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Timber from sustainable sources provides a renewable building material that takes in carbon from the atmosphere while growing and stores it for the life of the building. Steel-framed construction began to be adopted in the 1940s and continues to gain popularity. Lightweight framed construction can provide effective housing solutions in all climate zones.
The lightweight house is particularly suited to creating cost effective, flexible design solutions to the challenges of steep sites and reactive soils (see Challenging sites). Lightweight floor frames can support internal and external wall, floor and roof loads on low impact footing systems.
Lightweight framed homes can range in appearance from the ultra-modern to the traditional weatherboard bungalow. Lightweight framing can support a range of innovative shading, glazing and lighting solutions to achieve attractive, thermally comfortable homes in all climatic zones. Timber wall frames are typically either 90mm or 70mm deep with 35mm or 45mm thick studs depending on load and spacing — usually 450–600mm. Steel wall frames are also typically 70mm or 90mm deep, and additional strength is achieved by using thicker gauge steel or additional folds or bends in the cross-section. Engineered steel solutions use a wide range of steel shaping options such as extruding, bending or folding to gain maximum structural advantage from minimal steel thicknesses. Framing systems can be varied to suit almost any design or construction system providing engineering certification is obtained. Common variations in Australia include ‘post and beam’ to provide structural support for roof loads that allow the use of non-loadbearing infill systems including straw bale and mud brick. Post and beam construction with loadbearing timber columns and beams, door and window opening frames in typical straw bale construction. Lightweight framed construction has low thermal mass and is therefore unable to store passive heat or ‘coolth’. Highly insulated, low mass houses can respond rapidly and efficiently to auxiliary heating and cooling.
Bulk insulation should not be compressed — it is the trapped air that insulates, not the material.
While performance and thickness vary between different types of insulation, 70mm frames generally allow R 1.5 added insulation, 90mm frames allow R2, and 140mm frames allow R3.
Higher grade insulation can achieve R values up to R0.5 higher within the same thickness without compression. While uncommon, 140mm and 190mm frames are available and, in the case of timber, add around 33% and 75% respectively to the cost of timber in the wall and slightly more to the manufacturing cost of a 90mm frame.
External foam insulation layers generally act as a vapour barrier and can cause condensation on the inside.
The low thermal conductivity of timber reduces but does not eliminate thermal bridging, which can reduce the overall R value of a structure (see Insulation installation). Sound travels via floors, walls and ceilings in lightweight framed buildings, by both direct path and reflection, and each of these elements requires effective sound treatment to ensure acceptable outcomes. Some key noise attenuation strategies are listed below, but more detailed information is provided in the appendix Noise control. Weighted sound reduction index (Rw) is the metric used by the Building Code of Australia (BCA) for indicating the effectiveness of a structure as a noise insulator.
The mass of plasterboard per unit area is very important in determining the Rw or STC: the heavier the layers, the better. Structural isolation systems or resilient channels made from sound absorbing or high loss materials increase structural separation. Damping using high loss material (rubbery, tarry or plastic based materials) is effective in reducing the transmission of impact sounds. Sound absorbing surfaces added to the surface of walls and floors can reduce reflected sound but not direct noise transmission.
Framing material — Canadian tests indicate that steel framed wall construction performs better than timber framed construction in standard, unseparated applications (Quirt et al. Timber maintains structural integrity longer than steel, which loses strength rapidly when exposed to heat. Where timber is used extensively in exterior applications and around the house, AS 3959-2009, Construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas, specifies categories of fire risk and defines compliance measures for each.
Fire rated plasterboard in varying thicknesses and configurations can be used to achieve Building Code of Australia (BCA) required fire ratings for all Class 1 and 10 building applications.
Multi-residential timber framed construction (MRTFC) uses fire and sound-rated timber framed wall and floor systems to provide vertical and horizontal separation between dwellings.
Its construction provides a carbon sink during building life and, with careful, climate responsive design, MRTFC has very low life cycle carbon emissions.
Termites attack from underground and the best risk management strategy is to design the house for easy inspection, i.e.
