Can Steel Buildings Stand Up To Natural Disasters?

Posted by Ben Sparhawk on Sep 11, 2019 4:22:38 PM

2018 saw its fair share of natural disasters, the same way 2017 did.

Natural disasters are becoming part of many people's everyday lives, whether we like it or not.

2018 saw five major natural disasters. To kick off the year, in January we saw the Montecito mudslides.

Montecito, California saw more than half an inch of rainfall in just five minutes.

Because of that, mudslides rocked the wildfire-scarred areas, flattening homes and covering freeways. Twenty-one people lost their lives, including children and the elderly.

In May, Ellicott City, MD was completely underwater as its roads turned into rivers.

More than 8 inches of rain fell there in just a few hours.

In September, at least 43 people died in Hurricane Florence, which flooded the Carolinas.

North Carolina was hit with 36 inches of rain, and South Carolina got 24 inches.

Both totals were statewide records.

To follow up Hurricane Florence, the historic Hurricane Michael left a trail of destruction across Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

It was the strongest storm based on pressure to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Camille in 1969.

Michael was the first Category 4 hurricane to ever make landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

And then in November, unprecedented wildfires swept through the Golden State, from the Camp Fire in Northern California to the Woolsey Fire in Southern California.

Three people died in the Woolsey Fire, but 85 people lost their lives in the Camp Fire, which has become the deadliest in California history.

Those are just five of the natural disasters we had to deal with last year.

This year we've already had Hurricane Dorian which rocked the Bahamas and caused damage on the coast of the southeastern United States.

If there's nothing we can do as individuals to stop these disasters from occurring, the second best thing we can do is prepare.

We need to build strong, stable structures that can withstand the stress of a natural disaster.

Of all the buildings affected by the disasters, those made of steel had the highest rate of survival.

Obviously, disasters come with a high cost in human lives, property, and cash. Much of this can be mitigated by designing for safety and building with steel.

In the article below, we will discuss the benefits of building with steel to stand up to natural disasters.

Table of Contents


Build With Steel

Commercial-grade steel has the highest strength to weight ratio of any traditional construction material, and it really isn't close.

Building with steel can also help Increase Your Property Value.

As building codes become more stringent, especially in areas prone to national disasters, steel is one of the few materials that will be able to stand up to the new requirements.

Apart from being the ideal choice to withstand natural disasters, steel is also an environmentally friendly material.

Building with steel reduces our reliance on less sustainable products that lead to slower construction times.

Steel mills have significantly cut emissions over the last few decades. Producing steel uses less water and emits fewer gasses into the Earth's atmosphere than ever before.

Steel is also 100% recyclable, and it never loses its strength no matter how many times it has been recycled.

The majority of the steel we use today is made up of a high percentage of recycled steel, and all steel scrap and waste are recycled to be used again.

Building with a prefabricated steel structure also reduces the construction time, therefore reducing emissions from equipment and laborer time onsite.

Steel buildings can also be heavily insulated, better than traditional methods, and use about half as much energy to heat and cool as the other construction methods.

Opting to build with steel instead of lumber also means fewer trees are harvested.

It takes about twenty years to replace a single tree, so using steel is eminently more sustainable.

Build with steel and leave the trees to soak up the carbon dioxide and give off oxygen instead of using them to frame your house.

And lastly, you never have to worry about your steel building not meeting your building codes.

They not only meet but exceed them, providing a higher margin of safety and the potential for far less damage.



Special Considerations


If you live in earthquake country, you know the importance of a strong foundation.

Soil samples and a consultation with a geotechnical engineer will provide your foundation designer with the information needed to engineer a foundation that can support your rocking steel building during an earthquake.

Hurricanes and Tornado

The high winds that accompany hurricanes and tornadoes produce extreme uplift.

That means rugged roof and building design are imperative.

A steel roof system with the appropriate fastener design and secondary framing that reinforces the corners and overhang of roof panels will keep the top of the building from flying off with the storm.

Adding high-impact doors and windows to your design will also reduce the amount of damage you will need to repair.


Steel isn't combustible. So, with steel walls and roof panels, sparks that reach the structure will not ignite to cause a blaze or spread flames.

Designing the roof with a minimal overhang can keep your building from channeling hot air, and using fire-resistant materials for soffits, decks, and balconies will further reduce the potential for fire.


Steel panels come with a protective coating to keep corrosion and moisture at bay.

If your steel structure is flooded, you will still need to replace the insulation and flooring, as well as anything else that could produce mold, as soon as possible.

However, your metal frame and panels won't receive any long-lasting damage.

Any interior walls constructed with steel studs will only require damaged drywall to be removed instead of having to replace the entire wall and frame.

Design your next structure with safety in mind by using steel.


Choose Steel and Stay Safe

The biggest benefit of steel when building to stand up to natural disasters is its durability.

Steel is extremely strong, yet still lightweight, so you can design for safety without worrying about extra bulk that would put extra pressure on your foundation.

It's also an extremely environmental option that will help avoid deforestation and keep pollutants out of the air that are likely contributing to all of these natural disasters.

Natural disasters will continue to occur, and it looks like they are only getting worse.

All we can do is prepare by building our homes and businesses with steel.

Steel is by far the best all-around construction material available.

Steel is versatile, it protects, and it is sustainable.

Click on the link below to see how CDMG can help you with your Steel Building Project.


To learn more about the benefits of steel buildings, follow the links below:


Topics: hurricane-resistant construction

About The Author

ben-sparhawkI'm Ben Sparhawk, the Content Writer and Marketing Account Manager for CDMG. I write to showcase the work that CDMG does and everything related to the pre-engineered metal building industry as well as their engineering capabilities. When I'm not working on content, you can find me spending time with my wife and children. You can also find me in the gym, trying to better myself, and I also enjoy spending time outdoors hiking or checking out local parks.