Alternate scenarios are a true fad among historians and historic enthusiasts alike, but it is hard to find fantasies about alternate scenarios for the world of industry (aside from the very history related ones, such as “What if the Industrial Revolution never happened?”), probably because it is not one of the most interesting subject to outsiders, and because the insiders are just too busy dealing with the contemporary intricacies and problems of individual industrial branches to contemplate the scenarios in which their industries did not exist. But why not step out of the line a little bit and examine that scenario? Or, to be more specific, what the world would be like without steel fabricators? This short journey through the alternate universe where there is no such thing as a steel fabricator will serve to illustrate not only the importance of the steel fabricator as a trade but also the importance of steel as a construction material.
Steel fabrication is a very broad term and it covers many different practices and processes. These are steel cutting, bending, or assembling, no matter whether that assembling is done by welding, with bolts and screws or by the use of adhesive materials. The implications of all these practices being eliminated are rather stark. First of all, there would be no steel supporting structures for buildings as all of the listed processes are integral parts of any structural steel erection. Without steel fabricators, there would be no one capable of doing that job. Secondly, steel as a material itself will be rendered useless there would be no one capable enough to reshape it or remodel it in any way so as to make it suit any of the construction demands or to the demands of non-construction related industries, such as the automotive industry or the aeronautical industry for example. In a scenario where there are no steel fabricators, the society would have to turn to other materials to answer to these demands, which leads us into our second point; the importance of steel as a material.
To illustrate how much steel actually is important and what kind of a world we would live in without steel fabricators, it will be needed to first take a look at all the different applications of steel in today’s world. Steel is actively used in the construction of vital infrastructure items, such as bridges, warehouses, residential blocks, houses or hospitals. Steel is so widely used in these buildings and structures because of its strength-to-weight ratio. Having to opt for other materials would mean that all these buildings would be of a much decreased capacity and of quite a higher cost. If we had to go with wood as a chief construction material, deforestation would rapidly increase and very soon we would be in a situation where making new buildings across a prolonged period of time would become unstainable as the prices of different types of would wood spiral out of control. The supply would never be able to keep up with the demand. By having to use wood as a main construction material, we would also greatly increase our carbon footprint on the world, something that is already an issue in a world where steel fabricators are there to suit the needs of the industry. Another reason why our carbon footprint would greatly increase is the fact that steel is much more recyclable than wood; in fact, some estimates say that the word recycling ration of steel has gone over 80% in recent years while wood sits at the lower rate of 60%. This of course, does not paint the whole picture as it is more difficult to use recycled wood for its original, pre-recycling purpose while this is not the case with steel. Steel is also very energy efficient – we have already stated in one of our articles how steel -framed warehouses spend some ¾ of their electric needs on lightning.
Although steel is also vital for the construction of bridges, it is also vital for making vehicles that go cross bridges. There are few materials capable of sustaining the stress caused by pressure in engines, or that would be capable of standing up to the test of time with the same efficiency as steel. Although aluminum has been used in the making of airplanes or as the main body material for some cars, it is much weaker and it requires much more maintenance since it is much more prone to structural fatigue. Shipping and transporting the amount of material that is currently being transported around the world would be pretty much impossible without steel as steel is the integral construction material of ships, railroads, trains, trucks and transport airplanes. This means, that without steel fabricators, and consequently steel, we would have to give up on things such as long-spanning bridges, airplanes, cars (or at least affordable ones both in their starting price and maintenance price), ships, trucks and all the things that come to us from across the globe on the listed means of transport.
Steel is a vital part of our lives right now. After all, it is not a wonder that one of the main indicators of economic wellbeing in a country is annual steel consumption per capita (306 kilograms in the US, as opposed to 217 kilograms for the whole world). Without steel fabricators, and consequently without steel, the landscape of our lives and of our cities would have had changed very little in the last 200 hundred years. Bridges would mainly be made out of wood or stone, and skyscrapers would be nonexistent and the lack of modern infrastructure would not allow for the population boom that we have experienced in the same period. Indeed, it seems like that people who are asking themselves what would the world be like had the industrial revolution never happened, might as well be asking themselves what would the world be like if there were no steel fabricators.