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Cold Formed Metal Framing

History of cold-formed steel

The use of cold-formed steel members in building construction began in the 1850s in both the United States and Great Britain. In the 1920s and 1930s, acceptance of cold-formed steel as a construction material was still limited because there was no adequate design standard and limited information on material use in building codes. One of the first documented uses of cold-formed steel as a building material is the Virginia Baptist Hospital , constructed around 1925 in Lynchburg, Virginia. The walls were load bearing masonry, but the floor system was framed with double back-to-back cold-formed steel lipped channels. According to Chuck Greene, P.E of Nolen Frisa Associates , the joists were adequate to carry the initial loads and spans, based on current analysis techniques. Greene engineered a recent renovation to the structure and said that for the most part, the joists are still performing well. A site observation during this renovation confirmed that “these joists from the ‘roaring twenties’ are still supporting loads, over 80 years later!” In the 1940s, Lustron Homes built and sold almost 2500 steel-framed homes, with the framing, finishes, cabinets and furniture made from cold-formed steel.


History of AISI design standards

Design standards for hot-rolled steel (see structural steel) were adopted in 1930s, but were not applicable to cold–formed sections because of their relatively thin steel walls which were susceptible to buckling. Cold-formed steel members maintain a constant thickness around their cross-section, whereas hot-rolled shapes typically exhibit tapering or fillets. Cold-formed steel allowed for shapes which differed greatly from the classical hot-rolled shapes. The material was easily workable; it could be deformed into many possible shapes. Even a small change in the geometry created significant changes in the strength characteristics of the section. It was necessary to establish some minimum requirements and laws to control the buckling and strength characteristics. Also it was observed that the thin walls underwent local buckling under small loads in some sections and that these elements were then capable of carrying higher loads even after local buckling of the members.

In the United States, the first edition of the Specification for the Design of Light Gage Steel Structural Members was published by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) in 1946 (AISI, 1946). The first Allowable Stress Design (ASD) Specification was based on the research work sponsored by AISI at Cornell University under the direction of late Professor George Winter  since 1939. As a result of this work, George Winter is now considered the grandfather of cold-formed steel design. The ASD Specification was subsequently revised in 1956, 1960, 1962, 1968, 1980, and 1986 to reflect the technical developments and the results of continued research at Cornell and other universities (Yu et al., 1996).In 1991, AISI published the first edition of the Load and Resistance Factor Design Specification developed at University of Missouri of Rolla and Washington University under the directions of Wei-Wen Yu and Theodore V. Galambos (AISI, 1991). Both ASD and LRFD Specifications were combined into a single specification in 1996 (AISI, 1996).

In 2001, the first edition of the North American Specification for the Design of Cold-Formed Steel Structural Members was developed by a joint effort of the AISI Committee on Specifications, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Technical Committee on Cold-Formed Steel Structural Members, and Camara Nacional de la Industria del Hierro y del Acero (CANACERO) in Mexico (AISI, 2001).It included the ASD and LRFD methods for the United States and Mexico together with the Limit States Design (LSD) method for Canada. This North American Specification has been accredited by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) as an ANSI Standard to supersede the 1996 AISI Specification and the 1994 CSA Standard. Following the successful use of the 2001 edition of the North American Specification for six years, it was revised and expanded in 2007.

This updated specification includes new and revised design provisions with the additions of the Direct Strength Method in Appendix 1 and the Second-Order Analysis of structural systems in Appendix 2.

In addition to the AISI specifications, the American Iron and Steel Institute has also published commentaries on various editions of the specifications, design manuals, framing design standards, various design guides, and design aids for using cold-formed steel. For details, see AISI website.


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