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Steel vs. Wood, Cost and Short Term Energy Comparison, Valparaiso Demonstration Homes

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Revised October 2001, 96 pages

This report is the first of three reports of a multi-year study of cost and energy comparisons of steel and wood houses conducted for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the North American Steel Framing Alliance (NASFA), and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This study is conducted by the NAHB Research Center, Inc. This report is limited to the findings of the demonstration homes in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Despite the availability of cold-formed steel framing, there are still basic barriers that impede its adoption in the residential market. Probably the largest barrier is that the building industry is generally reluctant to adopt alternative building methods and materials unless they exhibit clear cost or quality advantages. A second large barrier is the question of how the higher thermal conductivity of steel affects energy use in homes.

Little objective reporting exists comparing the total costs associated with framing with cold-formed steel versus conventional wood-frame homes. In addition, the labor component and impact of steel framing on other trades and systems in the home are particularly difficult to assess. This project helps address these concerns by:

  • determining the in-place labor and material cost for components of nearly identical homes built with steel and wood framing;
  • determining the impact of cold-formed steel framing on other trades; and,
  • determining the short-term energy consumption for nearly identical wood and steel homes.

Content updated on 3/24/2006

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