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Light Gauge Metal Framing - A Sustainable Alternative to Wood

Jeffrey Syken

When it first appeared on the market (in the first decade of the 20th Century), “Metal Lumber” was meant to provide a substitute material for wood framing - mainly for residential structures. At that time, fire and termite resistance were the main attributes accredited to this new method of framing. Even so, the many “sustainable” characteristics of Light Gauge Metal Framing (as it came to be known in the post-WWII era) were readily apparent: lightweight, dimensionally stable, inedible, incombustible, piece-for-piece replacement, mechanical attachment etc. In the days before power tools, LGMF (a.k.a. “Cold-Formed/Rolled Metal Framing”) had its shortcomings. Cutting and joining were problematic and inefficient, to say the least. In particular, passing MEP (Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing) through the webs of joists was not easily achieved. Nailing slots gave way to self-tapping/piercing screws for easy and secure joining of members and pre-punched holes in joists now allow easy passage of MEP through LGMF joists without diminishing their structural integrity, effectively making the web of the joist a plenum space. With the advancements in technology came the recognition that LGMF was/is the most logical, sustainable alternative to wood framing. Steel’s recycled content and recyclability has no equal. The familiarity of LGMF components makes the transition from wood to LGMF quick and easy for “stick builders.” Even LGMF’s main shortcoming: “Thermal Bridging,” can be overcome using several methods including thermal studs/breaks and insulating sheathing. To make the use of LGMF for residential structures more efficient, the Prescriptive Method provides pre-determined tables, details and specifications, making LGMF a sustainable alternative to wood.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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