Lightweight timber constructions, especially those with elevated floors or pole framing, lend themselves to easy inspection for termite activity. Steel is a very durable material and, if treated to appropriate levels for the corrosiveness of site conditions (see AS 1397-2011, Continuous hot-dip metallic coated steel sheet and strip — coatings of zinc and zinc alloyed with aluminium and magnesium), can deliver long life spans. Timber is an organic material that deteriorates with weathering and is subject to termite attack as well as mould growth and rot when exposed to water or condensation.
While steel is not subject to rot and provides limited nutrients for mould growth, condensation absorbed by insulation can damage linings and cause corrosion. How then do we choose the indicators and rank them in importance to make a fully informed decision?
While these important single indicators can inform simple choices in an individual application where life span and site conditions are known, they are incomplete and therefore inappropriate and even misleading for generic comparisons. Embodied energy is an important point of differentiation between steel and timber lightweight framing.
A more useful metric is embodied energy per unit area of assembly over life span, summarised below. From this table, it can be seen that maintenance of painted claddings ranges between 25% and 50% of life cycle embodied energy over a 40-year life span depending on system and climate. Steel products are non-toxic during a building’s life but emit significant ecological toxins during production. Light organic solvent particles (LOSP) treatments offer low toxicity preservatives, fungicides and insecticides. Boron and fluorine products are available as paints and provide largely benign preservative, fungicide and insecticide protection for H1–H4 applications. Copper azole is a highly effective alternative preservative, fungicide and insecticide suitable for H1–H4 (in-ground) applications.
Glues and solvents used in engineered timber products often contain formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — and volatile organic compounds (VOC) with known adverse implications for human health. Timber frames are traditionally erected by carpenters who are skilled and tooled up to work with timber.
Typical lightweight construction consists of framed and braced structures with applied claddings.

Timber components may be fabricated on site but modern construction techniques generally favour off-site fabrication of trusses and wall frames. All structural design should be undertaken in accordance with the relevant Australian Standard or certified by a practising structural engineer or accredited supplier. A substructure of piers, piles, stumps, posts, dwarf brick walls or perimeter masonry walls support the building frame. The substructure carries the load to the footings which, depending on local practice, may consist of sole plates of durable or treated timber on a concrete pad, or a reinforced concrete strip footing. The use of piers and posts can greatly reduce the need for cut-and-fill on sloping blocks (see the appendix Sediment control). Innovative tensile foundation structures can accommodate the most challenging of sites (see Challenging sites). A lightweight frame is like a skeleton to which exterior wall claddings, internal linings, flooring, roofing, windows and doors are attached. Frames designed and built to the relevant Australian Standard are deemed to comply with BCA requirements. Joints and connections are closely linked to tie-down and bracing requirements and vary substantially between steel and timber framing systems. Qualified professional carpenters and joiners can usually choose proprietary fixing systems that will be approved by certifiers.
Lightweight framing systems generally simplify the installation of services through simple drilling to accommodate pipes and cables. Steel frames require cushioning grommets to protect cable insulation during installation and limit longer term damage to plumbing due to expansion and contraction or corrosion.
Care should be taken to ensure that trades do not weaken the structure by drilling near the edge (structural zone) of the stud. With lightweight framing, the bracing and tie-down detailing must be designed and installed to appropriate wind loadings and seismic codes. Lightweight Steelframe Construction - Residential MooiriverGlobal Specialised Systems (KZN) is proudly associated with projects with Lightweight Steelframe as the building method in KZN. Your use of this website constitutes acknowledgement and acceptance of our Terms & Conditions. Sunway Homes are pre-engineered, pre-manufactured post & beam home steel structures designed for easy and fast assembling with grade A-325 nuts and bolts, and fabricated with A-50 cold rolled heavy gauge steel, finished with two coats of industrial grade anti-corrosive paint. 2.- The frames of the steel structure are assembled laying on the ground following an instructions manual. MWP Services is a Specialist FaA§ade Cladding Contractor operating in the construction industry, offering, structural design coordination, supply, installation, and project management services within the listed disciplines and sectors. When using a specified or selected SFS system MWP will employ the system supplier to complete all structural calculations, design, and warranties including site visits from the suppliera€™s technical team to inspect on going installation work on a 2 weekly basis. To maintain a high quality installation, operatives will attend installer training from system suppliers to learn the correct way to construct the particular system in accordance with the certified method. Of course it has our signature slide-out room that makes all the difference, and turns caravanning into apartment-style living, wherever you are, and whatever the weather.
