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The Origins of Steel Framing in Australia

16 June 2020

These days, steel framing is a common sight on commercial and residential construction projects around Australia. And while it may seem relatively new on the scene, the history of steel in Australia goes a long way back.

From post-war homes to the stylish modern masterpieces of today, steel framing has proved its strength, versatility and durability time and again over the last 50 years – and it continues to evolve and adapt to be at the cutting edge of building technology and materials today.

So, in this article we take a look at the origins and history of steel frames in Australia, discuss where it sits today and provide a snapshot of what the future may hold.

Early Steel Frame Systems

In the years after World War II, the combination of a high demand for housing and a shortage in traditional construction materials set the scene for some innovative thinking to provide a solution. This led to the development of a steel wall framing system called ‘Econosteel’. The uncoated steel was dipped in bituminous paint to protect it from the elements and ensure a long life. However, there was one problem – the price! Although the name suggested otherwise, Econosteel cost six times as much as timber to buy. This was a sticking point that meant it never really took off as a long-term viable housing solution – but it did enable 300 houses to be built in the ACT at a time when they were needed.

Although price was a negative factor back then, the competitiveness of steel frames means it is a serious competitor to timber in the marketplace today.

Next Generation Steel Frames

A few decades later, steel frame housing construction went in a new direction when 50 homes on the Gold Coast were built using galvanised steel framing. Following this, houses were built in Sydney using 1.2m galvanised steel frames. This method proved successful and was used for another 20 years until the 80s (and the arrival of lightweight steel) brought another change in direction.

Beginnings of Lightweight Steel Frames

The availability of zinc-aluminium alloy coated lightweight steel was a game changer for architects, as it opened up new design possibilities. The strength to weight ratio allowed designs to include larger spans, making it possible to create stunning open plan spaces. The steel frames were also incredibly durable, and showed excellent resistance to corrosion and pests.

Lightweight Steel Framing of Today

The strength and durability of lightweight steel framing means it continues to grow in popularity as a viable alternative to traditional timber in residential homes and commercial developments. Pre-fabricated steel framing brings further benefits, as it allows for precision in manufacturing, faster construction times and a reduction in waste, which is particularly important in larger scale projects.

Our pre-fabricated light gauge steel framing is made from BlueScope’s TRUECORE® steel which gives an assurance of quality that is backed by a 50-year warranty for eligible residential applicants. It is also fast and efficient to install, resistant to corrosion and pests and a good option for high BAL areas as it won’t burn.

What’s Next?

As technology continues to develop, so too does the design possibilities and precision of pre-fabricated steel frames. Software allows for increasingly intricate and detailed designs, and 3D modelling brings innovative ideas to life.

Building with Steel Frames

Would you like to know how a pre-fabricated light gauge steel framing system could benefit your next project?

Since 2003, our team has designed and fabricated framing systems for projects of all sizes and complexities. Get in touch with our team today by calling 1300 782 950 or email us at sales@sbsgroup.com.au.

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