It may not be the biggest secret in the world, but the “secret sauce” in building construction on many projects today is cold-formed steel (CFS) framing. “The quality is just phenomenal,” says Brandon Bergholz, project manager at Mortenson Construction, a large general contractor.
While companies don’t normally like giving away their secrets, in this case CFS is lowering commercial construction costs and cutting delivery times. The value of CFS framing is catching on among general contractors (GCs).
Here are seven benefits to GCs when CFS framing systems are part of their projects:
1. Shave months off the construction cycle
Normally, it would take a year to complete the enclosure of an 831,000-square-foot hospital, but construction on the Exempla Saint Joseph Replacement Hospital in Denver, Colorado was cut by more than seven months. Mortenson Construction used premanufactured cold-formed steel exterior panels. The 30-foot by 15-foot exterior panels, each built off-site in controlled conditions, made installation much quicker than “stick-built” construction on-site.
Construction on Victory Hall, a 163,415-square-foot dormitory at the University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, came in four months ahead of schedule — and just in time for the new school year. The design-build team at the university switched from concrete construction to a load-bearing CFS framed wall system after construction had begun in order to meet stringent schedules and cost constraints.
2. Work during winter
A six-story student residence at the Trafalgar Campus of Sheridan College was built over a tough Canadian winter, when temperatures reached -10 to -20 degrees Celsius [14 to -4 degrees Fahrenheit] for three months. The structure’s foundation was poured in the fall, and rather than using concrete during the winter, CFS framing was specified. This was advantageous to the GC since heat was not required to install CFS, which would have been the case for masonry or concrete load-bearing systems.
3. Reduce in-place weight
Pound for pound, CFS framing is much lighter than concrete, and it has a high strength-to-weight ratio and resists warping, mildew, and cracking. At City Green condominiums in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, exterior, load-bearing CFS framing walls support nine stories and steel balconies. Yet, the CFS framing design decreased the load on the foundation in comparison to other systems. The developer says the CFS framing system allowed for a reduction in the amount of concrete needed for each footing, which he thinks saved money.
4. Reduce carpentry man-hours
Since CFS framing is durable, non-combustible, cost-effective and easy to work with, it’s the perfect framing material for prefabricating panels. At Exempla Saint Joseph Replacement Hospital, panelization reduced the number of carpentry man-hours by 30 to 40 percent.
5. Reduce scaffolding
Stephen Bradford, a project manager with South Valley Drywall, likes panelized framing because it eliminates building by piecemeal, which includes setting up scaffolding on site and then framing, sheathing and insulting exterior panels by hand. At Exempla Saint Joseph Replacement Hospital, reducing the scaffolding cut costs and opened up the job site. All trades got on site sooner, and were not obstructed by excess equipment.
6. Integrate with Building Information Modeling (BIM)
At Exempla Saint Joseph Replacement Hospital, the Mortenson Construction team met with the architect and framing contractor six to seven months ahead of the installation of prefabricated CFS panels. BIM helped the players understand the design and facilitate collaboration. The BIM integration and advanced work with the architect enabled the framing contractor to make recommendations during the design process rather than holding up construction with decisions required on-site. Approved changes were added immediately to the information modeling software.
7. Cut financing costs
By using load-bearing, CFS framing, hollow-core concrete plank floor joists and CFS roof joists, the Sheridan College student residence project was able to shave three months off its construction cycle. As a result, the project saved an estimated $300,000 just in financing costs.
Across North America, GCs are using CFS framing to cut time, save costs, solve problems, improve modeling, and ensure a smoother decision-making process and workflow for all teams involved.
Yes, GCs benefit when projects use CFS framing systems. Do you agree? Let us know, and share tips you have for working with CFS framing in the comments area below.
Want assistance with your next CFS framing project? We can help.