Building With Steel Frames
In the past two decades, light gauge (cold-formed) steel has rapidly become a frequently-specified construction material for commercial, institutional, and industrial projects - including the recent trend toward using steel as the main load bearing system. Despite the myths that still surround the use of light gauge steel framing, it has come to the forefront as the best and most feasible alternative building material for residential construction.
Steel is a superior construction material. The use of steel framing as the primary structural system in residential construction results in a better structure. A steel framed home is a better home. Steel framing, by virtue of its material characteristics and properties, offers significant advantages to both home builders and consumers. Residential construction represents a very large opportunity for the steel industry and for other industry stakeholders. Home builders and consumers alike are receptive to the use of steel framing and have a general understanding of its benefits.
Despite its advantages and the general receptiveness of the market, and after several years of vigorous private and industry efforts directed at expanding market share, steel framing has achieved a disappointingly small share of the residential framing market. To begin to change this, it is essential that the steel industry gain a thorough understanding of the needs and economic realities of the residential construction industry.
The home building industry became widely aware of steel as a potential alternative in 1993. Steel makers, suppliers, manufacturers and even some builders were quick to rally around this new material. However, the "newness" of steel has also meant that there has been much to learn about designing and building steel framed houses in a cost-competitive way. The individual and collective efforts (through organizations like the Light Gauge Steel Engineers Association) has helped in the development of more efficient tools, fastening methods, and better design information. In fact, compared with the many decades that it took the wood framing industry to reach its "state-of-the-art" for efficiency, it's remarkable to see how much the learning curve has been compressed for steel framing.
Barriers to Steel Framing Growth
The steel framing industry does not enjoy a large share of the commercial, institutional, or home building market simply because of cost. Despite the incredible gains in knowledge about steel framing and the development of more efficient tools, most builders will find the total cost of framing a structure with steel somewhat higher than if it was framed with wood. Solving this single problem is made difficult because it really is a heap of little problems that require their own individual solutions.
Steel frameworks are lightweight and extremely strong. They are designed to withstand the most punishing weather conditions. In...