site to another. Talking about the feature of relocation, the alu structures from Shelter Structures have the most advantages.   

Robustness and durability

Steel structures are more robust and durable than alu structures. Take the comparison of galvanized steel and aluminum alloy 6061-T6, The hardness of galvanized steel is typically around 120-170 HB (Brinell hardness), while the hardness of 6061-T6 aluminum is approximately 95 HB.

The result simply means that steel structures can withstand more severe weather than aluminum structures under industrial scenario.

Cost

Regarding material cost, aluminum alloy 6061-T6 is generally more expensive than galvanized steel. However, from the structural aspect under industrial scenario, the erection cost of Shelter Structures’ alu structures are cheaper than the same size of steel structures, due to prefabricated modular features, and steel structures need more operation (like welding) and labor onsite.

Additionally, alu structures have lower cost in terms of maintenance cost than steel structures. Anti-corrosion is one of the best features for alu structures.

Benefits of each

Steel structures can be seen most in industrial construction, renowned for their exceptional strength, durability, and resilience under rigorous operational conditions. In heavy industrial sectors, such as manufacturing plants, warehouses, and power generation facilities, the robustness of steel plays a pivotal role in withstanding heavy machinery, extreme loads, and harsh working environments.

While aluminum presents distinct benefits and considerations for industrial applications. The lightweight and corrosion-resistant nature of aluminum caters to industries focused on efficiency,  environmental sustainability and more likely the temporary and semi-permanent scenarios.

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Knowing your purpose and select the best appropriate structures for your case

The choice between aluminum and steel structures in industrial settings needs a comprehensive evaluation of specific project requirements, considering factors such as load capacity, durability, environmental conditions, and maintenance considerations. Distinguishing temporary/ semi-permanent/ permanent building needs is vital in this case. In the same time, budget is also important to be concerned.

By understanding the unique attributes of each material, you, as the clients, are more clear about what kinds of structures are appropriate for your projects. If there are still confusion, our experts are always standing by for you to help you with the most suitable solutions for your industrial projects.

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