Light steel frame construction
Steel is strong, lightweight, durable and cost-competitive.
If kept dry, it has a long life span. It also has the potential to be recycled when the building reaches the end of its useful life.
Light steel frame (LSF) construction can either be used as a complete construction system, including exterior walls and roof framing, or it can be used for interior partitions only.
Key features of light steel frame construction
Light steel frame construction is comparable in price to timber construction.
Steel is light but very strong both in compression and tension. It is often added to other construction systems such as timber and concrete to increase strength.
Steel bracing can be added to older masonry buildings to make them compliant with earthquake-resistance requirements.
Ease of construction
Steel framing is not familiar to most builders so itís best to choose a company that specialises in light steel frame buildings. Light steel frames are easy to handle and can be erected quickly. They are often delivered pre-fabricated to site, and clearly identified for assembly.
Durability and weathertightness
Steel can be used in all climate conditions. It is durable and will be very long-lasting if kept dry. While light steel framing does not absorb water, it can rust if it is exposed to moisture, even when galvanized to increase rust-resistance.
As with other construction systems, the design and cladding should provide protection from moisture, and should allow any moisture that does get through the cladding to drain away.
Because of its strength, and comparative lightness, light steel framing is excellent at resisting earthquakes.
Steel won't burn, but will deform under high heat.
Steel is vermin proof (though vermin can live in spaces between light steel framing).
Is it compatible with passive design?
Steel is not effective for heat storage or thermal insulation. All steel framing must incorporate a ‘thermal break’ - a layer of insulating material between steel framing and cladding - which prevents heat loss.
With light steel frame construction, doors and windows can be placed where needed to make maximum use of the sun’s warmth and breezes for cooling.
Steel is a poor sound insulator.
Is it right for my site?
Topography and site impact
Steel is lightweight so may be suitable for steeply sloping sites where heavyweight construction may require excavation.
Steel framing can be used in all climate conditions.
From Smarter Homes
- Timber construction
- Straw bale construction
- Concrete construction
- AAC construction
- Earth construction
- Insulated concrete formwork
- Construction site practice
- Exterior design
- Passive heating
- Passive cooling
- The Building Act
- Leaky buildings; this includes information about building for weathertightness
From other sites
The website of the National Association of Steel Framed Housing has more information about steel frame housing.
Most home construction needs a building consent from a building consent authority (usually your local council). The Local Government website has links to local council websites.
You can buy New Zealand Standards relating to various construction systems from the Standards New Zealand website.
You can buy BRANZ publications about construction systems from the BRANZ website (click on the link to the BRANZ shop).