As developers and architects became better educated on the design simplicity and economical construction of load-bearing mid-rise buildings, the popularity of steel stud construction specifically designed to address their needs exploded.

With the need to find new construction techniques that would allow mid-rise buildings of four to eight stories to be built with decreased labor costs and faster construction times, the concept of utilizing metal studs as the primary load-bearing members was born.

As load-bearing cold-formed steel construction became more popular, framing contractors associated with projects expanded their scope of work and increased the dollar value for each project. In fact, this increased scope of work continues to be so well received that many framers have modified their business models to promote and explicitly solicit mid-rise load-bearing projects, equating it to increased revenue and profits.

As additional contractors become interested in learning more about the benefits of load-bearing mid-rise projects, accurate information has become paramount necessitating a review of the basic ideas and methodologically associated with this type of construction.

The ideal project types for mid-rise load-bearing metal stud construction include hotels, dormitories, barracks, assisted living facilities and multi-family residential dwellings.

These structures typically have the repeating floor plan, which is essential to load-bearing construction. (Load-bearing metal studs need to be inline and the lateral bracing, or shear walls, stacked vertically to transfer loads directly to the foundation.)

Design teams have become cognizant of the advantages of using metal studs as the primary load-bearing members in mid-rise buildings, with their construction documents clearly exhibiting a marked increase in this as the preferred method of construction.


The advantages of metal studs vary depending on differing scenarios associated with a building’s design and its construction requirements. Historically, when framing costs alone are considered, wood construction is very appealing, as wood construction has advantages related directly to price. When developers consider value along with cost and construction time, metal studs become the more competitive method of construction.

Universities, military and government agencies, as well as quality conscience developers now require more sustainable structures that are also environmentally friendly. Load-bearing metal stud construction clearly meets these evolving requirements. Load-bearing metal structures are not subject to moisture, pests or most mold issues, and because metal studs are homogeneous, the limitations that designers have faced with wood structures are eliminated. Additionally, projects of ten stories and higher are now being designed using load-bearing metal studs as the gravity systems , providing more options on some projects that were once structural steel or reinforced concrete.

Although the steel industry continues to be a supplier in transferring the design and construction of structures away from wood, structural steel and concrete to load-bearing metal studs, all parties associated with the project can benefit from this building technology:

The developer has a building delivered more quickly and usually with less expense than with structural steel or concrete.

The architectural team has a satisfied customer who is likely to return for repeat business

The engineering team is now creating structures, which fully utilize the latest building technology emphasizing very high strength to weight ratios.

The general contractor can typically remove or reduce the use of masonry and structural steel subcontractors leading to less required trade coordination.

The framing subcontractor becomes the primary subcontractor and many times installs not only the structure but also the partition framing and drywall. Once the framing contractor is done: the structure is dried in, all interior and exterior sheathings are installed, and the partition framing with drywall is installed. The subcontractor now has an amplified role in the project and is in position to increase the scope of work typically supplied by the framer.

The metal stud industry has solid support from various stud manufacturers, including design and construction services. These services can range greatly depending on the manufacturer. A proven concept is to educate all stakeholders in a project of the potential advances of using load-bearing metal studs as the primary structural skeleton. To this end discussions with the developers, education of the design team, and project support for the construction group have proven to be successful tools. Letting the project specifics regulate items such as the floor system or lateral bracing system allows a project the opportunity to be fully optimized. In addition, the use of independent specialty shop drawers can offer even further merit to the project.

When a design engineer is tasked with producing the most efficient building possible, the structure is typically lighter, easier to construct and offers greater value to the developer. A similar theory would relate to subcontractors erecting the load-bearing metal studs. Allowing competition to take place between framers not only educates the framers on the advantages of load-bearing metal studs but allows the general contractor to realize the cost savings of the system. Limiting any portion of the design or construction can limit the value or savings associated with the structural system.


Manufacturers are actively expanding the use of metal studs as a viable design option for many building types. The industry is committed to educating the developers on all benefits of the system, consulting with the design team on technical issues, and offering direct onsite assistance to both the general and framing contractor. The Steel Network promotes the use of conventional framing contractors and independent shop drawing engineers and dedicates countless hours to educating the design and construction team on the benefits and procedures associated with load-bearing stud construction. Because of this, the steel framing industry has developed a variety of widely accepted tools to help promote the use of cold-formed steel through the industry. W&C