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METALMAG July/August 2001

"Industry can expand steel framing market"

Steel FramingThe light-gauge steel framing industry has tremendous opportunity to increase the demand for steel framing in commercial and residential applications. To take advantage of this opportunity, the industry must look beyond the traditional non-structural commercial wall systems on which it is now focused and put increased emphasis on structural load-bearing applications for use in wails, roofs and floors.

This observation was made by Ed Ponko, newly named president of Dietrich Metal Framing, to steel framing executives attending the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) General Meeting, held May I4 in Washington DC. He spoke during the "Innovative Solutions to Grow Steel's Markets" session.

Ponko said that the paradigm shift to developing structural load-bearing applications would favor increased commercial usage and allow entry into a much larger residential market. This would be possible because the set of competencies required in commercial and residential steel framing construction are interconnected.

On an annualized basis, the current U.S. metal stud industry consumes approximately 2 million tons resulting in just under a $1 billion in sales revenue. More than 90 percent of this is used in light commercial construction, and 60 to 65 percent is used in interior partition walls. The remaining volume is used in exterior curtain wall applications. Both of these applications are non-load bearing.

Growth for the commercial market segment lies in the structural use of light-gauge steel framing in the construction of office, retail, healthcare, assisted living, hospitality, education, religious, correctional and amusement facilities.

In commercial applications, steel load-bearing studs offer a cost-effective way to meet building code requirements with regard to non-combustibility. Steel framing also offers design fexibility as to longer open spans, and seismic and high-wind concerns.

Ponko said that the near-term trends of steel stud framing include:

  • Steel stud framing in the light commercial sector will increase due to issues involving combustibility, long-term maintenance costs, design flexibility, and cost of construction.
  • Product and tool innovations will continue to be key to success.
  • Design software will play a major role as engineered products replace commodities.
  • The shift will continue toward prefabricated components due to tight labor markets.
  • Manufacturers' roles will become more complex in terms of "made to order" production and delivery to meet changing market needs.
  • The steel stud framing market will generate cost-effective building solutions that will ultimately find their way into the residential sector.