This article serves as a comprehensive guide for structural engineers who are interested in using cold-formed steel as a structural material in residential and light commercial projects. We will explore what cold-formed steel is, its benefits, its applications in building construction, and key considerations for engineers.
In the ever-evolving construction industry, new materials and techniques are constantly being introduced to meet the demand for sustainable and efficient building solutions. One such material that has gained significant popularity in recent years is cold-formed steel.
This article serves as a comprehensive guide for structural engineers who are interested in using cold-formed steel as a structural material in residential and light commercial projects. We will explore what cold-formed steel is, its benefits, its applications in building construction, and key considerations for engineers
Cold-formed steel refers to steel products that are formed by cold-working processes, such as rolling or pressing, at room temperature.
Unlike hot-rolled steel, which is shaped while it is heated, cold-formed steel is manufactured at lower temperatures, resulting in distinct mechanical properties.
Cold-formed steel exhibits excellent strength-to-weight ratio, dimensional stability, and uniformity in shape and size. These properties make it an attractive choice for a wide range of applications in the construction industry, and it has become particularly popular as a framing choice in residential builds.
Figure 1: Example of cold-formed steel in residential & light commercial projects (Reference)
Cold-formed steel offers numerous benefits as a construction material.
Firstly, it is highly durable and resistant to corrosion, ensuring long-term structural integrity.
Secondly, cold-formed steel possesses higher strength, fire resistance, dimensional stability and is lighter than hot rolled steel and timber, allowing for the creation of lightweight structures permitting longer spans without compromising on load-bearing capabilities.
The different manufacturing procedures between cold-formed steel and hot-rolled steel are summarised quite succinctly in this video as well as a high-level overview of the key differences between the two steel types in the below comparison.
One of the primary applications of cold-formed steel in construction is framing.
Cold-formed steel framing offers several advantages over traditional wood framing. It provides enhanced structural stability, as the material's consistent properties and uniformity eliminate common issues such as warping, splitting, or shrinking.
Moreover, cold-formed steel framing allows for greater design flexibility, facilitating the creation of complex architectural shapes and configurations that aren’t achievable with timber due to its rigid material properties.
While supply lead times and cost are the most critical factors in determining the choice of framing (which can be considered by contacting local framing suppliers), the below section can help a structural engineer choose between timber and steel framing.
From an environment perspective, steel framing is preferred in certain environments due to its inherent properties and advantages. These include:
Timber framing, on the other hand, is preferred in different environments due to its unique characteristics and benefits. These include:
Structural stability and load-bearing capabilities of cold-formed steel are critical factors to consider.
Cold-formed steel framing products have undergone extensive testing to determine their structural properties and performance. Structural engineers should consult manufacturer specifications and relevant design standards to ensure proper design and selection of cold-formed steel components.
The typical failure modes for cold formed steel framing include:
The use of appropriate design software is crucial for the accurate analysis and design of cold-formed steel members. Specialized software packages, such as ClearCalcs Calculations, are compliant with the AISI (American Iron and Steel Institute) or AS/NZS (Australian and New Zealand Standards) design codes, and provide efficient tools for engineers to optimize their designs.
Before using design software, it is essential to familiarize oneself with the relevant building codes and regulations in the United States and Australia.
Cold-formed steel design standards, such as AISI S100 in the United States and AS/NZS 4600 in Australia, provide guidelines for the safe and efficient use of cold-formed steel in construction.
ClearCalcs has these standards built into the cold formed steel design software and can design a range of cold-formed steel structural components, including:
For structural engineers considering the use of cold-formed steel, it is essential to work with reputable manufacturers who produce high-quality products.
In the United States, some well-known cold-formed steel manufacturers include BlueScope, Simpson Strong-Tie, and Clark Dietrich. These manufacturers adhere to stringent quality control measures and often have certifications, such as ISO 9001, which ensure their commitment to delivering reliable and consistent products.
