Difference Between Reinforced Concrete (RC) and Steel Structures

Reinforced concrete structures and steel structures follow a similar load transfer method but they differ in several factors like material, construction, load carrying capacity, durability, etc. One of the important difference is that the former uses concrete and the latter employs steel for their construction.

Some of the important differences between RC structures and steel structures are explained here.

Sl.NoDifferenceRC StructuresSteel Structures
1MaterialThe basic material used is reinforced cement concrete to take up the loadSteel is the material used to take the load
2Cross-section of Structural ElementIn RC structures, the cross-section of the structural elements is largeThe structural elements of steel structures have small cross-sections.
3DurabilityThe durability of concrete is high. High-quality RC structure is less affected by common weather and environmental conditions.The steel structures are prone to rust when exposed to environmental conditions. Hence steel structures have less durability.
4Resistance to Earthquake/Dynamic LoadsRC structures are highly brittle in nature. These type of structure have less resistance to dynamic loads like earthquakes and wind.Steel structures are ductile in nature thus increasing their resistance to dynamic loads.
5Load Carrying CapacityRC structures have low load-carrying capacity compared with steel structures.The steel structures have an appreciable load-carrying capacity.
6Self-WeightConstruction of structures with concrete consumes large amount of raw materials. Hence the self-weight of reinforced concrete structures are high.The steel, in general, has 60 percent less weight compared to concrete.
7FoundationReinforced concrete structure possesses huge dead weight which hence demands a strong foundation to support.Steel structures do not demand heavy foundation. 
8Tensile StrengthIn RC structures, the tensile strength of the concrete elements is less compared to steel structural elements.Steel structural elements have high tensile strength compared to RC structures.
9Labour RequirementThe construction of reinforced concrete structures is labor-intensive.Construction of steel structures requires less labor. Most of the components are fabricated in the workshop and assembled at the site.
10ConstructionConstruction of RC structure is simple.Construction of steel structure is tough.
11Cos of constructionEconomicalCostly
12Construction SpeedReinforced concrete structures require time for concreting, curing etc. which is a slow process.Steel structures are constructed with high speed.
13Quality controlIt is tough to maintain quality through concrete construction.Better quality control can be obtained in steel structures.
14Fire ResistanceThe fire resistance of the concrete structure is high.The fire resistance of steel structure is less.
15Scrap ValueConcrete does not have any scrap value.The steel scraps have a good scrap value.
16CorrosionA properly designed and constructed reinforced concrete structure is not prone to corrosion.The steel frame structure has chances to deteriorate due to corrosion.
17Repair and MaintenanceThe repair and cost of maintenance of the concrete structure are tough and time taking.Steel structures can be repaired very easily and hence their cost of maintenance is less.  
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