Nine Famous Structural Steel Buildings of the World

What do all these famous buildings have in common? Tons and tons of steel. Buildings that were the tallest in the world one year are overtaken by another the next. And yet these buildings remain memorable for other reasons than the material they were built from. They highlight the design flexibility as well as the endurance of a well-made metal building.

Paris, France

eiffel tower steel

This structure, the world’s most recognized landmark, must always head up this type of list. It was built in 1889 for the World’s Fair and has stood in Paris ever since. In fact, at 320 meters it was the tallest building in the world for nearly 42 years until the Chrysler Building went up.

The Brooklyn Bridge

New York, United States

brooklyn bridge steel

One of ten bridges in New York awarded historic landmark status, the Brooklyn Bridge (famously sold to tourists repeatedly) is 130 years old and took years to complete because of all the heavy metal. It is the oldest New York bridge still open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Burj Khalifa

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

burj khalifa steel

This is currently the world’s tallest manmade structure at 829.8 meters. It was completed in 2009 after nearly 5 years of construction using a bundled tube design to reduce the amount of steel required. This building contains 163 floors including an 11-hectare park, an observation deck on the 124th floor, and a 275 meter long fountain that shoots water 150 meters into the air. The elevators must travel 504 meters.

The Empire State Building

New York, United States

empire state building

Built in 1931 with its stylish art deco tower, the Empire State Building is a 103 story skyscraper that stood as the tallest building in the world for over 40 years. It took over from the Chrysler Building and held that distinction until 1973 when it was overtaken by the Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago. The steel frame alone weighs 57,000 tons. Amazingly for its time, it only took 13 months to build.

Willis (formerly Sears) Tower

Chicago, Illinois, United States

willis tower steel

Taking three years to build, the Willis Tower dominates the Chicago skyline. Completed in 1973 it is constructed of several smaller structures held together by large steel beams and supports. This gives it the added strength to stand against those stiff Chicago winds off Lake Michigan.

The Seagram Building

New York, United States

Built with a minimalist design, this building sports a frame that is a combination of steel skeleton and concrete core for vertical and horizontal strength.

The Steel House

Lubbock, TX, United States

It isn’t tall like the other structures on this list but it is very striking in its design. Robert Bruno, the sculptor, used 110 tons of steel for this unique building.

The Chrysler Building

New York, United States

the chrysler building steel

The Chrysler Building was completed in 1930 which allowed it to be the tallest structure in the world for about a year. It contains many original features that helped pave the way for other skyscrapers. As you can see, it sports the same art deco design as the Empire State Building which took its place as world’s tallest the following year.

U.S. Steel Tower

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

us steel tower

This monolithic tower rising from the Pittsburgh landscape was constructed by the U.S. Steel Company from steel the company itself produced. It has the largest roof of any building its height and was the first building to be constructed with liquid-fireproofed columns.

These 10 towers are marvels of construction on their own terms. None would be possible without the strength and durability of steel. They are monuments to that fact because all are still standing. Other well-known steel buildings you may want to see include:

  • The Shun King Square Tower in Shenzen, China famous for being constructed at the pace of 2-3 floors a week.
  • The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, United States which has stood for over 50 years.
  • Another New York giant, the New York Times Building is 300 meters tall and was built of steel for the security of the computers and printing materials. This is the 5th or 6th address the New York Times has had; a couple of previous incarnations were in response to another newspaper constructing a taller building.
  • Teipei 101 in Taiwan is 500 meters tall with some of the floors built underground. It was also distinguished for a time as the world’s tallest structure until the Bhurjh Khalifa was built.
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Keynote information on structural steel in Cleveland, OH, and Indianapolis, IN

A little more than half of all buildings built in the United States last year utilized a structural-steel frame. But, despite an almost 2:1 advantage over the next most-common framing material, building owners still have a lot of questions.

1. Is the price of steel skyrocketing?
No. Fortunately, the major price increases are now behind us, though minor fluctuations up and down are expected to continue. However, severe price inflation during the past 3 years affected almost every major building material – from concrete to plywood to gypsum products. Additionally, remember that you’re not buying steel beams; rather, you’re buying steel fabricated and erected. Typically, the raw material is only about one-third or less of the total steel package. As a result, the price of steel to a building developer still climbed substantially in the past 3 years – by a more reasonable 13 to 15 percent rather than the 40 percent widely reported.

