Smaller niche markets are a bigger part of the picture

Oct 01, 2008 | 06:59 AM |

Grabbing a bigger slice of the residential construction market has been an uphill battle for steel framing, particularly given the current financial turmoil gripping home builders, yet the metal's characteristics have opened up niche areas.

The argument pitting steel's benefits vs. traditional wooden studs is nothing new, especially when it comes to steel framing's anti-termite attributes, and the material has made some inroads in the Hawaiian and southern California markets, where the problem is more acute. Florida, where steel can provide increased hurricane protection, counts as another bright spot.

Military housing marks another area of progress for steel.

"We've focused our attention over the last several years on military housing. Coastal locations like Hawaii have been a huge market for steel framing, partly because the building codes are stringent in terms of the termite issue," said a spokeswoman for Dietrich Metal Framing Inc., a unit of Columbus, Ohio-based Worthington Industries Inc. "But we are starting to see it much more on the mainland for the military, who have been rebuilding many of their bases. They are asking developers to take on these developments for 50 years and are looking to durable, long-lasting materials to make sure the buildings hold up over that length of time."....

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