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Architecture, Building and Construction

  1. Introduction
  2. Factors in Material Selection for Stainless Steel in Architectural Applications
  3. Architects’ Guide to Stainless Steel
  4. Application Guides in Architecture and Building
  5. Reinforcing Bar
  6. Structural Design of Stainless Steel
  7. Suppliers of Stainless Steel Sections
  8. Stainless Steel in Swimming Pools
  9. Suppliers of Architectural and Building Products
  10. CPDs for Architects
  11. Environmental Issues
  12. Fire Engineering


This section provides a Resource Centre for anyone involved in designing and using stainless steel in the Architecture Building and Construction Sector. This sector covers a diverse range of applications including:

Architectural cladding Handrails and balustrading Roofing
Drainage and rainwater goods        Wall support products                  Structural applications

Brandt Edelstahldach                                  Ancon Ltd

The characteristics of stainless steel, notably its corrosion resistance, aesthetic appearance and mechanical properties, make it ideally suited for many architectural applications. Optimum performance is achieved by taking into account these characteristics when designing in stainless steel. There are many useful resources both on this website and others which are collected together here to provide a “one-stop shop” for architects, building contractors and structural engineers.

Factors in Material Selection for Stainless Steel in Architectural Applications

Stainless steel is largely chosen for its corrosion resistance and aesthetic appearance. It is important to understand the factors which are involved in making a selection of both grade and surface finish. This will ensure that the performance of the product will match the expectation.


The grade of stainless steel has a major influence on its performance and needs to be matched to the environment. The International Molybdenum Association, (IMOA), has produced a method of classifying environmental factors which enables a grade to be chosen in any specific application:

Stainless Steel for Exterior Applications

Surface Finish

The influence of grade on the performance of stainless steel is fairly well known. However, it is not so well known that surface finish has an equally important role in determining corrosion resistance. Poor quality polished finishes can lead to disappointing performance of stainless steel. The results of the laboratory tests below are mirrored in actual situations:

Accelerated laboratory tests 
Rough surface (Ra >1.0 micron) Smooth surface (Ra approx 0.3 micron)
Real situations
Rough Smooth

A full explanation of this phenomenon can be found at: Importance of Surface Finish in the Design of Stainless Steel.

This guidance on surface finish can be found in the National Building Specification section Z11 Purpose Built Metalwork.

It is strongly recommended that the surface finishes defined in the European Standard EN 10088-2 should be used on all drawings, purchase orders and quality assurance documentation to ensure optimum performance of the steel and to avoid contractual arguments resulting from vague or missing information about surface finish. In particular, use of terms like “brushed”, “satin polished”, “dull polished” on their own should be avoided. Quantitative definitions of surface finish using roughness values, Ra in microns should be used wherever possible.

Proprietary finishes which are linked to controlled definitions of surface roughness or to agreed reference samples can also be used.

In addition to the polished surfaces there is a huge range of patterned and/or coloured surfaces which are available. A selection of these is shown below:

Courtesy of Rimex Metals

The entire supply chain from architect through to sub-contractors and site managers needs to understand this factor to minimise the occurrence of this problem. Advice on surface finish and material selection in general from beginning to end of a project can be obtained from the Stainless Steel Advisory Service.


Architects’ Guide to Stainless Steel

This document has become the definitive guide to the use of stainless steel in architectural applications. It covers:

  • Grades and properties
  • Durability, (corrosion resistance)
  • Economics, (life cycle costing)
  • Environmental issues
  • Production and fabrication techniques
  • Surface finishes available
  • Joining, (welding and adhesive bonding)
  • Maintenance and cleaning
  • Case studies

It is published by the Steel Construction Institute and a full copy can be found at Architects’ Guide to Stainless Steel.

There is also a reference list of Resources for Architects.

Online Stainless Steel in Construction Information Centre gives users access to virtually all the information available from SSDAs world-wide on stainless steel building applications.

