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Re: SStud: Need opinions about residential construction and steel stud shearw...

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You might consider joining the Light Gauge Steel Engineering Association
(LGSEA). They are a growing group of over 400 members who have been doing a
lot of research and work on the steel stud framing sections of the 1997
code. Professor Reynaud Serrette is an active member and has been providing
continuing updates as to his work with shearwall testing and lateral load
path methodologies. Unfortunately, the work is progressing slower than the
industry demand - at least in low income housing.
Here are some advantages that have sold Steel stud framing in my area.
1. Most homes are low income and the labor cost to assemble steel stud is
less than wood - considerably.
2. In our case, much of the work is done by Americorp students - young women
who travel from one state to another to do an apprenticship by framing these
homes. Similar to Jimmy Carters program, Americorp has been the backbone to
our projects and have constructed over 350 homes here in the Coachella
Valley (Palm Springs California). The current waiting list is over 5 years
and about 5000 families.
3. The primary reason for steel stud in this case is weight. The materials
come pre-cut from Steelers out of Washington and are easier to work with
considering the ladies limitations to lifting loads common to other types of
4. The homeowner must invest sweat equity in these projects and they find it
easier assembling steel studs over working with wood.
5. As the information from the 1997 UBC confirms the use of 20 gauge studs
for shear walls, the cost of construction reduces even more. I am currently
following APA standards from 1993 that use 14-18 gauge studs for shearwalls.

The downside is the unknown effect that cyclic actions will have on finished
homes. Once the studs buckel, they need to be replaced. This is difficult to
detect in a finished home and, therefore, the availability of residual shear
(as Fred Turner pointed out in a recent post) is questionable.
The other downside is energy. To make the homes work in the desert, we rely
heavily upon wood truss roofs since we take a beating in energy calculations
when steel trussed roofs are used.

Personally, I feel more comfortable with the psychological strength factor
of looking at a double 2x top plate and wood studs supporting a tile roof. I
feel insecure when viewing a light 20 gauge single top plate supporting
trusses for a tile roof on 20 gauge studs. Test show it works, but
convincing my gut is something else.
Finally, there is much to be learned with building in steel bearing walls.
Non-bearing stud walls have been used commercially for years. We need to
know more about how the system will work before my gut is convinced.

Dennis Wish PE