Steel framed housing — an emerging market

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Similar to a range of other countries, light gauge steel framing has established itself in New Zealand as a viable solution for the structural framing of dwellings, commercial and community buildings.

The National Association of Steel-Framed Housing Inc (NASH) represents the interests of the steel frame fraternity.
It has a growing membership which is open to all those interested in steel framing, depending on the category of involvement. 

NASH’s key objectives are to:
• support the long term growth and sustainability of the steel framing industry,
• maximise the profile of light gauge steel framing within the construction industry,

• maximise the value of belonging to NASH, for all membership categories,
• support the awareness and promote the advantages of steel framing in the marketplace,

• provide technical support to the industry to promote the efficient and effective use of light steel framing, and
• lobby Government and other agencies on behalf of the sector.

However, steel framing does offer significant benefits to the builder, other trades and the home owner, including: 
• durability, with NZ Steel providing a 50-year durability statement on Axxis Steel for framing,
• quality of construction. With steel framing cut and assembled to tight tolerances, steel has the distinct advantage that it is does not warp or creep with time, does not absorb moisture and will not grow toxic mould,

• safety and health. Steel frames provide occupants with extra protection from lightning and fire and, under elevated temperatures, will deform but not burn.
• the Axxis brand of steel available from NZ Steel has been accepted into the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of NZ Sensitive Choice programme after assessment by a product advisory panel of independent experts who recognised the benefits for asthma and allergy sufferers,
• flexibility of design. The strength and stiffness of steel framing allows for long span trusses that offer freedom to design large open rooms and the potential to relocate non-load bearing walls as the needs of the household change.

Lightweight, non-load bearing steel framed walls can be easily, quickly and cleanly changed to suit the new configuration of the house,
• speed of construction. Due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, steel provides lighter structural members that speed up construction. For an average house, a crew of two to three will typically erect the steel framing in a couple of days,

• the environment. Steel is 100% recyclable and can be reused when the building is demolished,
• the cost. While steel framing offers benefits such as flatter walls, no problems with nail popping and the provision of service holes, it has been very difficult to get the benefits recognised and valued. Depending on the design and local market conditions, steel frames can cost no more than timber.

Codes and standards

Steel framing complies with the current regulatory regime. NASH is currently working with the Department of Building and Housing (DBH) on developing its own NASH Standard — Residential and Low-rise Steel Framing.
This will be followed by a handbook to assist builders, architects and designers in using light steel framing.

Education and training

At the professional and trade level these are important elements in building the infrastructure necessary to facilitate the growth and prosperity of the steel framing industry.
Carpenters have traditionally been responsible for the construction of the timber frame and, as the skills for erecting steel and timber framing are very similar, it is a logical extension that they also erect steel frames.

NASH works closely with the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) to assist in the development of standards and qualifications to ensure tradespeople are trained to confidently work with steel framing.

The future

Steel framing is at an exciting time in New Zealand. The industry is increasing its market share of housing in New Zealand and overseas. It has become more sophisticated and in a position to expand to grow the market in steel framing.
NASH has noted more interest in steel framing, and is predicting improved market share over the next couple of years.

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