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Automotive Exterior ColorsChoose from a variety of metallic exterior metal colors to match your tow vehicle! The two most commonly used framing materials — steel and timber — can contribute to the comfort, appeal and environmental performance of your home. Its greatest enemy is the termite, although rot and mould from condensation is becoming an increasingly critical threat as we seal our homes and increase insulation levels. Appropriate design strategies that include alternative sources of thermal mass can also deliver best practice, passive design outcomes — often with lower embodied energy than traditional high mass systems (see Thermal mass). Lightweight houses are well suited to above-ground construction to minimise site disruption.
With the enormous variety of non-structural claddings, linings and finishes available (e.g. Lightweight framed houses (particularly timber due to its low thermal bridging) can be found in very cold climates such as Scandinavia and Canada through to the very hot tropical climates of South-East Asia. Engineered timber and steel structural design solutions exploit these characteristics to maximise structural capacity whilst minimising materials use, as shown in the design of I-beam structural members, roof trusses and open web joists. Engineered timber solutions use advanced gluing, laminating and jointing techniques to increase the compressive and tensile strength of lower structural grade timbers and overcome natural weaknesses such as knots, warping, splitting and bowing. Manufacturers display the rated performance of their products on the packaging and in their promotional material. Each step up in external wall thickness can add 2–3% to the cost of a conventional home; increased insulation levels may be more cost effectively achieved by adding an extra layer of insulating foam, which has the added benefit of limiting conducted heat loss via the framing system, known as thermal bridging or convected heat loss via insulation gaps around the frame. While timber is a natural insulator and a poorer thermal bridge, it still typically has a lower R value than insulation materials. In climates prone to condensation, a breathable membrane should be installed on the outside of the frame to position bulk insulation, and a 10mm air gap provided between frame and foam layer to drain condensation (see Cladding; Sealing your home). This means selecting components with the appropriate sound insulation rating as well as framing details that minimise transmission. Ventilation and services openings in walls and ceilings are critical contributors to sound transmission.
Various sound damping sheet products are commercially available and are particularly appropriate for floors.
When the two layers forming the wall cavity do not have rigid connections between them, the addition of sound-absorbing material to the cavity increases the Rw by about 10 points. It is an innovative use of lightweight framing techniques to deliver cost effective, low mass housing solutions that are highly appropriate for most climates and likely to be better able to respond to climate change (see Thermal mass). In Australia, projects range from large multi-level developments to townhouses or villas, including new developments, refurbishments and additions to existing buildings.
The two principal methods of dealing with the threat of termites are chemical and physical. While appropriate design detailing and rainproof cladding can protect timber from weathering, it does not protect it from condensation. Additionally, the conductivity and thermal bridging capacity of steel means that dew point formation within the wall is more likely (see Sealing your home; Cladding). Life cycle assessment (LCA) considers all the environmental emissions and depletions of a material from cradle to grave (or cradle to cradle if they are reused or recycled) and applies a weighting system to prioritise the most urgent or serious. The table below shows that manufacturing rough sawn timber uses substantially less fossil fuel energy per unit volume than steel, concrete or aluminium; however, significantly lower volumes of steel are used in lightweight steel framing than timber in timber framing.
Currently around 80% is recycled, a process that requires up to 70% less energy than the original manufacturing. However, some chemicals used in plantations can adversely affect terrestrial and aquatic environments, and poor forest management can lead to soil loss and degradation. Although steel framing requires different skill and tool sets, it is gaining in popularity.

The growing range of engineered solutions continues to extend design possibilities while reducing resource consumption. The process of construction may begin with a concrete slab onto which continuous frames are fixed, or with the placement of piers or pad footings to support piers, bearers and joists — a lightweight flooring system. Various proprietary systems can reduce footing costs and allow builders to ‘get out of the ground’ much faster than high mass construction systems, which require more extensive earthworks. Trusses are easily deconstructed and reused on other projects, particularly sheds and outbuildings.
