Compared with traditional building methods, light gauge steel (LGS) provides a number of important benefits, and at Central Steel Framing, we make it easy for all builders to get in the frame.
LGS framing is easy to work with, straight, stable and delivers an excellent finish. It is manufactured using computer-generated technology, so produces precision dimensionally accurate components. This means contractors benefit from faster build times, fewer call-backs, lower total costs and vastly reduced wastage.
The finished buildings it creates look just like traditionally built sites, and meet all NZ building codes. They offer exceptional strength, plus the benefit of lightweight structures, improved fire-resistance, durability, and longer-term peace of mind. Click here to download a brochure, summarising the points below.
The benefits of steel construction are significant. To get things rolling along, we have put together this comparison so people in the business can make a judgement call on how light steel construction weighs up against timber framing from a builder’s perspective. We have also produced some short video clips that neatly summarise the benefits.
Light steel framing is manufactured using steel roll forming machines that deliver pinpoint precision. This means that all framing components are dimensionally accurate. The result is minimal rework. With more accurate construction methods, you get faster build times.
You will also discover other efficiencies. Offsite panelised framing enables pre-assembled steel packages to be delivered and lifted straight from the truck in sequence. That means greater build efficiency onsite too.
One of New Zealand’s large group builders decided to make the transition to LGS with our sister company Howick Limited. The results were so good, they have never looked back.
Based on a US study, typical timber construction wastage is about 20%. With light gauge steel, wastage is just 2% - a ten-fold reduction, which adds up to considerable cost savings. SCI Studies proved that waste reductions of up to 70% are possible with off-site light steel modular construction.
With less wastage and more efficiency throughout the process, pricing can be sharper, so construction businesses can pass that benefit on to customers as reduced costs or increase their margins as they see fit.
It is not just reduced wastage that is important, it is the environmental impact of what happens to waste. Unlike treated timber, steel is 100% recyclable.
When it comes to factory production, all steel off-cuts are recycled. Steel can be used time and time again, without losing any of its structural integrity or performance properties. Globally the steel industry reports a 66% recycling rate. Even with demolition jobs, 85% of steel is recycled.
Finally, because light gauge steel weighs less than timber, transportation is easier, more efficient and lower cost too.
Timber used in framing construction weighs three times more than its thin-guage, high-tensile steel equivalent. Because it is lighter, LGS is safer and easier to move around onsite, and transportation costs less. And of course, lighter weight does not come at the expense of strength. In fact, LGS offers the highest strength to weight ratio of any framing material. Self-drilling screws and glue are used instead of nails for skirtings, architraves and fixtures. There is no shrinkage and no more popping nails means stronger, more durable connections.
All up, steel framing provides a lighter structure with stronger connections, which means great earthquake and wind load strength that meets even the toughest seismic rating requirements.
Timber and steel in general terms are similarly priced, and while there are many factors to material pricing (volume discounts and design requirements among them), framing cost differentials on a like-by-like basis are in all probability similar.
There is no impact on the cost of building consents either, since consent processes are determined by the cost of the build, not the materials used.
However, there are many pricing advantages to steel over timber that may help secure more profitable projects:
Many people tied into traditional construction believe it is easy to work with wood and finding trained builders and hammer hands is easy.
However, this is simply an industry myth. Many builders who have worked with timber all their lives find it surprisingly easy to switch to LGS. What is more, it is now an integral part of every good carpenter's training.
There are no restrictions on the type of cladding that can be used with steel framing and the finished houses look exactly like their timber alternatives. Indeed, even when architects design in timber, because most steel frames are made to the same dimensions as their timber alternatives, steel can be used instead.
Steel also offers better long-term durability on a number of levels, not least of which is lower condensation.
Because steel has a high degree of thermal conductivity, thermal bridging is used in construction. This allows steel framing inside the thermal bridging to remain above the temperature that condensation forms in the wall cavity. This protects studs and wall linings.
With timber studs however, condensation is attracted during winter months increasing the moisture content in the building irrespective of the cladding used. This damages the linings and compromises the longer-term durability of timber framing.
Timber has a residual water content of 10-18%, so over time there are issues with mould and wood rot, even with treated timber. Unlike timber, however, steel does not absorb water, so it cannot promote mould, making for healthier homes in the long run.
It also means zero issues with the dimensional changes so common with timber framing. Light gauge steel framing stays straight and true, irrespective of age.
Steel's improved fire rating is another advantage of steel construction.
Electrical faults are the most common cause of fires in wall cavities, but they cannot ignite steel framing. Steel is non-combustible, so when a fire does burn through wall linings, it will not spread within the framing cavity.
The fire load of a building is a measure of how intensely it would burn if a fire should break out. A higher fire load equals a more destructive fire. Fortunately, steel does not increase the fire loading of a building. However, timber is combustible with at least 20kg per square metre of floor area in a typical timber framed house. That is 75% of the total fire load, meaning that a timber house has at least a 1.75 times greater fire load*.
Should a fire break out in a steel framed house, so long as the framing is not visibly distorted, it can be cleaned, left in place and recoated if necessary. It does not need to be replaced.
That all adds up to a pretty reassuring situation for the owners of steel framed buildings, particularly in fire-prone regions of the country.
Of course, many trust timber simply because people have always built with it… Well, that is true, but older timber houses were constructed with heart timber, and clad in building paper with roof and wall cavities to create space for the timber to breathe.
Most modern timber homes today are built with younger Pinus Radiata, which is less durable. Walls these days tend to be highly insulated too, so airflow is restricted. As a result, cladding and building wraps employed now do not protect against condensation in the same way.
Light gauge steel construction has been tried and tested for decades now, and has truly stood the test of time. In residential and commercial construction, it has been used successfully for over 60 years.
Steel is more durable than timber. And as we have seen, with steel there is no water absorption and there are no dimensional changes, so it does not cause gypsum board linings and plaster work to buckle or crack.
The trend towards steel has been gathering momentum for many years. Today steel construction accounts for 40% of all building in Hawaii alone. In Japan, over 150,000 steel framed homes are built every year. In Australia, 15% of all new houses are light gauge steel framed, and in South Australia, it is now more than 30%. New Zealand has always been at the forefront of manufacturing LGS roll-forming technology for export markets. Now, with timber shortages and price challenges hitting hard, the benefits of steel are being realised by more and more Kiwi builders.
All up, steel framed homes are more durable, stronger and faster to build. The advantages are manyfold. Is it time to put yourself in the frame for light gauge steel? If you have been building with timber for framing, Central Steel Framing make it easy for you to make the switch. Talk to us today about your next project.
*Source: National Association of Steel Framed Housing (NASH) https://www.nash.asn.au/nash/
LGS is fast and accurate: four staff, one house, one day.
Why build with Light Gauge Steel? You can build faster.
Why build with Light Gauge Steel? It is more accurate.
Why build with Light Gauge Steel? It is more environmentally friendly.
Why build with Light Gauge Steel? It is more sustainable