The light gauge steel framing sector is supported by a number of specialist and expert UK-based manufacturers. These companies have traditionally had a very close working relationship with steelwork contractors as they generally sell their products directly to them. This is because purlins, rails and other cold-formed items are part and parcel of a steelwork contractors’ erection programme.
Because of this close working relationship light gauge steel framing manufacturers know what the market wants and have consequently worked proactively to refine their products.
Cost is always an important issue on construction projects and value engineering is now practiced on a regular basis as a way of saving money. In response to this trend the light gauge sector’s manufacturing processes have become more efficient and streamlined, ready and able to respond to market variations.
But what are the benefits of using light gauge steel framing instead of concrete?
Phil Jasper, Business Unit Director at Kingspan Insulated Panels says: “The benefits of light gauge steel framing over concrete solutions are demonstrated by the shorter overall on site construction periods provided.
“The main contractor will get significantly reduced on site periods because whilst our structures are installed in relatively similar time periods to a concrete host structure, when our light gauge frame is handed over it is complete with external walls, sheathed and insulated with helping hand systems factory fitted. In addition, most of the internal metal-framed partitions are also installed.”
William Worthington (voestalpine Metsec) Metframe Sales Manager agrees and adds: “Offsite constructed light steel structural frames give many advantages over in-situ concrete structural frames when looking at mid-rise construction.
“Foundation load reductions of up to 30% can be realised, as well as possible overall site programme reductions of up to 20%.”
Steelwork contractors may sub-contract out the erection process, but cold-formed steelwork is invariably part of their overall erection package, as it is with all the heavier structural steel members. Consequently it is the steelwork contractors that influence this market sector as they dictate what products are needed and when.
Repeat business is also widely seen as one of the most important aspects of the sector. Every manufacturer will ensure that every order is on time and consists of the correct sizes and product quantity.
Light gauge framing producers also thrive on and are geared up to supply large quantities of repetitious products, used typically in the hotel, student accommodation and medium rise residential sectors, projects where a building’s floors are usually identical.
This enables the designers to reduce lead in periods for large schemes to acceptable durations by utilising ‘just in time’ manufacturing methods, typically a lead in period for a 10-storey hotel could be 10-14 weeks.
The UK steel construction industry is highly developed in the use of computer aided design and detailing methods. Drawings and details are increasingly transferred electronically between the steelwork contractor and the light gauge manufacturing site. The specific details of each component part of a structure is created through the use of CAD systems and fed through to the production line. This is a very fast and accurate system in an industry that is persistently looking for ways of reducing the build programme.
voestalpine Metsec plc
Hadley Group Building Products Division