Metal vs. Steel: Is there really a difference?

We get asked a lot: what exactly is the difference between a metal building and a steel building? It is common to hear the terms or even see them being thrown around the construction site or Internet. Ironically there isn’t too much of a difference between a “metal building” and a “steel building”; they are really one in the same thing when it comes to skyscrapers, high rises, and other architectural buildings.

 

Below we have a picture from the National Museum of Natural History, illustrating a beautiful array of raw precious metals and minerals. When looking at it from this perspective you see the beginning of the production stage for construction any type of development, whether it be built of steel or metal.

Precious Metals

 

However, in terms of chemistry, put plain and simply, a metal is something that is naturally present on Earth, like iron, gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, which are mined out of the crust. These metal ores need to be refined in order for the properties of the metal to be useful, the ones we want in a professional setting. Steel on the other hand is made by adding a controlled amount of carbon to iron, and thus different chemicals and compounds are added to make steel alloys. In a simple example, we know that chromium is added to steel in order to produce stainless steel. Therefore, all metal can be made into steel, but steel cannot be made into metal, because it is a derivative.

 

Steel production is started by gathering large amounts of iron ore, and smelting it, at which the production factory or manufacture then adds in carbon to create the desired alloy. Below we can see a picture that demonstrates white-hot steel pouring out of an electric arc furnace.

Steel Pour

In the past, these steel faculties would cast the raw iron into ingots which would then be stored later for refinement that would result into the final product. In modern facilities, the initial product is closer to the final composition, which allows the manufactures to shape the product into bars which produces the final product.

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