Availability & Versatility
Hot-dip galvanized (HDG) steel is versatile and readily available. A wide variety of shapes and sizes ranging from small nuts, bolts, and fasteners to larger structural pieces, and even the most intricately detailed artistic pieces, can be galvanized. Because of the total immersion process, even complex fabrications can be coated entirely for corrosion protection.
Many corrosion protection methods depend on proper temperature and humidity conditions for correct application, which often translates into costly construction delays. However, because hot-dip galvanizing is a factory controlled process, it can be accomplished 24/7, 365 days a year, rain or shine, ensuring more reliable on-time delivery. Zinc solidifies upon withdrawal from the bath, so there are no delays for curing. Galvanized steel could realistically be galvanized, shipped to the site, and erected on the same day; however, the common turnaround time is three to five days.
On the other hand, if the galvanized material does not need to be installed immediately, it is easily stored outside. Galvanized steel is used to the rigors of atmospheric exposure and UV rays do not degrade the coatings integrity. Therefore, stocking standard pieces and/or storing galvanized steel is not an issue if done so properly.
As North America continues to strive for sustainable development, the same thinking should be applied to the materials used in construction. Another characteristic of zinc, enhancing sustainability, is its abundance. The main materials of HDG, zinc and steel, are very common; in fact, zinc is the 24th most abundant material in the Earths crust, and iron is the 4th.
In addition to their abundance, zinc and steel are also both 100% recyclable without the loss of any chemical or physical properties. This essentially ensures galvanized steel is an infinitely renewable building material. Approximately 70% of all steel (95% of structural steel) and 30% of zinc comes from recycled sources today. Furthermore, the reclamation rates, how often a product is actually recycled at the end of its useful life, for steel and zinc are 100% and 80% respectively. In fact, steel is the most recycled material in the world.
With galvanized steel, you can do more with less. Because of the high strength-to-weight ratio, specifying projects with steel saves materials and energy. In fact, on average one ton of steel provides the same strength as eight tons of concrete, and according to the World Steel Association, the strength-to-weight ratio minimizes substructure costs and can also save money on transportation and handling.
In addition to the abundance and quick turnaround time, galvanized steel also facilitates the expansion of existing structures due to its flexibility and stockability. Galvanized steel members are easy to retrofit and expand by welding, bolting, and/or splicing of existing vertical and horizontal structural elements and adding reinforcement. Adding to existing structures allows maximum efficiency of available space. Steel members are lighter than many other materials but still provide great strength, so expansion within the same footprint is possible.
Furthermore, because of hot-dip galvanized steels durable, maintenance-free nature, elements can be stockpiled outside for years without compromising the zinc coating and its corrosion protection. The zinc coating of HDG is unaffected by UV rays, extreme temperatures, rain, snow, or humidity, so with proper storage, it is simple to keep an inventory on-hand for quick replacement in an emergency. Stocking frequently used parts until they are needed saves time, and if bought when prices are low, saves money.
Structural safety and stability are critically important to the integrity of steel construction, and cannot be maintained if the structure has been weakened by the ravages of corrosion. Hot-dip galvanized steel pieces which remain corrosion resistant for decades preserve the structural integrity of steel construction and protect against disaster.
One area of safety where hot-dip galvanized steel provides advantages is in areas of seismic activity. Steel elements are more ductile and lighter, reducing the inertia effects of seismic loading. Able to bend within reason without breaking, the tensile strength of hot-dip galvanized steel can protect structures from damage or even total failure during seismic activity.