interior cable railings on stairs

The Strength and Balance of Building Materials

Enter any commercial building and notice that you make direct contact with many different materials —concrete, wood, steel, stone, and brick — all designed and engineered for their strength, durability, and beauty. You may also have an instant reaction to the overall look, acoustics, and even smell (like the smell of wood). We judge the building’s overall aesthetics based on how it makes us feel. 

So, it’s no surprise that when architects are designing a building, they too are thinking about the health and well-being of a buildings’ occupants. But that’s not all. Architects and designers are also choosing materials based on their strength, longevity, and aesthetics.

While concrete is the most widely used material in construction, a balance of materials makes a building shine. Stainless steel in commercial buildings and other structures, typically used when there is a need for corrosion resistance, strength, and low maintenance, for fasteners, gates, security walls, bridges, support framing, street furniture, etc.

Stainless steel, made from the iron-based alloy family, contains about 12 percent chromium — the chemical element that produces an anti-corrosive, invisible thin layer of oxide — and is the protective property. One of the most environmentally friendly metals used in construction, stainless steel is highly durable. With a service life of more than 50-years, it is an attractive lifecycle cost-benefit versus low-cost alternatives.


Mixing Materials and Opening Sightlines

Because of this, stainless steel cables, fittings, and hardware are ideal for commercial applications where strength is essential, including beauty and open sightlines. For example, a boardwalk design at the Houston Audubon Society required the walkway to be unique using a camouflage design to not detract from bird watching. Ultra-tec cable, fittings, and hardware was specified to blend in with the surrounding vegetation.

Strength in materials can create a visual juxtaposition, particularly in all-purpose or common areas. Like stainless steel and glass, mixing materials can turn a visually mundane place into a fresh and modern vibe. The metal offers a solid balance to glass, a more delicate material that brings light, energy, and transparency to a room.

A recently completed office building in a high-rise building in downtown Houston features cable railings for the interconnected stair system used by occupants’ employees. The designer specified suspended vertical cables — 55 on either side of the stairway with full-height structural glass — and it became a focal point to offer employees a sweeping view of the city from virtually all four sides of the office building.

Materials Matter

Next time you enter a building, cross a pedestrian bridge, or sit in your favorite sports stadium, know that material choice matters and is used thoughtfully; balance a structure from aesthetics to strength to the ambiance. Blending materials, colors, and varying textures create an aesthetically pleasing and robust work of art.