The Future of Structural Steel: Trends & Predictions

August 30, 2023 | Categorised in:

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Steel has been humanity’s building material of choice for centuries, and it’s not going away any time soon. Over time, steel has undergone remarkable advancements in manufacturing techniques and embraced more environmentally-friendly recycling processes, solidifying its pivotal role in the global economy.

As the steel industry continues to evolve, it’s adapting to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. The integration of technology and automation is revolutionizing production processes, enhancing efficiency, and driving innovation. Sustainable practices and eco-friendly initiatives are gaining prominence, with a focus on reducing carbon emissions and minimizing the environmental impact of steel manufacturing.

Drawing from our extensive experience spanning decades of industry changes, Service Steel has a proven track record of navigating the highs and lows of the steel industry. By staying ahead of emerging trends and leveraging our expertise, we offer a comprehensive overview of the different shifts shaping the industry and provide insights into the future of steel.

Where the steel industry is now

The last several years have been a challenge for every industry, and the metal world is no exception, with high costs, tariffs, and COVID-related shutdowns. Luckily, the World Steel Association forecasts the global demand for steel will rebound 2.3% to 1,822.3 Mt (million tons) and grow an additional 1.7% in 2024 to 1,854.0 Mt. Factors like high interest rates and inflation will continue to be a challenge, but manufacturing and construction are expected to lead the recovery from pandemic-related disruptions.

Future of the steel industry

As steel continues to be the preferred building material for various construction and infrastructure projects, new technologies are shaping and improving the future of this industry. Building Information Modeling (BIM), new manufacturing processes, and green energies are driving innovation in steel production to produce stronger steel and deliver greater project outcomes. We will also explore how other trends, like the growing use of steel in commercial and residential construction for disaster resistance, international mergers and acquisitions, and long-term growth forecasts, are setting the stage for the next few decades of the steel industry. 

Market growth forecast

The global market for structural steel is projected to reach a market valuation of $166 billion by 2033, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.8%. Demand for structural steel is being driven by the need for various steel parts for prefabricated buildings, both residential and non-residential buildings, and technological advancements.

New manufacturing processes

New manufacturing processes are significantly impacting the modern structural steel industry, leading to advancements in production techniques and steel properties. Two such advancements include electric arc furnaces (EAFs) and the Zero Slag Process (ZSP) that was developed in Japan.

EAFs have gained popularity as an alternative to conventional blast furnaces because they reduce energy consumption and emissions compared to traditional methods by using electricity to melt scrap steel. Similarly, the zero slag process operates in a way that minimizes the amount of impurities present in the raw materials, which then decreases the amount of slag that’s created as a byproduct during the steel-making process. Slag is expensive to get rid of, and has negative effects on the environment, so processes that reduce slag can save steel producers both money and environmental trouble.

These innovative manufacturing processes not only minimize waste, but also yield stronger metals, offering the industry more options for challenging and specialized projects. EAFs, for example, enhance flexibility in steel production, allowing for the creation of custom steel grades to reflect the varying levels of strength, ductility, and corrosion resistance required by different industries. These somewhat “customizable” steel grades provide the structural steel industry the ability to meet precise requirements for diverse applications, resulting in safer, more efficient, and tailored structures.

Use in commercial & residential construction

As population growth continues in the coming decades, the need for efficient and scalable building solutions is paramount. Structural steel offers versatility and strength, making it ideal for constructing not only towering skyscrapers but also mid-rise buildings, expansive residential complexes, and even prefabricated buildings. As the global market outlook for prefabricated buildings is projected to reach $210.8 billion by 2028, this method of construction allows for off-site manufacturing and assembly, minimizing waste, reducing construction time, and ensuring consistent quality for all projects.

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Building Information Modeling

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is revolutionizing the planning, design, construction, and maintenance of a variety of structures. It creates a digital representation of a building and incorporates detailed information about its components, materials, and systems that allows architects, engineers, and construction professionals to collaborate and work concurrently on a single, centralized platform. This way, all the stakeholders in a project can visualize, analyze, and simulate different aspects of a project.

In the context of steel buildings, BIM enables the accurate visualization of steel components, connections, and framing systems, aiding in precise fabrication and construction sequencing. BIM also enhances clash detection, allowing potential conflicts between steel elements and other building systems to be identified and resolved early on, minimizing rework and cost overruns.

Green energies

Global energy demand is expected to grow 27% by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). While you may not immediately think of “steel” and “green energies” in the same category, structural steel provides the infrastructure, strength, and durability necessary for renewable energy projects. In fact, steel is a key component in technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, and energy storage. Once these green technologies are constructed, they produce carbon-free energy for decades. Steel is also commonly used in LEED-certified buildings, as it’s the only material with the approved default recycled content of 25%.


Climate disasters are on the rise, resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage each time a new one hits. Halfway through 2023, there have been 15 confirmed weather events that have each cost in excess of $1 billion in damages. As this trend continues, future buildings and structures will increasingly need to be able to withstand catastrophic events. Structural steel will play an instrumental role in this, as it’s strong enough to endure high temperatures, large amounts of force, and strong winds. Disaster-resilient buildings have their own unique sets of structural steel components required to weather tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and flooding.

International mergers & acquisitions

Indian Steel manufacturer Tata Steel is expected to complete a merger with seven subsidiaries by the end of fiscal 2023-24. As global steel markets continue to grow via mergers and acquisitions like this one, larger steel conglomerates are emerging with greater control over the steel supply chain. While control over the supply chain might be beneficial for the companies, it will be harder for customers to ensure the quality of steel, as different countries have different regulations when it comes to this (most of which are more lenient than the US).

That’s why it will be important to lean on more local suppliers, as they will be more familiar with local building codes, regulations, and construction practices. Local suppliers also tend to take a more customer-centric and flexible approach to your relationship, meaning any problems you may encounter will be handled faster and with greater care than trying to resolve an issue with a multinational supplier. Finally, utilizing local or regional suppliers supports the economy, cuts down on lead times for materials, and enhances overall project coordination, giving you a better final product.

Prepare for the future with Service Steel

As the steel industry continues to evolve, it’s crucial to align with a trusted partner like Service Steel. With our extensive experience and expertise, we can guide you through the ups and downs of the market with our tailored solutions and localized support. Future-proof your operations today by giving us a call or requesting a quote from our team.