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Want to make your workforce more effective? Consider using cold-formed-steel (CFS) framing for both interior non-load-bearing and exterior load-bearing applications. CFS framing can help save time and money on building projects.

1. CFS Is Perfect for Pre-Building Soffits
Building vertical soffit pieces, where multiple CFS studs are screwed together, is like making a layup with nobody guarding you, says Dan Wies, president of Wies Offsite, a division of SFIA member Wies Drywall and Construction Corp. He says you don’t need to BIM or 3D model soffit components, but only need to pull measurements off the construction drawings.

Here 4 steps for pre-building soffits using metal framing:

  1. Double check the field dimensions with a foreman or superintendent
  2. Make a jig similar to what you would make in the field
  3. Cut the pieces in your warehouse
  4. Once delivered to the job site, place them in their correct locations and tie them in horizontally


2. Prefabrication Can Automate the Framing Process
Prefabrication with metal framing can save time compared to traditional stick-built construction. CFS fabricators can supply frames pre-assembled, pre-sorted and delivered to the job site in their precise order of erection.

Advanced construction systems, such as automated roll forming machines, have tooling functions that allow for productive output of roof trusses, wall frames and floor joists. Framing can be produced to the exact measurements and take advantage of steel’s durability and dimensional stability, to save time in construction.


The bottom line: CFS stud fabricators can …

  • Cut studs to exact lengths
  • Eliminate on-site cutting
  • Eliminate on-site welding
  • Simplify erection processes
  • Reduce construction times

Shorter construction times reduce the hard costs of projects, since building with CFS can take 3 or more months off the schedule of a mid-rise project that uses heavy materials, such as concrete and masonry.

3. CFS Framing Helps Meet Urban Infill Ordinances
Many American cities have ordinances governing urban infill development. Narrow-lot zoning and special city agencies govern townhomes, row houses and cottage court projects. For example:

  • The Los Angeles Department of City Planning has the Small Lot Design Guidelines handbook, directing that (among other things) small lot homes be structurally independent and maintain grade levels consistent with surrounding structures.
  • Washington, D.C., neighborhoods typically have building height restrictions that control the number of stories allowed and the total building height.
    While narrow-lot zoning gives designers and builders some leeway in choosing their materials, CFS framing can help make creative use of tight spaces.

City Green: CFS is Strong and Lightweight
Load-bearing CFS commonly supports mid-rise buildings up to 10 stories — although some professionals say it can support a building as tall as 40 stories.

City Green, a 135-unit residential building in Milwaukee, sits on a 1.2-acre hill in a T-shaped lot. The developer’s design included three CFS-framed towers and preserved 126 revenue-generating parking spaces for the city.

“Architects might not realize that cold-formed steel studs are this strong,” says Patrick W. Ford, P.E., S.E., Steel Framing Industry Association (SFIA) technical director. “The exterior walls can support nine stories and steel balconies.”

D.C. Project: CFS Saves $1.7 Million
Ellisdale Construction achieved a first in Washington, D.C. It added five stories to an existing concrete building using CFS framing. Located at 2213 14th St. NW, the urban infill project added square footage and expanded the number of rentable units.

Ellisdale Construction used CFS framing to add 4 stories to an existing building and save $1.7 million.

The original structure was a three-story office building with one level below grade for parking. Zoning in the Uptown Arts-Mixed Use Overlay District allowed for up to five additional floors, so long as the final structure met the area’s building height restrictions. The GC said wood was not an option because “wood flooring would have eaten up too much space, and we would have lost a floor.” Instead, CFS framing enabled the firm to achieve eight stories with no loss in dimensional stability.

The CFS framing saved $1.7 million overall on the project, a 15-percent savings on the framing component alone versus a cast-in-place post-tension product.

4. CFS Is Noncombustible
The increasing threat of wildfires has homeowners and commercial builders using noncombustible cold-formed steel (CFS) framing to complete their new projects and project renovations. According to the First Street Foundation, most properties face some wildfire risk.

After undergoing a flame-test, a steel-framed house remained standing, Australia’s CSIRO found.

To study the matter, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization flame-tested a steel-framed house to learn how the structure would stand up to wildfire conditions. The results showed that while some steel studs buckled, they didn’t melt. The home remained standing; its steel frame was relatively undamaged.

5. CFS Installs Faster than CMU Block
By using panelized CFS framing, Lucas Drywall reduced the construction time per floor at the Element by Weston in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from weeks to days, saving time and money for the construction of the hotel.

Jason Patel, vice president of Lucas Drywall, said his crews installing an entire floor with CFS-framed wall panels took only 3 days versus the three weeks it would take a mason to lay and grout CMU block, also known as block and plank.

The Steel Network (TSN) panelized steel framing reduced the per-floor construction time from 3 weeks (CMU block) to 3 days.

5 Reasons Why Cold-Formed Steel Can Save Time and Money on Projects

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