Monday, May 23, 2011

Building with Steel? Or Wood?

On May 11th, our post asked the question: Why are the construction workers building houses out of wood now when they were using steel before? We decided it was time to Ask the Expert!

So we decided to contact John O'Toole, the Senior Project Manager of the Old Colony site for Suffolk Construction. This question was a very easy one for him!

Choosing to use steel or wood has a lot to do with the height of a building, says Mr. O'Toole. Steel is very strong. In fact, it is so strong that it can support the weight of a skyscraper that's over a quarter mile high (for example, the Willis Tower in the city of Chicago)!

So it's not problem making the four- and six-story steel buildings at the Old Colony construction site.

Wood is a fine, safe material for building houses too, Mr. O'Toole explains. It's lighter than steel and a much easier material to work with. You can cut it with less trouble than a heavy steel beam. You can put different pieces of it together with just nails. That takes less time than drilling holes into steel and using bolts.

On the other hand, says Mr. O'Toole, wood isn't quite strong enough to stack countless stories of it, one on top of the other. There are no skyscrapers built from wood. But there are lots of three-story buildings--just like the ones they are constructing for Old Colony.