Students Learn Commercial-Style Steel Framing
New skills prepare students to be more versatile
My brother Bruce and I got to work again with the construction students from Warwick Area Career Tech Center (WACTC) and their teacher Mike Haynes in November and December helping our friend and former Fine Homebuilding contributing editor Rick Arnold on a commercial project. One of the objectives of the construction CTE program is to give students hands-on experience in a variety the subtrades from concrete work to cabinetmaking.
Generally the program focuses on residential construction but commercial construction experience recently became part of a state requirement. The core skills that student learn and practice – plan reading, measuring, layout, tool handling, workflow planning, and problem solving – are the same whether building out of wood or steel.
On Rick’s job the students worked with non-structural 20 ga studs and track to build partition walls and 16 ga structural studs to frame structural walls, light gage built-up steel beams and floor systems. They also set fire-rated drywall frame style steel jambs for doors at the frame stage and installed drop ceiling grid. They traded carpenter pencils for felt-tip markers; wood-cutting carbide blades for metal-cutting carbide blades and metal snips; and framing nailers for drill-drivers and self-drilling screws. And they learned how to use new tools and equipment like powder-actuated tools to shoot track into concrete floor slabs, steel I beams and steel columns, and personel lifts to reach 25 ft. tall ceilings.
Even though steel framing is mostly seen in commercial construction it can also be used in residential construction. One of the issues holding contractors back from using steel framing that Scott Gibson points out in his article “What About Steel in Home Constuction“ in the Dec/Jan ’18 issue of FHB is worker comfort-level. Homes have been built out of wood for so long that changing to steel framing doesn’t just meet resistance from contractors but also from residential framers, plumbers, drywall hangers, electricians and more. Hopefully when the WACTC students encounter steel framing in the future – whether they focus on commercial construction or residential in their careers – they dive right in because their familiar with the process.
The electric students from WACTC and their teacher John Valletta followed right behind the construction students wiring the new offices. They pulled miles of MC cable, mounted steel boxes to the studs and cut them in. The owner of the of the electrical company doing most of the wiring on the job commented on the quality of the workmanship the students exhibited. When I took a few minutes to watch the electric students work they looked like a professional crew.