Benefits of Steel Framing


Steel framing has become the standard for home building in Hawaii where thousands of steel framed homes have been built. Homeowners in Hawaii expect their new houses to be framed out of steel. Hawaii is the leader in CFS technology with the highest percentage of homes being framed with this durable product. People from around the world still come to see steel framing here in Hawaii. Here are just some of the reasons:

Steel Value in Green and Sustainability Standards and Rating Systems

  • Steel is the most recycled product in the world, 83 million tons of steel scrap was recycled in 2007: more than paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic combined. (See Steel Recycling Institute: - Earn Steel Recycled Content Credit)
  • Steel recycling programs reduce the solid waste stream, resulting in saved landfill space, and help to conserve our natural resources.
  • Steel is recognized as a green building material in the National Green Building Standard, (ICC-700), ASHRAE 189.1, Green Globes and other rating systems such as Leadership in Energy and  Environmental Design (LEED TM).
  • The use of steel building products enables builders and designers to comply and often exceed the requirements of the various standards and programs. To learn more about steels’ role in green building visit:

Steel is an environmentally responsible material.

  • Every piece of steel manufactured contains recycled steel, it is required in the steel making process and all steel is 100 percent recyclable. From the car to the grill to the kitchen sink, steel can be melted down again and again without losing its quality. Steel scrap is our largest raw material by tonnage.
  • The average landfill consists of approximately 60% construction debris, mostly concrete, wood and plastic. By using CFS builders can reduce their disposal costs and divert material from local landfills.
  • Debris from a steel-framed house accounts for only 2 cubic feet of landfill waste compared to 50 cubic feet from traditional home construction.
  • Using steel takes the pressure off of other resources: a typical 2000-square-foot home requires about 40 to 50 trees, about an acre’s worth. With steel, only the equivalent of about 6 scrapped automobiles are needed.

Steel is Strong, Straight, and Durable

  • Steel framing has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any building material.
  • Steel is roll-formed into precise, uniform shapes with exacting tolerances.
  • The sections are straight and do not require sorting or special handling to ensure for crown. No planing of studs is required.
  • Steel does not shrink or expand when subjected to moisture changes caused by preservative treatments, rain, or changes in humidity.
  • Steel does not rot, warp, split, crack, or creep. Using steel framing virtually eliminates nail pops and drywall cracking
  • Steel satisfies Hawaii standards for termite resistant construction that were developed in the 1980s.
  • Steel framing provides a termite proof structural solution and minimizes the need for costly termiticides, tenting and extra costly treatments.

Advantages of Steel

  • Steel provides the possibility for large spans and open spaces. CFS trusses can span up to 60 feet or more.
  • Steel harmonizes with all materials, made to the same shapes and sizes as traditional stick framing.
  • Steel is non-combustible – making it an attractive building material in commercial and residential construction. This also makes it ideal for applications in areas that are prone to wildfires. In addition, steel's fire resistance can help slow the spread of fire within a building. 
  • CFS structures qualify for lower insurance rates.  Visit to learn more.
  • Steel is galvanized, protecting the members from corrosion. In order for galvanized steel to rust there must be a constant supply of water. As with all framing materials, structures must be protected from water intrusion to prevent mold, mildew, and rot.
  • Steel framing members in wall cavities, attic spaces, or crawl spaces that are not exposed to water will last over 100 years.
  • Zinc coating protects steel by providing a physical barrier as well as cathodic protection to the underlying steel. When the base steel is exposed, such as at a cut or scratch, the steel is cathodically protected by the sacrificial corrosion of the zinc coating adjacent to the steel.

Steel Myths

  • Steel framed houses do not attract lightning strikes. Steel high rises in Honolulu have provided occupants with safe offices and residences for years.
  • A steel framed home can be engineered for the highest wind and seismic rating given by code.
  • Steel framed houses are fire resistant and non-combustible, making it an attractive material especially in the commercial building industry, and qualifying steel for lower insurance rates.
  • Studs, joists, and rafters do not add fuel to a fire (1/3 of all fires start in the wall cavity).
  • Steel framed houses do not "melt" in a fire. Framing members can resist up to 1,800 degrees F
  • Steel framing can be used for additions and renovations for existing wood houses, especially those with termite damage. Screwed connections make it easy to move walls and for other renovations in the future.

Steel is Healthy

  • The Healthy House Institute and American Lung Association recommend steel framing for good indoor air quality.
  • Chemically sensitive homeowners and those susceptible to asthma are exposed to fewer chemicals in steel framed home.
  • Steel resists mold spores that can lead to chronic illness. 

CFS Jobsite Tours

Demonstrating the Benefits of Building with Cold Formed Steel in Hawaii








The Hawaii Steel Alliance frequently conducts CFS Jobsite Tours on Oahu. One of the tours was held at the Plaza at Pearl City.  This new assisted living structure features reinforced concrete, structural steel, and cold-formed steel framing. General Contractor Sound Building Systems Hawaii, Framing Contractor Group Builders, and structural engineer Baldridge & Associates Structural Engineers hosted the tour for several HSA and CFSEI members and guests.

Another tour was held at the KaMalanai Condominium Project in Kailua. This project consists of six- four story condominium structures featuring reinforced concrete decks and cold-formed steel framing. General Contractor DR Horton- Schuler Division, Framing Contractor Sunrise Construction and Baldridge & Associates Structural Engineers hosted the tour and kept the jobsite open for the many HSA and CFSEI members and guests.

