The popularity of light steel framing continues to grow as does the uptake of offsite construction more generally. Andrew Way, Associate Director at SCI, provides an update on recent material developments.
Key benefits of light steel framing are quality, speed and cost which makes it ideal for many sectors of construction and especially growth markets such as build-to-rent. The Steel Construction Institute (SCI) has been has been a trusted, independent source of information and engineering expertise globally for over 30 years, and remains the leading, independent provider of technical expertise and disseminator of best practice to the steel construction sector. SCI support everyone involved in steel construction – from manufacturers, consulting engineers, architects, and manufacturers right through to industry groups and peers.
Consulting and design engineers look to SCI for reliable and robust technical information and training on the effective use of steel in design, including the latest design standards and building regulations. Manufacturers utilise SCI's engineering expertise for product development and certification of performance, particularly when bring new products and systems to market.
SCI, in conjunction with industry partners, has been instrumental in bringing about many technical developments to the light steel construction sector. Recently, the combined performance of light steel framing and other materials has been of interest. Materials commonly used in combination can lead to enhanced design efficiency. A number of projects would fall into the category of the development of improved design guidance to enable the use of light steel framing in a wider range of applications.
Some of the technical development work carried out by SCI is generic and is undertaken through the Light Steel Forum for the benefit of the whole industry. A recent example is SCI publication P426 which provides guidance on using continuous masonry cladding with light steel framing. SCI will be disseminating the outputs from various ongoing industry projects when they have been agreed and finalised.
SCI has seen an increasing demand from clients for proprietary technical product development which is understandable in a highly competitive commercial market. The involvement of an independent body, such as SCI, in this type of development is seen as highly advantageous by manufacturers and their customers. SCI's participation provides reassurance that appropriate procedures are followed with due consideration for all possible performance criteria. It is not possible to disclose in detail the technical developments of individual manufacturers; however, the process invariably involves a combination of physical testing, computer modelling and analysis.
Light Steel Forum.
The SCI's Light Steel Forum is a membership group whose primary objective is the technical development of light steel construction systems. Membership consists of the following proactive companies involved with light steel framing: Ayrshire Metals, BW Industries, Etex Building Performance, Fusion Building Systems, Hadley Steel Framing, Kingspan Steel Building Solutions, Metek plc, Saint-Gobain, Sigmat, Vision-Built Manufacturing and Voestalpine Metsec plc.
Technical priorities and areas of work are agreed by the members. Projects vary in duration according to their scope and technical complexity. Results of projects are usually disseminated through SCI design guides, technical information sheets and/or seminars and presentations. To date the group has published over 20 technical information sheets which are available on the Light Steel Forum website. Quarterly meetings ensure the group are kept up-to-date with developments and are able to respond to any new challenges which arise.
Certification and Assessment.
Certification has always been a vital part of the construction industry with customers and specifiers needing to have confidence in the products being offered. The complexity and unique nature of many offsite construction systems, and the growing regulatory demands, mean that independent SCI has provided Stage 1 System Certification for light steel framing in accordance with NHBC Chapter 6.10 for the last 15 years (and continues to do so). SCI also provides SCI Assessed certificates for a mixed and varied range of steel-based construction products. However, SCI are now offering a more comprehensive scheme called 'SCI Product Certification' which can cover all the basic work requirements of the Construction Products Regulation. SCI are hoping to be able to announce the first companies and their products to successfully achieve SCI Product Certification within the next few months.
The primary design standard for light steel framing is Eurocode 3 – Design of Steel Structures, Part 1.3 - Supplementary rules for coldformed members and sheeting (also known as EN 1993-1-3). The evolution of the Structural Eurocodes is an ongoing process and drafting of the next versions of many parts of the Eurocodes is well progressed, which includes EN 1993-1-3. However, formal acceptance and publication can be a lengthy process. Nevertheless, designers and manufactures should be aware that new versions, many with significant changes, are expected to be published in 2023. SCI has been involved at committee level with revisions to several different parts of the Eurocodes and will endeavour to keep members up-to-date with expected changes.