In the 1950s and 1960s, with the demand for taller buildings, where the light-weight and non-combustible characteristics were sought, metal framing became commonplace in commercial construction. Today it’s estimated that between 30 and 35 percent of all nonresidential buildings in the US are built with cold-formed steel framing.
There are a number of concerns with metal framing that make it a less desirable approach than wood. First, are its carbon emissions and lack of carbon sequestration. The embodied energy of metal framing can be quite high because of the steel manufacturing process. And while anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of steel framing is typically from recycled content, which helps lower the environmental and climate impact, the embodied carbon remains far too high. To compound the problem, metal has no carbon sequestration capability in itself. Second, regarding thermal performance, metal framing is often riddled with thermal bridges that degrade the assembly insulations’ value by 50% or more. The increase in thermal bridging brings greater concern for moisture and damages such as rusting fasteners and components. Both of these reasons are serious enough, to give any professional pause, before choosing metal framing over wood.
Typical metal frame construction provides poor performance. This should not be the case. This installment of the Smart Enclosure series tackles best practices for making Metal Frame construction high performing.
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