In our search for an eco-friendly, cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing option, we may land up with hybrid solutions

Every design element has been associated with specific context, image and expectation. They can become powerful overriding factors, leading to sustainability, culture or even budget being ignored. Despite stone stairs being local or steel stairs being economical, users may reject both of them, considering them inappropriate for a home or a school. Given this position, typical steel stairs have such an industrial look and the additional need for repainting that no house owner may like it indoors, while it functions well for outdoors. In our search for an eco-friendly, cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing option, no wonder we may land up with hybrid solutions.

More materials

The staircase can be assembled with two or more types of materials, designed specifically to fit the context. While the lack of standardisation can be an obstacle, the overall approach could be similar for comparable stair locations. Among the most efficient options are steel section frames topped with wood or such material as the tread. With no riser member, these stairs are very light weight, enable complete on-site fabrication and use minimal quantity of materials. Barring daily dusting, there is no major maintenance issue or life cycle costs.

Among the simplest of frames, there could be two steel box sections in each side of the stair with horizontal angle frame welded within to take the tread or step member. The frame of the tread would have all its four corners welded, so the frame width will be same as tread width and the vertical gap between these frames will be the rise of steps. The angular line connecting these frames of the steps decides the angle at which the main frame gets positioned. The supporting members of the staircase, called balustrades, get fixed to the side steel frame itself and not to the step frame. From the side elevation, one gets to see the frame and also the steel angle within which the chosen step material sits.

More to it

There have been stairs with only one side steel member when the step frame gets welded into this side member, having only two points of welding. Such stairs get a minimalist appearance, but end up with the steps centre fixed, rest all with a cantilevered projection. Even the balustrade gets welded into the steps frame.

Though more attractive, it is not advisable where larger number of users are expected or precise fabrication is difficult.

Conceal the looks

Another alternative to conceal the looks of side frame has been to weld a steel plate to the sides and paint everything with a single colour. If high cost is not a criterion, a thick M.S. sheet metal can be directly used on both sides as the frame, to take on the angle frame of the steps. Just the way the steel frame design has options, the material for steps also has options. Once we study all these, the most judicious staircase could be found for any situation.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at varanashi@gmail.com)