College of Engineering and Polymer Science

Date of Last Revision

2023-05-05 06:33:05


Civil Engineering

Honors Course


Number of Credits


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Date of Expected Graduation

Spring 2022


This report will compare structural steel, concrete, and lumber through the lenses of mechanical properties, design process, cost, and environmental impact. Steel is a versatile, strong, and lightweight material that comes at a premium price – both financially and environmentally. It is the most expensive material of the three included in this report. This is largely due to its complex manufacturing process that is also responsible for a significant amount of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Concrete is significantly less expensive than steel, but the carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing are approximately equal. Concrete also only performs well in compression and requires more material to achieve the same strength as steel. Lumber’s strength properties depend on the direction of the force in relation to the direction of the grain. Due to trees needing to grow for a few decades before they can be harvested, lumber is more expensive than concrete. It is the most environmentally friendly material though since those decades of tree growth help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Structural engineers must understand each material in depth in order to ensure their design is as efficient as possible.

Research Sponsor

Dr. David Roke

First Reader

Dr. Anil Patnaik

Second Reader

Dr. Ala Abbas

Honors Faculty Advisor

Dr. Ping Yi



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