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Steel framers seek extra capacity

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The rising popularity of steel building frames in the Australian housing market, which has experienced a doubling of sales in ten years, is prompting many roll formers and installers to invest in greater capacity and new facilities.

Steel building frames, which have been used in Australia for more than 30 years, have experienced noticeable growth over the past decade due to their strength, ease of use and resistance to fire and termites.

This growth has meant a significant need for greater production of steel framing materials and the industry capacity to deliver it. According to BlueScope Steel , the largest supplier of coated steel to the steel building framing industry in Australia, investment has been in new equipment, property and staff as well as operational changes to increase productivity and better serve residential markets nationwide.

The company also sees the trend continuing as more homeowners specify it as a means of protecting their homes, and as more framing companies and builders embrace the consequent financial benefits to their businesses. Also keen to leverage the growing demand for steel framing are many builders who have traditionally used timber, with some even to converting entirely to steel framing as a way of better marketing themselves against competitors.

For builders, steel framing is quicker and easier to install on site having a higher strength-to-weight ratio than alternative framing materials. This reduces labour time on site and thus cost. Also, with a 50 year warranty, it is easy for builders to market it to consumers looking for long-term structural security.

One NSW builder who has made the switch to steel is Grant Crosbie, of GJ Gardner in Newcastle, who after 25 years in residential building switched to steel last year. "We started this company last November and we expect to be building 100 houses a year by 2008, 90% of which will be steel framed," said Grant. "Home owners are asking for them and as a material they are a pleasure to work with because of their consistent performance, being strong, light and perfectly true."

Some steel framers, such as Quick Frame Pty Ltd in South Australia, have expanded interstate, in this case to Queensland. "Steel framing has been popular in South Australia for many years so we decided to branch out into other regions to grow our company quicker," said David Major, Queensland manager at Quick Frame. "Queensland offers huge potential for a number of reasons, not least because local builders see steel framing as the next step in quality and durability."

BSM Steel, the largest Queensland-owned manufacturer of steel framing, roofing and rainwater products, recently opened a new 8000m² manufacturing centre in Northgate, Brisbane, to keep up with demand.

Peter Lavin from BSM Steel explains: "The obvious benefits of termite resistant steel framing offers increasing appeal to home owners, while the easy installation of it appeals to builders who can see the significant benefits it brings on site. We expect current popularity to continue growing and we intend to continue growing with it."

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