Architecture is the profession of planning, designing and constructing buildings and structures. Various factors determine the design of a building. The most influential are the factors that determine the kind of material to be used for construction. One of the complex phases of the building is planning. The main goal of architectural design is solving problems that implicate the aesthetic and cultural outcome of an infrastructure. This paper compares two building materials; steel and glass, and shows how their tectonic expression is a result of the characteristics of the material and method of construction.
The method of construction determines the aesthetic of a structure. Combined with the characteristics of the material used, a building can be defined from the two viewpoints. The type of structure to be erected also dictates the material to be used. If it is the front end of a building, glass is commonly used to give the building the aesthetic look. On the other hand, where reinforcement is required such as during the foundation of building, strong material such as steel is used. Steel is a strong alloy of iron that is highly preferred for construction due to some of the following reasons. The construction using steel is not only fast, but it is also less expensive. Business and the commercial sectors highly prefer this method due to its durability and convenience with which materials are delivered. Giving a structure a foundation of steel makes it rigid and dependable especially when natural calamities such as earthquakes occur. The tectonic expression offered by this material is as a result of their characteristics. Another factor that is highly regarded is the fact that this building material is resistant to climatic changes. The material does not expand or contract when the surrounding climatic conditions change. Major structures that are constructed using this material include; churches, bridges and recreational halls and edifices. These structures are meant to be strong, durable and capable of withstanding a lot of weight and pressure.
An architect may express a material inform of a building due to its characteristics. For example, steel provides the architecture with architectural and design flexibility. As a result, this allows large span distances, curves and any form of shape that the architect feels fit to be incorporated in the design. As previously seen, the design of a structure is the hardest part. However, if the architect does not have to worry about incorporating different shapes in the design the process eases. The flexibility of the material brings the difference between steel structures and glass structures. Glass is fragile and inelastic. For this reason, it is hard to be conjured into different shapes as the architect deems right. It takes time and deep design consideration to propose an effective structure that is implementable. The tectonics of a structure is defined by the two structures. For example, when building a skyscraper, a combination of glass and steel comes in handy. The steel is used to provide the reinforcements while the glass provides the aesthetic of the building. Such a building is more durable. This is due to the durability of steel. However, there will be constraints in the shape of the structure as the architect will be forced to adhere to the design considerations of steel.
Other than the numerous merits of using steel as a building material, there are some demerits that the material poses. One of the major disadvantages of using steel is that buildings of steel have poor heat resistance. This is because it is a good heat conductor and this makes it more susceptible to thermal bridging. For this reason, it is highly recommended for building structures such as bridges, stadiums and social halls that are used mainly for rare events. To customize the metal to meet the end-user requirements, thermal breaks and external insulator are required to prevent this condition. This leads to increased cost of the material since the materials used for insulation are fiberglass and hard board panels which are expensive. Corrosion is another demerit of the material. Though well insulated steel withstands all climatic conditions, the same cannot be said in marine environments. When the material comes in contact with water, its part that is made of iron chemically reacts with the water in the presence of oxygen to form rust. Exposure to the atmosphere makes corrosion evident in steel buildings. The material is made more durable by treating it using abrasive blasting, water blasting and coating using coal and tar.
An architect will weigh the pros and cons of a material before making a decision on which material to use for construction. For example, determining what to use between steel and glass the architect will determine the following; the kind of building under consideration, characteristic of the building material, risks involved in the design of the structure as well as the cost that will be incurred. Through these considerations, it is evident that different materials have different uses. It is worth noting that for aesthetic purposes, glass is commonly preferred as the best material for building while where reinforcement is required, steel comes in handy.
The characteristics of a building material determine where it will be used in building typologies. As depicted by the characteristics of the material above, their characteristics assist architects in making the different choices on the relevant use of the material.