ILEVEL BY WEYERHAEuSER
Industry: “If there’s one word to describe current trends in structural framing, it is optimization. There is recognition in the design and building communities that structural frames are often overbuilt for what’s needed for code compliance or occupant comfort. Plus, traditional framing practices can create huge amounts of waste. In both cases, that’s lost profits. The trend now is to build homes with just the right materials in just the right places, and to reduce the amount of cutting on the jobsite,” says Carlos Guilherme, vice president of engineered lumber products, iLevel by Weyerhaeuser.
Product offering: “iLevel offers Trus Joist engineered lumber that can meet demanding structural requirements such as tall walls more than 10 ft. high, open floor plans and lateral bracing in narrow wall segments,” Guilherme says. “We also offer specialty lumber with the strength and stability to stay straight and true after installation. The range of products helps avoid overbuilding by allowing better selection of the appropriate solution, and less risk of having to replace products after they’re installed. Some of our more popular materials include TimberStrand LSL, Parallam PSL, Framer Series Lumber and iLevel Shear Brace.”
Where it’s going: “We’re seeing a greater focus on value engineering for the structural frame. At the beginning of the depressed building market, conversations tended to focus on product price, but now building teams are moving more toward overall value. Many are investing in higher-performing materials that can actually help control costs. Also, with spending a little more for a precut framing package, there is less jobsite labor and disposal fees,” Guilherme says. “Coming up next, the industry can expect more enhancements in solid-sawn lumber, additional performance with OSB, and new applications for engineered lumber.”
Industry: “Framing activity for new homes has slowed with the slowing of new home construction. Builders have increased the use of framing sold by major dealers on an installed basis. Large builders generally use third-party framers to install framing products in new homes. These trends are not very prevalent in structural installs accomplished by remodeling professionals, who often self-install structural products,” says Jeff Hoffman, vice president business development, LiteSteel Technologies.
Product offering: “LiteSteel beam from LiteSteel Technologies provides framers with a code-approved, easy-to-use structural framing solution. LSB is on average 40 percent lighter than hot-rolled steel of engineered wood products,” Hoffman says. “Standard carpenter’s tools work well with LSB; it can be easily cut with a skill saw using a carbide-tipped steel culling blade.”
Where it’s going: “The above trends on installation and contractor use will continue to expand among builders of new homes,” Hoffman adds. “Remodelers will increasingly be asked to remove load-bearing walls to provide homeowners with the open spaces they crave. Structural solutions such as LiteSteel beam will make it much easier for trade professionals to satisfy the needs of their customers.”
Industry: “Framing contractors and material suppliers have been forced to significantly reduce their operations, head count and margins to simply survive the downturn. Manpower and capabilities are much thinner today than ever before. At the same time, there is high demand for precision and zero waste to preserve every ounce of profitability they can. The conversion of stick framing to predesigned components is still a great opportunity for the industry to improve its accuracy and efficiency,” says Gregg Renner, vice president marketing, MiTek Industries.
Product offering: “MiTek’s latest software technology Sapphire is a 3-D software built for structural component manufacturers that produce trusses, wall panels and engineered wood products. With its companion application, Sapphire Viewer, the structural model can be shared and reviewed by builders, architects, engineers and the lumberyard,” Renner says. “It is a collaboration tool that provides unparalleled precision in the design, estimating and construction of residential projects.”
Where it’s going: “We think the key trends are a continuing decline of available skilled labor in the field, and higher costs of all waste — design time, materials, transportation costs, jobsite labor and cycle time,” Renner says. “We are very focused on predesigned solutions to these — designed in highly capable software, produced in an efficient environment, delivered as predesigned and prefabricated structural components.”
Industry: “Like most of the housing industry, the framing industry is depressed — and in particular the single-family residential market. There are single-family framing projects underway, but it’s much more selective these days and on a much smaller scale than during the boom five or six years ago. There are still many single-family homes on the market as short sales or bank-owned, and that needs to be resolved before building will start up again in earnest. Multifamily housing, however, is doing much better,” says Tom McClain, product manger, Simpson Strong-Tie.
Product offering: “Simpson Strong-Tie is looking at a more systems approach to solutions with its product lines. It isn’t enough just to offer the least expensive widget if it’s not intuitive and doesn’t work seamlessly with the other widgets. Our current product offering includes innovations which have reduced the number of fasteners used, eliminated certain fasteners all together, reduced timely labor costs and offered full foundation to roof solutions — all while maintaining current code requirements, structural integrity and safety,” McClain says. “Our product lines continue to evolve with the industry and most importantly, with the needs of our customers. Our lateral systems offering, which now includes prefabricated Strong-Wall shearwalls, one- and two-story Strong Frame moment frames and ATS rod systems with a new sophisticated take-up device, provides customers with a variety of solutions to meet the unique framing challenges of custom home designs.”
Where it’s going: “Builders will be more selective when they start back on larger scale production. During the boom they were building wherever they could as fast as they could. Now, I think they’ll concentrate on value, such as proximity to transportation, eco-friendly features and smaller house sizes,” McClain adds.