CFS was selected for these projects due to its non-combustable fire ratings, wide open spaces, and straight walls. As one of the structural engineers said while touring the project, "You can attend all the technical seminars on CFS Midrise in the world, but nothing compares with seeing a real building going up."


Immediately following each tour, attendees gather at a local watering hole for great after tour conversation and networking.



            Plaza at Pearl City by MW Group, Ltd.              KaMalanai in Kailua by DR Horton- Schuler

 Stay tuned for announcements for more tours to be scheduled in the future.

To check out more photos from this event, and others, please click here.


The Terrible Termites

Formosan Subterranean Termites cost Hawaii residents about $100 million a year.[1] Across the U.S., estimates place the damage from termites at over $5B/year. Due to its size and aggressive foraging behavior, a colony of Formosan termites does more damage than single colonies of other U.S. subterranean species, and can cause significant structural damage to a home in only 6 months.

They are known to enter buildings through cracks in concrete flooring or travel under tile flooring through gaps less than 1/16" wide[2]. They have also been known to eat their way through concrete, bricks or mortar to reach wood, chewing through many other materials, including insulation around underground electrical lines causing power outages. FSTs can eat through thin sheets of metal, mortar, PVC pipe, electric power and telecommunication lines and most woods, including hardwoods, paint, plaster, gypsum board, and even CMU block in order to get to a food source. A typical colony will consume over 1,000 pounds of wood per year[3]

Unpredictable invasiveness of ground termites makes them difficult to detect and control[4].

The termite is ‘hidden from view’ at all times. The presence of termites may be indicated by: a sagging door or floor, leaks in the roof, a warped wall, a hollow sounding beam, discolored or blistered paint, depressions in wood, moisture collecting in unusual places, springy floors or steps, mud tubes on interior or exterior walls, wood rot, interruptions in power or communications like short circuits, telecommunication blackouts, or similar problems. By the time termites are detected, considerable damage has already been done to the structure.

FSTs can travel from below ground to a suitable food source as high as the third story attic space, and higher. [5] Formosan termites can establish secondary colonies in very moist wood of upper stories of buildings (even several stories above ground) and do not need soil contact if there is a nearly constant moisture source.  This is particularly prevalent in areas of high humidity where wood moisture is above average. Leaking roofs or plumbing fixtures are common water sources for such “aerial” colonies.[6]

It has been documented where a mud tube was built from the wood floor, up over 12” into the air to reach a water source: water in a waterbed.  The termites actually reached the wood frame of the bed and ate through the wood to get to the water source.  The discovery was made only after the bed leaked.[7] Ground termites eat mainly the springwood (softer wood) of susceptible timbers, most often leaving the summer wood (harder wood) sections. This can be easily seen when a damaged timber is cut open for inspection. 

Trees serve as gateways for termites to enter a house. Termites constantly search for food sources, which include trees. There are a number of cases in Hawaii where live plants and trees have been attacked by termites. Termites infest the center of a tree but do not break through the bark. They eat right up to the outer rim of the tree. The tree can be weakened considerably so that when a strong wind comes along it can fall over. The danger in having an infested tree in the yard is that ground termites can travel through the roots. If the roots go under the foundation of the house it is a subway that can lead them into the house, where the structural wood becomes food. Because they travel inside the root and are afforded its protection they can be very difficult to control or detect. Among the termite favorites are papaya, sweet corn, mango, avocado, various citrus, Norfolk pine, and eucalyptus.  Most houses built in the 80s were constructed on agricultural lands that had been infested previously by termites.

In Hawaii, when a home is found by pest control companies to be infested with Drywood termites (not yet with subterranean termites), that usually means tenting the home. Tenting a home is a process where the house is covered with a tent or tarp. Gas is pumped into the home and left alone for at least 24 hours to kill the termites. The gas is then released from the home and inspectors come in to measure the gas in the air to make sure it is safe to re-enter the home. House tenting is costly. The occupants must vacate the home for 2-3 days including all pets. An increase in house break-ins has been observed the past few years as the tenting provides an open invitation to vandals that the homeowner is not present. This is not a practice commonly used with subterranean termites

(From Treated Wood Use in Hawaii, December 2009)


[1] In 1990, annual figures for prevention, control, and repair were conservatively estimated at $60 million. By 1996, that figure had grown to over $100 million per year.

[2] Formosan Subterranean Termites. January 1995. A Consumer Guide to Termites and Termite Control.

[3] Southern Forest Products Association. Pressure-Treated Southern Pine Takes the Bite out of Formosan Termites.

[4] Yates, Julia R. and Tamashiro, M.  The Formosan Subterranean Termite in Hawaii. Publication No. HSP-2, Cooperative Extension Service, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, February, 1999.

[5]  Grace, J. K., R. J. Woodrow, and J. R. Yates. 2002.  Distribution and management of termites in Hawaii.  Sociobiology 40:  87-93.

[6] Woodrow, R. J. Grace  J. K., and Yates III, J. R.. 1999.Hawaii’s Termites – An Identification Guide. Publication No. HSP-1, Cooperative Extension Service, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 1999. P. 1.

[7]  This particular case happened in Halawa area near Aiea. 

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