April 2, 2008

Defending Our Turf: Steel’s Role in Green Building
By Larry Williams, President
Steel Framing Alliance

Is it real? Or is it Memorex? Those of us old enough to remember that ad slogan may have found an eerie similarity in an important debate that has raged over the past decade: Is it global warming? Or is it natural cyclic climate change?

While I have friends with opinions on both sides – and in the middle – of the question, there is no debate that the green building movement is real. According to a report by FMI, green put-in-place nonresidential construction added up to $13.4 billion in 2006 and in 2008 is expected to be used in $21.2 billion of new nonresidential construction. (FMI is the nation’s largest provider of management consulting and investment banking to the worldwide construction industry.)

Many states have had green building mandates in place for years, and more than 100 new green building bills were introduced in the first five months of 2007. Local governments have also implemented economic incentives in the form of tax rebates and credits, density bonuses and other policies such as expedited permitting and approval for green projects.

For the steel framing industry, the question is this: how do we position ourselves to avoid getting run over by the inevitable changes that are taking place — and begin to capitalize on them as quickly as possible?

Be Informed
The odds are very high that sometime in the near future you’ll be asked by a client or customer if steel framing is green.

The fact is that ever since the first green building standards were written, steel framing has been recognized for its high recycling rates and 100% recyclability. But there are many other attributes that define steel framing as a green construction material. The Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) has just published a comprehensive guide that provides an overall view for members who are being asked these questions, and who may have questions themselves. Another valuable resource is a new Web site that contains a wealth of information, And, a new, totally revised thermal design guide set for release this summer will enable builders and designers to more readily and effectively comply with the stringent model energy codes.

In addition, AISI is signaling its commitment to market development by creating resources that will defend steel’s position as a green material and expand the market’s understanding of the sustainable attributes of steel framing.

Be Aware
The rapid growth of the green building industry is driving, and being driven by, the rapid evolution of standards and rating systems. We’re even seeing the introduction of new standards by organizations that traditionally have not been engaged in defining benchmarks for energy and efficiency. In this near-frantic environment, there is significant risk that basic mistakes in data and assumptions could unfairly undermine the recognition of steel framing in new and existing standards.

Over the past year, and especially in recent weeks, the SFA has been engaged in hearings, meetings, and discussions where we have challenged proposals that would intentionally or unintentionally create competitive disadvantages for steel framing. But the task of monitoring rules and standards can’t be effectively carried out without the support of the 1,700 individuals that make up the SFA membership – particularly when they happen at the local level. This leads to perhaps the most important thing you can do.

Be Involved
It takes direct participation in the process to make a difference – or prevent a disaster. Your involvement can come in many different forms, from serving on an industry task group to monitoring local building codes and green building legislation, to just passing information on to others who can use it.

If you would like more information or suggestions on how you can get involved more directly, let us know by e-mailing

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Suite 320
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Phone 202.785.2022
Fax 202.785.3856

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Brought to you by the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) on the first Wednesday of each month, Framework Online arms you with the latest news and commentary on the steel framing and construction industries. In addition to industry headlines, trends and project profiles, Framework Online provides information and ideas that will better enable members to increase their participation in the residential and commercial construction markets.