Opinion: SYP Issue Illustrates Superiority of CFS

Originally published by: Steel Framework OnlineDecember 12, 2011

The following article was produced and published by the source linked to above, who is solely responsible for its content. SBC Magazine is publishing this story to raise awareness of information publicly available online and does not verify the accuracy of the author’s claims. As a consequence, SBC cannot vouch for the validity of any facts, claims or opinions made in the article.

Note: The opinion piece below was written by the Steel Framing Alliance’s Framework Online editorial staff. SBCA Executive Director, Kirk Grundahl, provided the following analysis: “It was really only a matter of time until this argument was forwarded by lumber’s competitors. Now that this [the SP design value change proposal] has gone on for over two months in public, the consequences of the way the process has been handled by SPIB will be what they are. Unfortunately, sometimes engineers/technical staff do not understand they are in marketing too, as they market the value of their decision making, their company and the engineering-oriented products their organizations produce.

This may be important for the SPIB Board of Governors to see, but this is more of an issue for the SP industry to deal with internally given that there may need to be sincere rehabilitation work to be done, and it sure would be nice for SP lumber customers to have a positive path forward. All of us have worked very hard to provide a simple and positive path forward and that hard work will always be and is sincerely appreciated.

The Component Manufacturers that produce wood and steel trusses never want to see these two products pitted against each other like this, as there is a place for both materials in the market and they like the market development opportunities that both materials bring to their businesses. Positives are always better than negatives for market development. Wood and steel trusses have been very complementary in nature and actually grow a Component Manufacturer’s business overall for a variety of reasons. To have negative pressure on a wood end use is never a good outcome."

The Southern Pine Inspection Bureau sent a shock wave through the construction industry this fall when it revealed that it had submitted new, substantially lower design values for visually graded southern pine dimension lumber to the American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) for that organization to review.

The reason: Spurred by what the Southern Forest Products Association called a “possible shift in the resource mix,”‖ SPIB, along with Timber Products Inspection, conducted “an enhanced testing program‖ that found significant reductions in the stiffness, bending and tension strength of southern pine samples.”

The wood exhibited such a departure from the design values published in 1991 that SPIB proposed potential reductions in four of the six basic lumber properties—ranging from 20 percent less for tension, to 30 percent less for bending, to 35 percent less for compression. SPIB also proposed a 200,000 psi reduction in the modulus of elasticity for southern pine.

While the matter is not yet resolved, the potential effects on the U.S. construction industry are staggering. If SPIB follows through with the plan, as it likely will, design values would be lowered for all Select Structural, No.1, No. 2, No. 3, Stud, Construction, Standard and Utility—whether 2x2s through 12x12s and wider, 3x3s through 3x12s and wider, or 4x4s through 4x12s and wider.

The issue is on hold at least until early 2012, when ALSC will have received and considered comments from interested parties. In the meantime, builders, designers, contractors, manufacturers and end-users are left to wonder about the true design value of a type of lumber that is so widely used in the structural components of lightframe construction—from walls and floors to trusses and joists.

If those design values in fact do change overnight, tens of thousands of current commercial and residential construction projects based on wood framing could grind to a halt. Entire projects about to launch would have to be postponed for redesign. And builders who choose to pursue projects based on wood structures using prior designs would be pressed to find wood construction components that have the appropriate properties. The potential economic consequences are massive.

However as the reduction in southern pine design values plays out, much of the damage has already been done. Builders‘ and designers‘ trust in the wood industry has been shaken.  This has lead some to question the transparency of its monitoring process.

As the Structural Building Components Association has pointed out: "The process by which lumber design values have been monitored yet has not changed over a period of twenty years, to be followed with suggested design value reductions of up to 25-30 percent on few weeks‘ notice, needs to be carefully investigated."

While the lumber industry appears to have become more lax in its monitoring and testing procedures, the steel framing industry has gone to lengths to certify and validate the design values of its products, and to affirm that they comply with International Building Code requirements.  The two major roll former manufacturer associations in the United States, the Steel Framing Industry Association and the Steel Stud Manufacturers Association, have both rolled out code compliance programs in the past year that are designed to improve confidence in cold-formed steel products.

The southern pine situation illustrates what many builders and designers already know: Cold-formed steel framing is not just more stable, durable, strong and uniform than wood framing—it also provides those who use it with an unimpeachable sense of security that they are getting exactly what they pay for.

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