Florida: the land of sunshine, gators, sandy beaches, margaritas and concrete masonry units. The state of Florida was built on masonry or concrete construction. The Miami towers are precast concrete with stucco, the homes are masonry with stucco. Steel framing was almost unheard of and structural steel, forget about it. But that is changing and changing as fast as a hurricane can blow in from Cuba.

The Village of Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Park is a perfect example of the change sweeping across Florida. Now jackpot winners have a place where they can race to spend whatever their profits are at new retail units or restaurants. This project, slated to open in 2009, will be an expansion to the already existing thoroughbred racetrack and casino in this fast paced southern Florida city. 

With a total of 475,956 square feet in new construction, there is 379,855 square feet of total lease space that will eventually be home to several retail, restaurant and condo units. The park has eight separate buildings. Four of these are one story and four are two stories. All of these units surround the existing casino and racetrack. The project broke ground in August 2007 and is estimated to be complete by October 2009. The park is quite enormous and is hoped to stimulate what some critics have called a very relaxed attendance at the existing tracks and casino.

“The Village at Gulfstream Park is the first lifestyle center in the country built in conjunction with one of America’s premier racing and Vegas-style gaming facilities,” says Joe Natella, project manager and employee with Forest City Enterprise, the general contractor. “The total project size after all phases are complete will be approximately 3,500,000 square feet, with 1,500 condo units, a 2,500-seat cinema and 500 hotel rooms. The project will cater to the fashion, image, lifestyle attitudes and culture of sophisticated South Florida residents and domestic and international travelers.”

“The city of Hallandale has special requirements they make us follow but they really are just common sense things you would normally do to prepare for high wind and rain conditions,” says Natella.

While a few years ago the project would have certainly been concrete or masonry construction, structural steel framing is speeding up the construction process, making thinner walls to increase usable square footage and saving big money for the owners. Challenges for building in Florida were evident from the start.

“We originally had planned to wrap the skins with gypsum sheathing but had to change to plywood in order to meet the impact requirements for a building in the 140 mph wind zone,” Natella says.

Banner Supply, a distributor located in Miami, provided the materials for this project, which included multiple sizes of studs and track with mil sizes ranging from 43 to 97 (18 to 12 gauge) steel framing from the Dietrich Metal Framing Structural Stud and Track line. The sheathing substrate selected was a fire-rated plywood with Tyvek Stucco wrap as the concealed water resistant barrier.  CEMEX Stucco, zinc and Fry Reglet trims and decorative reveals were integrated with the plaster to provide the needed and desired breaks that are not common with concrete construction. The building will receive BASF Acrocrete Finish systems for additional water and abuse resistance.

Phase One will consist of 75,000 square feet of office space and 375,000 square feet of lifestyle, retail, restaurant, and entertainment facilities. The Dietrich cold-formed metal stud framing, site fabricated trusses, DensGlass Gold, gypsum panels, insulation and attractive articulated stucco is a designer’s dream.

This fast track 450,000 square feet project will be completed in approximately eight months, certainly not possible with concrete as cure times slow the project schedule.


“In south Florida, you don’t see much heavy gauge exterior framing,” says Michael Dunn, general superintendent of United Drywall Group, a firm that works all over the U.S. and is headquartered in Atlanta. “From what I have been told, this is one of the biggest structural metal framing projects in southwest Florida.”

The newly constructed buildings of structural steel studs and stucco façade are raising eyebrows in Florida.  To add to the novelty, rather than traditional platform framing, balloon framing was used on all of the buildings, says Natella, and required some studs to be in excess of 50 feet long. Some of the parapets are 20-plus feet above the roof with sections of hip roofs at each building. There is an enormous amount of framing required in each building and adding arches and column bump-outs made it more complicated, he says. Several of the two story buildings have covered walkways around the second floor and beautifully detailed soffit and cornice work throughout the project.   

By Dunn’s estimation, approximately 30 semi loads of Dietrich Metal Framing’s Structural Stud and Track products, as well as Fast Top Clips to provide deflection have already been delivered to the job site.

United Drywall rented 40 units of aerial work platforms, including scissor lifts, hydraulic booms and telehandlers. The contractor has approximately 150 workers on the site right now and the number may grow.

“Florida is one of the toughest states to build in the country. Their permit process is very time consuming and they require special inspections for most of the work along with city inspections. Having to deal with the environment and the city makes working here very difficult,” says Natella.

The outer skin will be cement stucco with precast stone wainscot and trim. Extremely large foam shapes were used for the cornice work and some glass fiber reinforced concrete will be used at column wraps. Stairs in the units will have stone and tile, and approximately 175,000 square feet of pavers were used for walks along with colored concrete and stamped concrete.

United Drywall began the project last November and is scheduled to complete the job in late fall. As of press time, the subcontractor was near completion of the metal framing and about to begin work on the interior.

So, while Florida with its hurricanes, heavy rains and humidity was certainly built on concrete, metal framing and in particular load-bearing steel framing is taking the state by storm. W&C

Walls & Ceilings Editorial Director Mark Fowler assisted with this article.