2. Is there a steel shortage?
No. While inflationary prices are often the result of supply issues, this was not the case with structural steel. Instead, the run-up in prices was primarily the result of higher raw material costs plus rapidly climbing energy charges. While lead times from mills for wide-flange shapes are around 12 to 14 weeks (and, for structural tube [HSS], about 4 to 6 weeks), steel warehouses (also known as steel service centers) around the country have nearly 1 million tons of structural steel in stock and can deliver most sizes within days of receiving an order. Today, nearly 70 percent of the steel used in building projects is purchased from these warehouses. The exception is typically the “mega-project,” but these large-scale projects are always years in the planning.

3. Is steel a “green” material?
Yes. By weight, steel is the most recycled material in the world. In fact, if you purchase a wide-flange beam or column in the United States today, you’re getting a product produced from about 95-percent scrap material. In addition, because of the high value of steel scrap, old steel almost never ends up in a landfill; instead, it’s recycled into new steel products. If you’re considering LEED certification, a steel-framed building almost always receives a credit for recycled content. With most fabricators located within 500 miles of a jobsite, steel-framed buildings are typically eligible to receive an additional LEED credit.

4. Is steel a blast-resistant material?
Yes. Since 9/11, owners have been increasingly concerned about building safety. While a properly designed building using either steel or concrete is safe, structural steel’s inherent ductility and strength make it the preferred blast-resistant structural material. In fact, a recent full-scale test modeled the response of a steel column to the same blast that caused the collapse of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. It demonstrated that a comparable steel column subjected to the blast would not fail and would retain enough structural integrity to support the building after the blast. Steel’s phenomenal ductility makes it inherently blast resistant; it’s also the strongest building material. For more information go to

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Combining Structural Steel with reinforced concrete in Cleveland, OH and Indianapolis IN

Structures consisting of both materials utilize the benefits of structural steel and reinforced concrete. This is already common practice in reinforced concrete in that the steel reinforcement is used to provide steel’s tensile strength capacity to a structural concrete member. A commonly seen example would be parking garages. Some parking garages are constructed using structural steel columns and reinforced concrete slabs. The concrete will be poured for the foundational footings, giving the parking garage a surface to be built on. The steel columns will be connected to the slab by bolting and/or welding them to steel studs extruding from the surface of the poured concrete slab. Pre-cast concrete beams may be delivered on site to be installed for the second floor, after which a concrete slab may be poured for the pavement area. This can be done for multiple stories.[13] A parking garage of this type is just one possible example of many structures that may use both reinforced concrete and structural steel.

A structural engineer understands that there are an infinite number of designs that will produce an efficient, safe, and affordable building. It is the engineer’s job to work alongside the owner(s), contractor(s), and all other parties involved to produce an ideal product that suits everyone’s needs.[8] When choosing the structural materials for their structure, the engineer has many variables to consider, such as the cost, strength/weight ratio, sustainability of the material, constructability, etc.

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Structural steel in Cleveland, OH and Indianapolis, IN Structural Steel Intro


Structural steel is a standard construction material, made from specific grades of steel and formed in a range of industry standard cross-sectional shapes (or ‘Sections’). Structural steel grades are designed with specific chemical compositions and mechanical properties formulated for particular applications.

In Europe, Structural Steel must comply with the European Standard EN 10025 a Governed by the ECISS (European Committee for Iron and Steel Standardization) a subset of CEN (European Committee for Standardization.

There are many examples of European grades of structural steel such as; S195, S235, S275, S355, S420, S460 etc. However, for the purposes of this article we will focus on the Chemical Composition, Mechanical Properties and Applications of S235, S275, S355. Three common structural steel grades used in all manner of Construction projects across the EU.

Inline with the European Standard classifications, Structural steels must be referenced using standard symbols including but not limited to: “S”235″J2’‘K2’’C’’Z’’W’’JR’’JO’’


  • S – denotes the fact that it is Structural Steel
  • 235 – related to the minimum yield strength of the steel (tested at a thickness of 16mm)
  • J2 / K2 / JR / JO – material toughness in relation to the Charpy impact or ‘V’notch test methodology
  • W – Weathering Steel (Atmospheric Corrosion Resistant)
  • Z – Structural steel with improved strength perpendicular to the surface
  • C – Cold-formed

Depending on the manufacturing process, chemical composition and relevant application, further letters and classifications might be used to reference particular grades/products of structural steel.

The EU Standard classifications are inherently not a global standard and therefore a number of corresponding grades with the same Chemical and Mechanical properties may be used in other parts of the world. For example, Structural Steels fabricated for the US market must be specified in accordance with the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials)International guidelines and will be referenced with an ‘A’ and then the relevant Grade such as A36, A53 etc.

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