Installing a mezzanine floor is a great way to create space but which type of mezzanine should you choose? There are several options: a pre-cast concrete structure with a concrete topping; a steel frame and metal deck with a concrete topping; or a steel frame with a timber deck. The all-concrete option is more common in mainland Europe (due to more stringent fire regulations), while the other two are more popular in the UK. Each method has its pros and cons, so it's important to understand these in order to select the best solution for your business.
Concrete is a material with many merits – it's strong and durable, so can withstand very high loading. It is also fire-, water- and sound-resistant.
Steel also has many advantages, some of which are growing in importance in modern logistics facilities. A key benefit of steel and timber as construction materials is that they provide consistency. As engineered products, they avoid the uncertainty regarding quality that concrete can bring in terms of construction temperature, performance variations across the site, levelling and surface friction. As a dry, modular solution, a steel mezzanine with timber deck tends to be easier to meet tolerances on installation than a wet-poured construction process.
A factor that can significantly affect cost is the lighter weight of steel/timber mezzanines. This reduces loading on the main columns and floor slab, which may avoid the cost and time required for footings or laying a thicker slab. As a retrofit, steel systems are easier to install and this process is considerably cleaner than concrete construction, which introduces both moisture and dust. Although supply chain issues mean that steel is currently losing its purchase cost advantage over concrete, it is still generally cheaper to install, as erection is fast compared to concrete, which needs time to cure.
Perhaps the most important factor giving steel systems the edge nowadays is flexibility. Lightweight floors can be adjustable after installation, so they can be easily re-configured as your business needs evolve. It is relatively simple to make openings in them for upgrades such as additional conveyors or lifts. As the trend to adopt automation and robotics in warehouses continues, this is an increasingly important consideration. Of course, at the end of the life cycle, lightweight solutions are demountable and – for the most part – recyclable.
That brings us to the topic of sustainability. Steel and timber floors have a lower carbon footprint than concrete systems. Steel is almost 100% recyclable and indeed most of the steel used in construction today is recycled material. Although the UK's first net zero carbon concrete plant is due to open in 2027, reinforced concrete today is less sustainable and difficult to crush and recycle. Generally, the more timber used in construction, the lower the embedded carbon footprint.
A final factor is ergonomics. If your mezzanine will have foot traffic, bear in mind that standing and walking on a concrete mezzanine over long periods will have a greater impact on your employees’ joints than on a timber deck.
To sum up, a whole range of factors can influence which mezzanine system is right for your business now and in the future. To learn more about the options and ensure you protect your investment, contact the MiTek team on +44 (0)1732 849900 or visit www.mitek-mezzanine.com.