Innovative Framing: A Concept for Today & Tomorrow

President's Message

Innovative Framing: A Concept for Today & Tomorrow

“Innovative Framing” is a more fitting term than “advanced framing” for what our industry does each day.

When you hear someone throw out the phrase “advanced framing,” what comes to mind? Do you think of 2x4 or 2x6 walls with 24 inch on-center spacing? Do you assume it also means more energy-efficient walls? That’s what comes to mind to me, and frankly, many others in the framing business.

Advanced framing, also called optimum value engineering in the past, is a framing system that aims to reduce the amount of lumber used to frame buildings to the bare minimum through a more efficient load path. Coined in the 1960s by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, advanced framing was promoted as a way for builders to reduce costs.1 Today, the phrase has also been co-opted into the push for more green/energy efficient buildings.

The problem is roof trusses don’t seem to enter into the conversation when you talk about advanced framing, as in the 1960’s roof trusses were already a big part of the advanced framing movement. There’s also no mention of modern-day wall panels, no mention of raised heel roof trusses, no mention of floor trusses and no mention of the versatility of connections between the floor, wall and roof systems. Those are significant limitations of the term “advanced framing,” particularly for our industry.

That’s why, as of this issue of SBC, we want to change the assumptions surrounding advanced framing, and maybe even alter the way we talk about framing in the marketplace. From now on we are going to use a new term of our own: “innovative framing.” Because in reality, that is what our industry is providing to the marketplace: structural innovations to help architectural designs go from artistic lines on a page to a physical home, office or commercial building.

Take a close look at what we do today. We provide value engineering in virtually every product we sell today. As we look to the future, our products, and all the tools and materials that make our products possible, are the best way to meet the demand for efficiencies in structural performance, material use, labor and cost.

Innovative framing is encouraged by the building code, which mandates, “a complete load path that meets all requirements for the transfer of all loads from their point of origin through the load-resisting elements to the foundation.”2 In order to provide this load path, the building code assumes conventional framing, but also states, “when a building of otherwise conventional construction contains structural elements…these elements shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice.”3

In other words, the building code clearly gives us the flexibility to find a better way to frame a building. We do this as a matter of course by reducing material usage to save cost and/or make production and installation easier. The process we use to design and manufacture a structural component lends itself well to finding an innovative framing solution that meets or exceeds our customers’ expectations. In fact, we have to do this on every job; otherwise, our customers look elsewhere.

Further, our industry is set up to facilitate innovative framing by bringing together material suppliers, building designers, builders and framers. We are driving innovation through communication and collaboration, allowing everyone in the chain to reap the benefits of the tools and capabilities we have to design a building where the complete load path required by the code can be constructed in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

As we look to the future, we know we can talk knowledgeably about innovative framing because we have a sure-fire way to back up our approach: the SBC Research Institute (SBCRI). SBCRI was originally built to address questions surrounding load paths because structural framing and load paths exist in three dimensions. When you think about it, it’s really difficult to effectively innovate framing if you have to guess or estimate three-dimensional performance.

The fact we can build a two-story house inside SBCRI, apply loads in any way we want, and accurately measure the flow of that load throughout the entire system, gives our industry an incredible advantage. Through the testing we have conducted thus far, SBCA members have more information and knowledge about load path performance than almost anyone involved in building construction.

Because of the investment SBCA members made in constructing SBCRI, we have the ability to tackle the recurring problems that have plagued us in the past (many of which still do), including ply-ply connections, top chord bearing capacities, bracing and web buckling. However, we have recently come to realize we’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible through the capabilities and know-how we now possess in our industry’s state-of-the-art facility. SBCRI’s greatest potential is yet to be realized; it will lead our industry into the world of three-dimensional innovation.

SBCRI’s system-testing approach allows us to see structural performance from a “real building” point of view. So it’s not as hard to develop innovative framing concepts when you can frame a load path system in SBCRI, hook up all the monitoring equipment and watch how the loads move through an actual building in real time. One way to think about it is to consider the two pictures below and all they imply for load path innovation and your component designs:

This is why “innovative framing” is a much more apt term for what our industry does each day with the tools we have at our disposal. The exciting part is we have a long way to go to reach our full innovative framing potential. To get an interesting perspective of how a framer thinks about this issue, read George Hull’s column. If you want a further perspective on some possibilities in innovative framing, read this month’s TQ&A.

It may sound funny, but I think “advanced” sounds like a thing of the past. Today, and more importantly, tomorrow, are ruled by innovation. That’s why we’ve always naturally adopted the slogan components are the “future of framing.”

SBC Magazine encourages the participation of its readers in developing content for future issues. Do you have an article idea for an upcoming issue or a topic that you would like to see covered? Email your thoughts and ideas to
2 IRC R301.1 Application. Buildings and structures, and all parts thereof, shall be constructed to safely support all loads, including dead loads, live loads, roof loads, flood loads, snow loads, wind loads and seismic loads as prescribed by this code. The construction of buildings and structures in accordance with the provisions of this code shall result in a system that provides a complete load path that meets all requirements for the transfer of all loads from their point of origin through the load-resisting elements to the foundation. Buildings and structures constructed as prescribed by this code are deemed to comply with the requirements of this section. See also IRC R301.1.2.
3 IRC R301.1.3 Engineered design. When a building of otherwise conventional construction contains structural elements exceeding the limits of Section R301 or otherwise not conforming to this code, these elements shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice. The extent of such design need only demonstrate compliance of nonconventional elements with other applicable provisions and shall be compatible with the performance of the conventional framed system. Engineered design in accordance with the International Building Code is permitted for all buildings and structures, and parts thereof, included in the scope of this code.