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This article outline a number of key cost drivers that must be considered in order to make steel

frame rates, project specific and through which accuracy of estimation can be significantly

As the selection of frame material is a key design decision and impacts on so many related
building elements, it should not be rushed on and even though it takes time but the best value
frame should be selected.
At the early design stages of any project, standard ranges are used for estimation which is created
using market benchmarks and historic cost data. At this stage costs are expressed as a rate per m
based on the Gross Internal Floor Area (GIFA).

Key is to interrogate and understand how the standard ranges can be adapted to suit project
specific factors. To do this most accurately, the estimator needs to ask relevant questions to the
design, production and erection teams to use this information effectively.
Key Cost Drivers
A number of factors can be considered to have a key impact on the price of structural steel
frames. These key cost drivers can be assessed as part of the following groups:
1) Function, sector and building height
2) Form, site conditions and complexity
3) Location, logistics and access
1) Function, sector and building height
Different building functions across different sectors have varying typical frame costs due to their
different usages of the created floor space. The usage of the building will influence
the design loadings considered by the structural engineer and the building function will also
result in different requirements for clear spans and floor-to-floor heights. This means that the
average weight of the steel frame will vary between building types.
2) Form, site conditions and complexity
The complexity of the structure is closely related to building form and function, as well as
specific site conditions. The complicated structural grid will need non-standard sections, a wide

range of different sections and connections in order to achieve structural stability which will also
increase the overall frame rate as fabrication costs are higher. Complex connection details may
also impact on installation costs, tolerances and interfaces.
3) Location, logistics and access
Not only is the geographic location of the site an important consideration, site specific
features also needs to be reviewed. While the designed frame solution of two buildings may
be very similar, the logistics and access arrangements will vary significantly between a city
centre congested site and an easily accessible industrial estate site.
Components of the Structural Frame Cost
It is also important to understand the different elements that make up the overall cost of the
structural frame, their typical relative proportions and the interrelationship between them.

Breakdown of costs of steel frame for a typical multi storey

commercial building.

It is often assumed that a frame with the minimum tonnage will also have the lowest cost.
However, as the figure shows, the raw material cost typically accounts for only 30-40% of the
total frame cost, with fabrication costs also accounting for 30-40%. For more complex frame
designs, with higher proportions of non-standard sections, complex connections or specialist
systems with higher fabrication requirements, the overall rate per tone is likely to be higher than
for a standard frame.
The erection of the steel frame typically accounts for around 10-15% of the total frame cost. It is
therefore necessary to consider whether there are features of the proposed building that would
significantly affect the erection cost as this will see a corresponding impact on the total cost of
the frame. The extent of repetition, piece count, the type of connections to be used and access
can all have a significant impact on the cost of constructing the frame.