Steel Framing Prototype Development: Final Report
The use of light-gauge steel framing as a structural framework for residential construction has taken hold in some site-built markets but potentially offers even more value in the manufactured housing environment. Steel is lightweight, fire-resistant, dimensionally stable, and can be manufactured to any size or shape. When used by properly trained manufacturing plant personnel in a manner that takes advantage of its structural properties, steel may offer some compelling economic advantages over wood as a framing material.
The research effort described in this report explores the potential of steel framing for the construction of factory built homes that conform to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) code, or the International Residential Code (IRC), with the goal of developing technologies that are competitive with wood framing. This research critically assesses and refines the use of light-gauge steel design in the factory environment. MHRA first explored the use of light-gauge steel for factory building in 2001 when developing a design intended to demonstrate the economic and regulatory viability of steel for HUD-code construction. The current work builds on this earlier effort by exploring the commercial viability of light-gauge steel-frame designs through a case study approach conducted in cooperation with industry partners.
The objectives of this research tightly mesh with the goals of HUD’s “Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing” (PATH), the overall mission of which is to improve the affordability and value of America's homes through technology, including the development of new housing technologies. Steel framing of factory built homes has the potential to improve home durability, quality, affordability, and resistance to natural disaster damage, and to reduce their environmental impact.
An earlier phase of steel framing research (completed in 2002) demonstrated that steel is an acceptable framing material under the performance-based HUD standards. The HUD certification of a plant featured in one of the case studies, Quality Homes of the Pacific (QHP) in Hawaii, reinforces this point. While many in the manufactured housing industry are cautiously optimistic about steel framing, it is recognized that numerous technical and economic issues remain to be resolved and that steel framing will most likely start as a niche technology for factory built housing. The objective of the Phase II research was to develop steel framing to the point of viability as a technology that can offer advantages consistent with the PATH goals. As an alternative to wood, steel can help keep housing costs down, particularly if wood costs rise or in inner-city locations where wood framing is not permitted.