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Speed of erection and value put steel frame construction at top of house building methods assessment Thumbs-up for light steel

LIGHT steel frame has emerged with flying colours as a house building method inthe initial findings of a Steel Construction Institute assessment.   A workshop of house builders, engineers, architects and academics were quizzed on key building design factors.

The group was asked to rate six different methods on factors such as quality of construction, design flexibility and energy costs. From this an overall score, or 'value engineering rating', was calculated. Light steel frame construction came out on top, compared with block wall and timber floors, timber frame, modular, panel walls and precast concrete methods. 

Dr Alan Rogan, head of the school of architecture at Oxford Brookes University, which is also involved in the survey, commented: 'The use of light steel frame is growing rapidly in this country. One of its main benefits is speed of construction - it is 50 per cent quicker than other methods.'   Light steel frame clocked up a 38.0 value engineering rating, compared with a 29.5 rating for block wall and timber floors, the most widely used method. Modular building came in at 37.0, panel walls turned in 31.6, with precast concrete holding up the rest with 27.1.   The steel frame system showed up particularly well in the key category of 'maximising returns' and topped the field for speed of construction.   The method also scored highly in the reliable performance, low-energy, and low build cost categories, but came bottom in the security category.


Dr Rogan said that steel frame also met many of the criteria outlined in the Egan recommendations: 'For instance, because of off-site fabrication, quality can be engineered in to achieve zero defects and there is a reduction in site waste, too.'   Dr Rogan said that the kind of growth of light steel frame use in house building recorded in the US - a rise of 15 per cent in the past 10 years - could be repeated in this country.   He said the method was best suited to medium-rise apartment blocks, where larger spans were commonly required. 


The full survey is expected to be published this summer.