On-site fabrication of more complex designs can minimise costly mistakes and overcome small setout errors or dimensional variations in slabs and flooring. Areas subject to extreme wind conditions (cyclonic) or areas subject to seismic activity are subject to separate Australian Standards that detail additional fixing and construction requirements. Accredited wall fabricators usually design and certify these aspects with details that suit their system. It is critical that frame inspections by licensed, accredited certifiers are completed before the fixing of linings or cladding.
The need to centre services in frames can conflict with bulk insulation installation, and can result in the electrical cable capacity being de-rated. It is especially the residential market that caught up with Lightweight Steelfarme as an alternative building method. It consist of structural wall frames and roof trusses, manufactured from cold-formed light gauge galvanised steel sections. Each structure is engineered according with the building code requirements of the jobsite location. Secondary structure is built for the construction of interior walls, ceilings, framing for the installation of windows and doors and framing for roof overhangs' soffit and fascia. A written report will follow this inspection and this will be added to MWPa€™s site quality control plan for handover at the end of the installation. Enjoy the ability to walk around with plenty of head room - afforded by CAMPLITE'S increased interior spaciousness!
Although lightweight framed construction can be used for floors, walls and roofs, the focus of this article is on wall systems. Steel production requires large amounts of energy but steel is 100% recyclable and current framing products often include recycled content (up to 40%). Framed structures lend themselves to the creation of houses with diverse openings for passive solar heating, natural light and ventilation, through the careful design of windows, doors and ventilation paths. Materials include plywood, particleboard and fibreboard as well as engineered products such as glue laminated timber, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and finger-jointed cladding or fascia. Bulk insulation performance is reduced if it is compressed because it is the trapped air that insulates, not the material. This type of thermal mass allows flexible responses to unpredictable spring and autumn weather in addition to climate change adaptation: just empty the water container or move the PCMs onto the balcony. Methods, techniques and details undergo constant innovation and improvement so pre-project research is essential (see case studies listed in ‘References and additional reading’).
Current building regulations (AS 3660-2000, Termite management) emphasise managing termites through physical barrier systems and inspections rather than the environmentally harmful chemical methods of the past.
Physical barriers prevent hidden entry but remember that these are inspection systems rather than prevention systems. Water vapour condensing as it passes through walls is arguably becoming the most significant threat to lightweight framed structures. LCA is beyond the scope of most builders and designers, so we need a simple rating system based on LCA to help us choose between products.
New steel frames currently include 30–40% recycled steel, the percentage varying with supply (Carre 2011). Bulk insulation, flashings and condensation detailing are commonly inspected simultaneously.
This often leads to compression of insulation or increased thermal bridging where gaps are left to meet electrical codes.
A comparative life cycle assessment of alternative constructions of a typical Australian house design. Building materials, energy and the environment: towards ecologically sustainable development. Guide for sound insulation in wood frame construction — Part 1: controlling flanking at the wall-floor junction. Sound transmission through gypsum board walls: sound transmission results, Internal report IR 693. Exterior cladding can consist of a single skin brick wall or an combination of OSB and fibre cement boards, fixed to the wall frames.
Top and bottom plates are typically 90x45mm and can be double thickness depending on the load (e.g. It’s advisable to take particular care when using these products internally, to ensure that they do not contain adhesives that compromise indoor air quality. 1995) shows that the greater the distance, the higher the Rw value (when sound absorbing insulation is included). How toxic are the chemicals used to treat timber for termites and how does this compare to carbon, water and other environmental emissions from steel production? CCA is effectively prohibited in Japan and some European countries and being phased out in the US. Frames can also be expressed architecturally through clearly defined joints or fixing patterns.
Report for Forest and Wood Products Australia prepared by RMIT Centre for Design, Melbourne.
U-beams, angles, I-beams and channels) place thicker steel in high tensile or compressive load sections (flanges) held in position with thinner webs where forces are lower.
Resilience allows the channel or clip to bend, stretch or compress and then regain its shape, absorbing or ‘damping’ rather than transmitting impact noise. In addition to increasing the temperature differentials and encouraging water vapour transfer, insulation can become sodden with condensation, reducing its effectiveness and increasing the risk to frame elements. Contact with CCA-treated timber may be toxic to young children (Environmental Working Group 2001). Alternatively, externally fixed foam insulation allows air space around cables (see Cladding). Gypsum board, fixed to the light steel frame, is typically used for internal wall cladding and ceilings.

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