Is Steel the Most Weather Resistant Building Material?

Graphic of construction workers erecting a steel building at dusk, Cawley CRE

Chicago is certainly familiar with all kinds of weather. With warm summers and bitterly cold winters, the architecture of the Windy City needs to be designed with the right materials to withstand snow, thunderstorms and rain. 

Since the skyline of the city is so dominated by skyscrapers and other impressive structures, it stands to reason that architects have already got a pretty good idea of which materials work. From steel and concrete to wood and iron, there is plenty of choice facing architects designing new, weather-resistant buildings.

Let’s go ahead and compare the weather-resistant qualities of some of the most common building materials.


One of the most commonly-used building materials, concrete is an extremely robust choice. Perfect for windy areas, it absorbs extremely high pressure from strong winds and accompanying debris. If your primary concern is the toughness of a building’s exterior, concrete should be your primary consideration.

If you are designing in a building in an area prone to earthquakes or other natural disasters, concrete is a much better option than wood. However, many architects realize that concrete structures can be unsightly, so there is always the option of disguising it with other materials.


Lumber has a few clear benefits, such as being resistant to extremely hot or cold weather. However, if your building is going to be in an area with potential for lots of rainfall, wood might not be the best idea.

Wood is susceptible to rotting when exposed to water for long periods of time, so consider this carefully.

If you would like to enjoy the benefits of wood, like temperature regulation, you could think about using pressure-treated lumber. This special type of wood is more compact, and more resistant to water.


Often used in windows, polycarbonate is a transparent material that is extremely strong and malleable. It is extremely resistant to forceful impacts, which explains why it is used on military-grade windscreens, bus shelters and greenhouses. However, if transparency is not in the guidelines for your building, you will not want to consider polycarbonate.


If you are looking for a material to complement wood with better water-resistant properties, look no further than vinyl. Often used on the sides of buildings, water often sheds away and does not penetrate the structure.

Why steel is a great weather-resistant building material

In the cold, wet winter months, prefabricated steel makes an attractive option for building material. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Steel is pest proof. No termites are going to be snacking on a steel structure, like they might with wood. Also, rodents and birds will find steel inhospitable, so they will be looking elsewhere for somewhere to stay during the cold weather.

2. Enjoy lower energy bills. Steel buildings do not allow heat to escape outdoors, meaning you will not need to pay extra to keep the building warm during cold weather. The same is true in hot weather – steel keeps the warm air outside, meaning the inside of the building will stay relatively cool without requiring the use of too much air conditioning.

3. Resistance to winter storms. Steel is a tough material that is able to resist a battering from high winds, hail and ice. Not only this, but it is great at absorbing the vibrations from these materials and reducing the noise.

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