June 3, 2009
Steel’s Advantages as a Framing Material Advanced Through California Forum

Education and collaboration were the central tenets of the California Steel Framing Forum in Anaheim, CA last month, as architects, engineers, contractors, building code officials and manufacturer representatives gathered for seminars and discussions on the key issues affecting steel framing.

Collaborative efforts such as the California Forum bring key stakeholders together to exchange information, and to identify, and later address, technical research and marketplace needs. These efforts play an important role in advancing steel’s positioning in market segments where it offers great advantages to end-users. The California Steel Framing Forum, held in conjunction with the Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute’s 2009 Annual Conference, May 20- 21, also provided crucial training for more than 100 construction-related professionals in attendance.

Providing a Forum where professionals with varying degrees of experience in steel framing, including those who have never designed or constructed projects with cold-formed steel, can learn from and interact with leading experts fosters the knowledge that is necessary to grow the market for steel in framing applications where it offers advantages over competing framing materials. It’s possible for those within the steel framing industry to assume that benefits such as lower insurance rates, termite resistance, improved performance during high wind and seismic events, and reduced cycle time are common knowledge in the field, but this benefit-awareness is far from universal knowledge among engineers and contractors engaged in the mid-rise and residential markets. Part of our industry’s challenge is to develop awareness and then train engineers, architects, code officials, and other construction professionals on capturing these advantages, especially for key market segments that offer significant growth potential for steel framing.

Many attendees at this year’s California Forum acknowledged that the conference was an effective way to learn new information, increase professional capabilities and foster interest in using steel framing. Attendees also reported that the Forum increased their knowledge about the potential advantages of steel framing in certain applications, and this was true even among some professionals who possess significant experience with steel framing.

Lateral design presentations, a focus of the Forum, given its California location and primarily West Coast audience, were perhaps particularly helpful to the professionals in attendance. Many of the Forum’s 15 educational seminars covered topics in lateral design including a session on lateral changes resulting from the transition from the 1997 Uniform Building Code (UBC) to the 2006 International Building Code (IBC), which was particularly relevant given California’s adoption of the 2006 IBC. Testing and analysis of different building materials’ seismic performance, and R-factor determination, was the subject of substantial discussion in a well-attended meeting of CFSEI’s Lateral Task Group and a seminar on the subject. The group has become increasingly engaged in addressing existing issues in testing and evaluation processes that unreasonably discriminate against steel framing relative to competing materials.

“The Lateral Task Group meeting brought together the best minds and leaders, and created a forum for lateral code issues that have perplexed our design community,” said Lou Zylstra, President, California Steel Framing Alliance (CASFA) and CFSEI West Chapter. Zylstra is an engineer with Zylstra & Associates Engineering in Fountain Valley, Calif. “The meeting helped clarify how steel systems can meet or exceed code acceptance using the ATC-63 methodology. This valuable interaction needs to occur more often, not only to protect the community, but refine the complex code issues facing engineers today.”

“I found the whole ‘green’ building presentation particularly interesting,” said one engineer in attendance. “The Steel Framing Alliance (SFA) needs to really push it, not only from a contractor or designer standpoint, but from an owner standpoint. Many building owners are not aware of the whole LEED thing and the potential tax credits that are available. Promoting the federal, state, and local tax benefits that accrue to building owners would encourage activity that would benefit the steel framing industry.”

Acoustic ratings and solutions, fire assemblies using cold-formed steel for multi-unit structures, and Building Information Modeling (BIM) were some of the other topics covered in seminars that attendees cited as beneficial to increasing their knowledge of steel framing design and construction.

“In slow economic conditions, trade shows put a burden on our sponsors and supporters; but it is important to promote cold-formed steel when the professional community is looking for new tools for design,” said Zylstra. “We received tremendous support from our industry for this event, and could not have done it without their support.”

Sponsors of the California Steel Framing Forum included Dietrich Metal Framing, Simpson Strong-Tie, Inc., ICC Evaluation Service (ICC-ES), International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials – Evaluation Service (IAPMO-ES), Aegis Metal Framing, a division of MiTek, and nine additional industry suppliers exhibited. The California Steel Framing Alliance (CASFA), and the Cold-Formed Steel Engineers Institute (CFSEI), the technical council of the SFA, and CFSEI West Chapter organized this year’s event.

During the conference, CFSEI’s Board of Directors met for their Spring Board meeting and a strategic planning session. The planning session served as the first intensive re-evaluation of CFSEI’s “eight key strategies” which have guided the Institute since 2006. CFSEI’s Board concluded that the strategies and priorities of the Institute are largely unchanged and the consensus inclination is to maintain the strategic priorities that have been in place since 2006. Technical Notes remain the “lifeblood of CFSEI” and expanding the library of technical resources for members remains the most important strategic objective of the Institute. Although the Board was undivided in upholding the priorities of CFSEI, there will be some changes in terms of how the eight key strategies are implemented.

CFSEI’s Board is going to focus on strategy implementation in depth during the remainder of 2009, and identify new initiatives and enhancements to existing programs that would support improved operations and results in achieving defined objectives within each of the eight key strategy areas:

  1. Produce technical documents that aid and enable engineers…
  2. Promote the CFSEI
  3. Increase relevance to chapter activities and local membership needs
  4. Provide timely and competent responses to CFS technical inquiries
  5. Provide forums for CFS information and idea exchange
  6. Partner with aligned organizations
  7. Help focus research spending on needs of engineers
  8. Develop awareness of CFS through formal education system

The 2010 CFSEI Annual Conference will be co-hosted by the CFSEI Atlanta/Southeast Chapter next spring. Plan to participate!

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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.