May 7, 2008

Cold-Formed Steel – Well Positioned for the Changing Landscape of Green

By Larry Williams, President
Steel Framing Alliance

In September 1969, at a conference in Seattle, Wash., U.S. Sen. Gary Nelson announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on the environment that was intended to thrust conservation and sustainability onto the national agenda. Since then, public opinion about the relative importance of living in a healthy environment and protecting the earth has ebbed and flowed. Consider the love affair with SUVs that many Americans have had for the last decade. But the subject will not go away as long as we live on a planet with finite resources and real estate. More than 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day, and this year on April 22 Earth Day was observed by more than 500 million people and national governments in 175 countries. Furthermore, attendance at the NAHB’s National Green Building Conference next week is expected to dwarf all prior years.

In the construction industry, concern for the environment is called green building or sustainable construction. Once a marginal consideration, sustainable design is no longer an option for many commercial projects -- especially as green building codes and guidelines become more prevalent. Government is deeply involved by offering tax deductions up to $1.80 per square foot for constructing energy-efficient commercial buildings. Federal building standards now require the use of a specified level of “green” products, and there are moves at the city and state levels to develop their own requirements. The term is also increasingly used in marketing and sales efforts, with builders touting “green” building methods as a means to differentiate themselves from other projects.

Standards writers have also sharpened their pencils. Existing standards have been expanded – or are heading in entirely new directions. New standards are in the works. And there’s a proliferation of rating systems now available for use or recognition by designers and local governments to determine the “greenness” of a project. While many of these efforts have been underway for years, there appears to be an accelerating urgency as the proponents of standards and rating systems jockey for leadership and control over the definitions of what is “green.” Long term, I believe that that the direction being taken by some organizations will result in the establishment of provisions within the building codes that would mandate the use of sustainable design and materials.

Fortunately, steel framing has an established position in the important standards that rest on two critical attributes: the recyclability and recycled content of steel. In commercial construction, buildings that use steel framing are given credits under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program. The new NAHB/ICC National Green Building Standard currently under development provides steel with the opportunity to accumulate points toward achieving a bronze, silver, gold, or emerald green building rating for single, multifamily, and mixed use construction. Nothing remains the same, however, and the Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) and steel industry are actively involved with these organizations and others to ensure we can preserve our current standing and achieve due recognition for the many other “green” characteristics of steel.

For those outside the process, the pace of all these changes can be alarming because there is still not enough information available about steel framing and the green building industry. With funding from the Steel Stud Manufacturers Association, the SFA has taken a step forward in providing a concise review of the environmental advantages of cold-formed steel, how it qualifies for credits in the major standards, and also addresses some of the questions that frequently come up about such subjects as embodied energy and thermal performance.

Later this year, a significantly updated Thermal Design Guide will be released with new information and guidance on using “performance design” to more economically meet model energy code requirements. The SFA also has begun providing education sessions on steel framing and green building. Information and downloadable documents all can be found on the SFA Web site ( If you would like more up-to-date information, including an overview of the SFA’s Green Building activities, contact Maribeth Rizzuto, director of education and sustainable construction, at (412) 521-5210 or

Next Article >> Top ^



Steel Framing Alliance
1201 15th St., NW,
Suite 320
Washington, D.C. 20005
Phone 202.785.2022
Fax 202.785.3856

May 11-13, 2008
Go Green: NAHB National Green Building Conference
New Orleans, LA More
May 13-17, 2008
American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention
Boston, MA More
May 29, 2008
CFSEI Florida Chapter Dinner Meeting and Presentation on “Code of Standard Practice”
Orlando, FL More
June 3-5, 2008
2008 Commercial Construction Show
Boston, MASS More
June 19, 2008
CFSEI Atlanta/Southeast Chapter Meeting and Presentation on “It’s All Green. Are You?”
Atlanta, GA More
June 23-27, 2008
SkillsUSA National Competition
Kansas City, MO More


Become a Member | Hotline 1-800-79-Steel | Unsubscribe

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.