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Steel vs. Wood Cost Comparison Beaufort Demonstration Homes



Release Date: 
January 2002 (94 pages)
Posted Date:   
January 1, 2002



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Despite the availability of cold-formed steel framing, there are still basic barriers that impede its adoption in the residential market. Probably the primary barrier is that the building industry is generally reluctant to adopt alternative building methods and materials unless they exhibit clear cost or quality advantages. A second barrier is how the thermal conductivity of steel affects energy use in homes.

The scope of this project was limited to constructing two identical side-by-side homes at three different locations in the U.S. Each location had unique labor rates, material costs, size, shape and style of construction. The sites include Indiana, South Carolina, and North Dakota. Each site has a house framed with conventional dimensional lumber and a second one framed with cold-formed steel. Blower door tests are to be conducted for all demonstration homes to determine the levels of air infiltration for each house. Co-heat tests are also to be conducted at two sites (Valparaiso, Indiana and Fargo, North Dakota) to determine the energy consumption of each tested house.

This report is limited to the findings of the demonstration homes in Beaufort, South Carolina. Installed costs of the steel framing material were determined and compared with that of conventional wood framing. Results indicate that the cost of the demonstration steel-framed home is 14.2% more than an identical wood home, however, the framers' labor hours for the steel-framed home were only 4.3% higher than those of an identical wood home. The results also indicated that certain aspects of cold-formed steel (such as interior non-load bearing walls) are within the range that might be expected to be cost-effective with wood. An infiltration test was conducted for each home. Results indicated that both steel and wood-framed homes have approximately the same leakage (infiltration) rate.

Additional Downloads:
Appendices A-C (*.pdf, 677 KB)
Appendix D (*.pdf, 1664 KB)