Application Guides in Architecture and Building

The European Stainless Steel Development Association, Euro Inox, provided a series of publications for specific architectural applications which can be found at:

There is an extensive listing of Resources for Architects

Online Stainless Steel in Construction Information Centre

Reinforcing Bar

Stainless steel is increasingly being seen as a viable material for reinforcement particularly to resist attack from marine or de-icing salts. The benefits of stainless steel rebar are described in:

Use of Stainless Steel Reinforcing Bar in Bridges

ISSF – Stainless Steel Reinforcing Bar

A graphic example of the benefit of stainless steel rebar is shown below:

Progreso Piers Mexico

The bridge on the left was made using normal rebar and lasted 30 years compared to the one on the right built 60 years ago using 304 rebar and is still going strong.

Structural Design of Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is being used increasingly as a structural material. It is important that its distinctive properties as compared to standard carbon and alloy structural steels are understood and built in to the design of structural components.

The Steel Construction Institute’s Structural Design of Stainless Steel is the definitive guide to this important subject. From here you can download a complete copy of the Design Guide. Subjects covered are:

  • Introduction
  • Properties and Selection of Materials
  • Design and Cross-Sections
  • Design of Members
  • Design of Connections
  • Fire Resistant Design
  • Fabrication Aspects
  • Introduction to Design Tables
  • Design Examples
  • Design Tables

You can also use the specially designed software which allows the structural engineer to quickly calculate the Section Properties and Member Capacities for a specific combination of section type, section size, stainless steel grade and loading configuration.

For designing according to the Eurocodes, the Design Manual in Stainless Steel should be used.

The Online Information Centre for Construction in Stainless Steel provides many resources for successfully designing in stainless steel. This site also allows you to download copies of:

Structural Design of Stainless Steel

Design Manual in Stainless Steel

SCI have put all their resources relating to stainless steel on one site here.

There are a number of articles about structural use of stainless steel on the ISSF Website.

Suppliers of Stainless Steel Sections

It is important to know where to obtain structural sections in stainless steel. The BSSA Sections Directory aims to provide a definitive guide to UK suppliers of these products.


Stainless Steel in Swimming Pools

Specific guidance on this subject can be found at Stainless Steel in Swimming Pool Buildings

Suppliers of Architectural and Building Products

The BSSA’s Find a Supplier facility enables enquirers to find appropriate suppliers for a wide range of architectural and building products.

CPDs for Architects

In conjunction with the Nickel Institute, the BSSA provides a series of RIBA approved CPD seminars for architects.

The following BSSA member companies also provide CPD seminars:


President Way
President Park
Sheffield, S4 7UR

Tel: +44(0)114 275 5224
Fax: +44(0)114 276 8543

Q-railing UK

Modular Stainless Steel Railing Systems

Q-railing UK
Unit 706 – 707, Centre 500, Lowfield Drive,
Wolstanton / Newcastle-under-Lyme,
Staffordshire, ST5 0UU
United Kingdom

Tel: + 44 (0) 800 / 7814245
Fax: + 44 (0) 800 / 7814246

Environmental Issues

The environmental impact of construction is becoming increasingly important. 5% of UK CO2 emission arise from the production of building materials. This naturally leads to questions about individual materials. The Building Research Establishment are known as a world leader in developing a method of assessing the environmental impact of construction.

Some stainless steel containing products have been assessed and are generally rated in the A or B category for most of the categories. They compare favourably to many other common building materials.

A significant contribution has been made to the knowledge about the impact of stainless steel on greenhouse gases. This paper has shown that the use of scrap reduces the amount of CO2 emissions significantly. The full paper can be accessed here.

The Energy Benefit of Stainless Steel Recycling

Fire Engineering

There are some useful resources on this subject at the SteelCal website. Choose the Engineer’s module and then select the “Fire” topic. This shows the favourable properties of stainless steel compared to carbon steel at high temperatures.

A number of resources concerning Fire can be found at:

The Performance of Structural Stainless Steel in Fire

You can also access on-line software which automatically calculates the behaviour of loaded stainless steel sections in a fire. This can be found at Stainless Steel in Construction.

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