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What Steel Framing Offers Builders: Chatting with MODNframe’s Bruce Wolfe

“This product is changing builders’ minds every day. I got into steel framing thirteen years ago – and it changed my whole perspective overnight.” - Bruce Wolfe, MODNframe Upper North Island

Bruce Wolfe has been a builder for 43 years, and anyone who meets Bruce can see his passion for the Kiwi building industry. He believes in embracing smarter solutions that help save time and costs for builders and home owners.

After discovering the benefits of switching to steel framing as a builder, Bruce wanted to expand the resources available within New Zealand for light gauge steel framing. As an expert in both the New Zealand building industry and in cold form steel production, Bruce is thrilled to be operating as MODNframe’s Upper North Island manufacturer.

We sat down with Bruce to hear more about what initially brought him towards steel framing solutions, and what other builders should know about making the transition.

As a builder, what inspired you to start using steel framing in place of timber?

It all started when I was finalising designs for ten houses in a subdivision. I got a call from a guy contracted to New Zealand Steel to introduce builders to steel framing – and he got me interested. I saw the potential to save a lot of time, and I liked that the product itself would offer a stronger, higher-quality frame for the client.

I told my architect and my team, “we’re going to try this out.” Bear in mind at the time, there wasn’t the same level of support as what we offer now, and it didn’t come with all the components back then.

They sent out a team to help us on the installation process, but the set out was almost identical to timber framing. The first house took some getting used to, but the second was amazing, saving us so much time. Our team absolutely loved using the steel framing. It made a huge difference for us, and we never went back.

What are the biggest challenges with installing steel framing?

The key with steel framing is that you don’t want to have to adjust too much on site. The real time-saving part of using steel is that all the pieces arrive in panel form ready to go, no random supplied or cutting on site was necessary.

Other builders who may have tried steel framing in the past might remember you used to have to do some cutting – but now, it’s a much more streamlined process. The way it works with MODNframe is we actually send the frames and all the components perfectly to size. Plus, the pieces are all lighter than wood (up to 70% lighter depending on the panel configuration), so they’re easier to move around.

Compared to timber, making revisions looks a little different. If there’s an alteration, builders come back to us – the manufacturers – and we send out a new panel to simply replace. This is a very quick turnaround, just a matter of days in most cases, because the manufacturing process is so efficient. All in all, it still saves heaps of time for builders.

How did you end up manufacturing steel framing?

The supplier that I had thirteen years ago eventually went away. But we loved working with steel – and I actually had people contacting me because I was one of the few builders at the time using steel framing – so we decided to look into manufacturing it ourselves.

We put a lot of work into developing the manufacturing systems to support the building process. That’s why we made sure to handle the sizing of the frames before they end up on site. Because we evolved from building ourselves, we knew how to communicate between engineers, owners and site managers. The MODNframe system is designed to work well in practice for builders – and I think that sets us apart.

What does MODNframe offer for New Zealand builders?

MODNframe is going to be an absolute game changer. It’s a nationwide distributor, so they’re connecting people like me who have been working in steel framing for years, to offer an innovative, top-quality product to builders and home owners across the entire country.

This is the first company in New Zealand that can offer cold formed steel framing for residential and light commercial builds at this size and breadth. Already, we’re seeing so much more awareness and interest in residential steel framing. The more product that goes out, the more people are catching on, and wanting to know more.

How do you see the future of residential and steel framing for New Zealand?

Steel framing is revolutionising this industry for builders when it comes to standardisation. If you can offer standard plans for consumers, they know exactly what they’re buying, and they get better value. As builders, having quicker standardised systems will help us produce more housing with less effort.

As a builder, I understand the reluctance to try a new product. We do get questions and concerns about whether there will be a steep learning curve, or if their plumbers and electricians will have issues. But what we keep seeing is that steel framing is very easy to install on site, and that once builders try it, they never want to go back to timber. I love seeing how excited builders become when they discover this product. You can tell that this is really helping them do their job better.

I think steel framing is going to eventually become the new norm for residential and light commercial builds as it is in Australia. And the result is going to be stronger, longer-lasting homes, built more efficiently.

MODNframe uses light gauge steel to deliver superior, precision engineered frames providing longer-lasting protection for residential and light commercial structures – and of course, cutting down on time and labour costs for building companies.

Connect with the MODNframe team to learn what steel framing could mean for your next build.