Light Steel Frame or Steel Framing System is a modern construction method for the quick and easy construction of modern metal framed buildings both offsite and onsite. Off-site pre-fabricated building technology has come a long way with the development of new technologies, insulators, construction methods and cost-effectiveness of production. Onsite construction is both quick and effective with longevity of use. LSF / SFS construction guarantees a number of things including a long and effective period of use.
What is LSF / SFS?
Light Steel Frame or Steel Framing System walls is a system used extensively throughout the world today thanks to its excellent performance and attributes and advantages over most other building materials. It is a flexible, diverse and lightweight material ideal for buildings up to six stories high. The construction material is designed with many requirements in mind in a fast-paced world where engineers, architects, builders and developers require speed and cost-effectiveness. There are two types:
- The first is the Warm Frame method. This type has insulation on the outside of the steel frame structure but not inside the frame or between the studs
- The second is Hybrid Construction. This is where the frame has insulation both inside and outside and between each steel component
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. For example, Warm Frame does not make the most of the insulation meaning potentially cooler temperatures. However, the hybrid type has an increased condensation risk (although this is easily remedied with a vapour control layer on the warm side) due to the extra layers of insulation.
The Attributes and Advantages of LSF / SFS
Why does the construction industry use this type of material? Metal frame construction represents a great leap forward but one that also retains the advantages of a much older building system: timber framing.
- Like timber frame buildings, light steel framing can be manufactured off-site (prefabrication) which enables manufacturers to deliver a superior product designed and engineered to the highest standards
- Offsite frame construction permits a quick erection time and the builders to create a dry envelope early. This means essential removal of the external finish stage, permitting a quick start to the internal fitting
- On-site construction makes erecting a new building quick, easy and relatively painless where both speed and integrity are required
- Unlike other building materials, construction and development is not hindered by adverse weather or poor working conditions
- Due to its lightweight structure, there is less stress load on the building foundations. This is critical on rooftop extensions and “brownfield” redevelopment sites
- This type of material is used extensively today due to excellent thermal performance and structural integrity. In many ways, it is the ecological choice and one that permits longevity of building use
While it uses the same idea behind timber frame buildings, naturally, steel has many major advantages over wood. The greatest advantage is that it has a much higher load-bearing capacity than even the hardest woods. This means fewer raw materials are required and the end result has much more floor space, requiring fewer beams and posts to hold up the structure.
Advantages of LSF / SFS Over Other Construction Methods
Light Steel Frame is Versatile
LSF / SFS is used largely for commercial properties such as office blocks and showrooms, but also in low-rise student housing and hospitality, sometimes in permanent residential buildings. It permits external and internal customisation, so the designer or architect may adapt the workspace to almost any reasonable design and explore the limits of their capabilities. Use of Dynamic Cladding light weight facade solutions compliment modern construction methods too.
For the occupier, the lightweight construction and open space within offer a distinct advantage for other premises where space is at a premium and limited by the construction method. We have already discussed wood frame buildings; LSF is not subject to the same temperature based fluctuations and shrinkage as woods.
Light Steel Frame Safety and Resilience
Rigorous testing in 2016 revealed a greater fire resistance to LSF with both the new hollow flange channel (HFC) section studs and LCS (lipped channel section) studs. It recorded noteworthy higher performance levels than most other building construction materials. Fires will not spread as easily or consume as much with LSF.
Resilience is also about a building continuing to be fit for purpose for many years, even after a major event (such as a fire) that will put an inordinate amount of stress on the structure. LSF has proven repeatedly that it does not aid the spread of fire and is highly resistant to extra loads, infestation, weathering and other damage.
LSF uses Recyclable Materials
Steel is and always has been one of the most sustainable building materials. It is also one of the most recycled materials. In the 21st century, “sustainability” is a great selling point for the environmentally conscious architect, designer and construction organisation – not to mention the client who recognises these advantages of sustainable building. The nature of the steel used in construction is that it is infinitely recyclable with far less waste material going into landfill, unlike many other building materials.