The below section summarises the main cold-formed steel manufacturers in Australia & the US.
Location: US & Australia
Certifications: BlueScope Steel holds certifications such as ISO 9001 for quality management systems, ISO 14001 for environmental management systems, and AS/NZS 4801 for occupational health and safety management systems.
Quality Control Measures: BlueScope Steel maintains strict quality control measures throughout their manufacturing process, including material testing, adherence to Australian standards, and regular inspections to ensure high product quality and performance.
Certifications: Lysaght is certified with ISO 9001 for quality management systems and AS/NZS 4801 for occupational health and safety management systems.
Quality Control Measures: Lysaght upholds stringent quality control standards through comprehensive material testing, compliance with Australian standards, and continuous improvement initiatives. They also work with a network of authorized fabricators who undergo training and audits to ensure product quality.
Certifications: ClarkDietrich holds certifications such as ISO 9001 for quality management systems, ISO 14001 for environmental management systems, and OSHA's SHARP (Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program) certification.
Quality Control Measures: ClarkDietrich implements comprehensive quality control measures, including rigorous material testing, in-process inspections, and compliance with industry standards like ASTM. They have a robust quality management system in place to monitor and maintain consistent product quality.
Certifications: Simpson Strong-Tie is certified with ISO 9001 for quality management systems and ISO 14001 for environmental management systems.
Quality Control Measures: Simpson Strong-Tie follows stringent quality control measures throughout their manufacturing process. This includes rigorous material testing, adherence to industry standards, and continuous product monitoring to ensure high-quality cold-formed steel components.
Certifications: Steel Dynamics, Inc. maintains certifications such as ISO 9001 for quality management systems and ISO 14001 for environmental management systems.
Quality Control Measures: Steel Dynamics implements rigorous quality control measures at every stage of their manufacturing process. This includes material testing, quality inspections, and compliance with relevant ASTM standards to guarantee product performance and reliability.
In Australia, although cold-formed steel is not standardized, structural engineers can refer to local manufacturers who specialize in cold-formed steel products.
Collaborating with experienced manufacturers is vital to ensure access to reliable technical support, accurate product information, and compliance with local regulations. It's important to note that certifications and quality control measures may evolve over time, and it's advisable to visit the manufacturers' websites or contact them directly for the most up-to-date information regarding their certifications and quality control processes.
Cold-formed steel is an increasingly popular choice for structural engineers in residential and light commercial projects. Its unique properties, including durability, strength, and resistance to fire and pests, make it an attractive alternative to traditional construction materials. Cold-formed steel framing offers advantages over wood framing, such as increased structural stability and design flexibility.
When using cold-formed steel, structural engineers must consider key factors such as design software, building codes, and manufacturer specifications. Utilizing specialized design software ensures accurate analysis and optimization of cold-formed steel members. Compliance with building codes, such as AISI S100 in the United States and AS/NZS 4600 in Australia, ensures the safety and quality of the project.
Choosing reputable cold-formed steel manufacturers is crucial for obtaining high-quality products. In the United States, manufacturers such as BlueScope, Simpson Strong-Tie, and Clark Dietrich are known for their commitment to quality and adherence to industry standards. In Australia, working with local manufacturers who specialize in cold-formed steel products ensures access to reliable technical support and compliance with local regulations.
In comparison to timber, cold-formed steel offers numerous benefits as a construction material. Its durability, strength, and resistance to fire and pests make it an ideal choice for residential and light commercial projects. By embracing this innovative material which can be easily designed for using ClearCalcs Calculations, engineers can achieve efficient and sustainable structures that meet the demands of the modern construction industry.
Structural engineers are encouraged to explore the possibilities of cold-formed steel for their next project. By embracing this innovative material, they can benefit from its superior properties, design flexibility, and sustainable attributes of CFS. As the construction industry continues to evolve, cold-formed steel offers a promising solution in the search for lightweight higher strength, corrosion & fire-resistant materials.
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