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With the Surge in Wood Prices, CFS Saves 24%

R.A. Smith issues a free bulletin addendum to the SFIA-sponsored “Costs to Build with Cold-Formed Steel Versus a Wood-Framed Building” report.

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August 7, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. EDT
Updated September 3, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. EDT

The Steel Framing Industry Association (SFIA) has conducted studies of construction costs in two different locations using an identical building (Figure 1) – one designed with wood and the other with cold-formed steel (CFS) framing.

Factoring in substantial savings from lower insurance costs, R.A. Smith, Inc. found, as reported in “Costs to Build with Cold-Formed Steel Versus a Wood-Framed Building” (June 2020), that CFS framing costs only 0.92% more than light wood framing.

R A Smith building

Figure 1. The comparative cost study of framing featured this 5-story, 49,900 SF, mixed-use apartment building.

The price of framing lumber is notoriously volatile. And, wood prices lately have skyrocketed, creating a dramatically different picture than when our original cost study was released.

The Random Lengths Framing Composite Price came just short of $900 per 1,000 board feet for the week ending August 28, 2020, according to the National Home Building Association (NAHB)’s. The price had reached a low point of $348 for the week ending April 10.

If these same structures were built at the time of the original studies, but reflecting today’s material prices, the CFS framing package alone would cost 24% less than the wood option.

The completed building would be 5% less expensive.

Cost Study Cold Formed Steel Framing

Building Cost with Light Wood Frame
$6,706,300

Building Cost with CFS Frame
$6,396,300

Difference: 5.0%
August 2020 Pricing

The “Costs to Build” report establishes the complete picture between CFS and wood. Whereas the original study concludes that the cost of CFS framing and wood framing is not significantly different in mid-rise structures when additional cost factors are considered, CFS framing is a clear favorite under the present skyrocketing wood prices scenario.

SFIA has gathered pricing information and issued a bulletin with updated figures to the “Costs to Build” report.

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