At one point in time, that used to be enough proof that you knew what you were doing. But the world has changed, and continues to change, at a breakneck pace.
New technologies that enable better planning and process controls have materially increased the speed, quality, and cost efficiency of the final product. This has created an expectation of continuous improvement in a cycle that feeds on itself.
The market for steel framing has also evolved. Still the king of the non-loadbearing market in commercial construction, steel framing is increasingly found in very demanding structural applications—a trend that is only bound to continue.
Tighter municipal budgets also mean that fewer building departments are willing to make judgements about whether complex designs and unfamiliar materials meet the building performance requirements, and instead are requiring proof.
And, believe me, having some proof that you’re paying attention to quality and qualifications can be helpful in a country that is home to 80 percent of the world’s lawyers.
The convergence of these factors has undoubtably contributed to the rise in the number of certification programs for products, installers, contractors, and companies that provide services to the construction industry.
While there are dozens of options for continuing education and certification for construction professionals, it’s only been with the recent addition of the Contractor Certification and Truss Fabricator Certification program that there’s been a credential that’s open to all cold-formed steel specialty contractors.
“In the building community, there’s a staggering amount of information that has to be processed very quickly,” says Travis Vap, president of South Valley Drywall, and the first company to earn the SFIA Certified Contractor designation. “Code officials have thousands of pages of plans to review, and general contractors have to vet dozens of specialty contractors. Anything you have that shows you’re an expert in your field helps you get your foot in the door.”
Ronsco Inc. is the latest company to become an SFIA certified contractor and President Lee Zaretzky adds that, “With all the confusion out in the marketplace, SFIA Certification sends the message to the GCs and owners that we’re one less thing to worry about.”
The SFIA Contractor Certification program is the latest build-out of the organization’s effort to provide members with a way to respond to the ever-growing pressure to provide third-party recognition of expertise and joins other SFIA programs that certify cold-formed steel studs, track, and connectors that comply with codes and standards.
Certified SFIA contractors receive recognition for continuous improvement, education, training, and quality control systems—all of which are independently verified via a written test and rigorous third-party observation of CFS installation techniques. Certification is available for both structural and non-structural CFS construction, as well as the new Truss Fabricator certification.
The basic knowledge exam for the certification is the only portion of the program that involves testing. The multiple-choice question exam is open book, however it is highly recommended that applicants obtain and familiarize themselves with the study guide and exam materials.
At least one individual must be under the employment of the certified company at all times to maintain the company’s certification status. Continuing education requirements can be met through attending a variety of educational programs by organizations that offer certificates of attendance that can be used.
Beyond the independent validation of expertise, Travis Vap is also quick to point to other very important reasons why South Valley pursued certification. “Certification makes the statement that we’re committed to building to the highest standards in our industry and committed to continuous education.”
Lee Zaretzky also sees the certification as being an important part of his company’s future. “We’re professionals and we take this business very seriously,” he says. “We don’t just build things. Our objective is to set the standard in all our endeavors.” He adds that the testing process is a great refresher that can help keep staff up on the latest requirements in the code. “Even though it’s not required for the company’s certification, I’m going to have all of my employees take this test.”
One of the most important aspects of the certification process is the third-party review of construction methods, which is conducted to licensed professionals. “It helps us make sure that we’re doing things right and holds us accountable to ourselves, our clients and our industry,” says Vap.
Keep Up With Demand
Looking over the horizon, certification also helps the industry mature and keep pace with the trends and pace of development that are pulsing through the industry. To manage the enormous technological and institutional transformation underway, the architecture, engineering and construction industry is embracing new modes of information sharing and adopting emerging and fast-growing concepts such as BIM, sustainability, collaboration and related technologies.
One specific example is the steady growth in the adoption of an AEC review process, which includes collaborative reviews of architectural drawings, cost estimates, and submittals. “The SFIA program helps us get ahead of this type of review and gives us a seat at the table to make sure we’re part of the conversation as it develops,” says Vap.
The ultimate result of the SFIA Contractor Certification program is to help the cold-formed steel framing industry to continue to grow and mature. “There are always good companies out there in pursuit of high standards of performance, and this program is helping build a strong network of peers that will move the industry ahead,” says Vap. “Becoming SFIA Certified is a choice to be a part of where our industry is going and be a leader in our industry. This is a great profession and we’re committed to make this even better than when we got here.”
To learn more about the SFIA Contractor Certification program and the Truss Fabricator Certification program, visit: SFIACert.org.