Cold Formed Steel Buildings and Related Structures

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Over the years, framing components and techniques for pre engineered buildings have become more efficient and precise. As a result, manufacturers and suppliers are able to deliver building designs that better meet all types of buildings that consumers need – barns, carports and garages, to name a few. Here’s a look at three steel building options used to create many steel framed structures.

Framing for Cold Formed Steel Buildings

Cold formed steel framing is the result of a manufacturing process that roll metallic-coated sheet steel into studs, joists, track, headers, angles, truss members and other components. The sheets are formed into C-sections and no heat is needed to create them. Advantages of these pre engineered components include:

  • Ease of Handling. Cold formed steel framing material is about one-tenth to one-eighth-inch thick – weighing at least 35 percent less than material made from wood. That makes it easy to bundle when being transported, reducing the space needed for shipping and storage.
  • Toughness and Versatility. Cold-formed steel has one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any framing product. This provides greater options for designs and components that can span wider areas. It also doesn’t contract or expand due to changes in moisture. Cold formed steel decks eliminate the formwork for pouring concrete floors, and boost the strength and stiffness of the floors. Steel framing will not rot, warp, split, crack or creep.
  • Quick to Make and Install. Building components for cold formed steel buildings can be made to precise measurements in a factory and then assembled in little time at the construction site.
  • Absence of Fire Risk. Cold formed steel framing can’t ignite or add to the spread of a fire. Insurance underwriters offer major discounts on Builders Risk Insurance and other types of insurance.


Framing for Red Iron Buildings

Also known as steel I-Beams, red iron steel is a popular framing product used in iron buildings all over the world. Why? For starters, the beams – which look like a capital “I” – are quick and easy to install. That easy-to-recognize shape also adds to their stability and strength. Other advantages of framing for red iron buildings are:

  • Often eliminates the need for support posts or columns
  • Unlimited length, width and height options
  • Unlimited exterior and interior and finishes (for walls, doors, windows, etc.)


Industrial Grade Truss Building

Steel roof trusses are becoming the standard in residential metal building. Among their advantages are:

  • High strength-to-weight ratio. Creates a component tough enough to withstand hurricane-force winds and huge amounts of snow.
  • Uniformity. Compared to wood, whose makeup is affected by changes in temperature and humidity, trusses are identical in form. Created in factories where quality control is required, trusses delivered to construction sites are made exactly as designed. Any variation is small.


Industrial grade truss building also has its drawbacks:


  • Vulnerability to corrosion. Consistent exposure to moisture is one weakness associated with steel trusses. That’s why it’s so important to include material for a metal building that’s designed and coated correctly, creating a barrier against moisture.
  • Less insulation against heat. Heat can build up quickly inside steel. Although steel trusses don’t insulate pre engineered buildings as well as wood trusses, there is a solution: adding radiant barriers and insulation. This simple fix, however, will probably increase construction cost since more insulation will be needed to fill the attic space in your metal building.
  • Failure at high temperatures. Steel roof trusses must be fireproofed so they can stand up to a fire. This kind of fireproofing requires specialized knowledge and techniques.
  • Lack of use in residential building designs. Steel trusses are pretty new residential buildings, so not everyone has the skills to work with them correctly. They also require different tools that some contractors don’t have unless they already work with steel framing and metal building parts. So, inadequate skills and tools can lead to poorly installed trusses as well as higher labor costs.


Shared Qualities of Steel Framed Buildings

Because they’re made of steel, cold formed, red iron and industrial truss grade buildings have many positive features in common.


  • Highly recyclable. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute:
    • Steel is the most recycled material in the world – more than aluminum, copper, paper, glass and plastic combined. In North America alone, more than 60 million tons of steel are recycled or exported for recycling each year.
    • Today, 97 percent of steel by-products can be reused and the recycling rate for steel itself is 86 percent.
    • Advanced high-strength steel is the only material that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in all phases of an automobile’s life: manufacturing, driving and end-of-life. Although steel is 100 percent recyclable, its structure doesn’t degrade over time. That means it hardly ever needs to be replaced.
  • Design flexibility. Steel framing systems can provide long spans and big spaces, free of columns, that are adaptable to all types of use.
  • Energy efficient. Color options for metal roofs and panels can help buildings lower air conditioning costs and the pollution created when energy is produced.
  • Cost efficiency. In particular, the I-Beams in red iron buildings are easier and faster to install. Since the beams handle more weight, fewer of them need to be used, which is another factor in lowering construction costs.
  • Environmentally friendly. When you use less steel to make iron buildings, you create less waste.
  • Resistance to pests. Termites and other vermin can devour wood but not steel. Although wood can be treated to resist pests, those treatments can be highly toxic and reduce indoor air quality. There’s no need to use these toxic products to treat a steel framing product.
  • Energy absorbent. Steel is lighter than wood, concrete or masonry, so it bends without breaking. The same material that absorbs energy in a car crash will help protect your pre engineered building from the damage an earthquake can cause.

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