Light steel framing: Third-party assessment schemes from SCI

The Steel Construction Institute has played a key role in the development and certification of light steel framing in the UK for over 20 years

The role that offsite construction solutions can play in solving our national need for more housing is clear to all. While there have been previous false dawns, this time looks different because while aspirations will always be susceptible to falling by the wayside under pressure from other drivers, we cannot change the reality of an ageing workforce. Different, less labour-intensive ways of building are needed, that also deliver the productivity, speed and quality goals set by government.

Light Steel Framing Group

SCI’s journey with light steel framing began in the early 1990s. The Light Steel Framing Group (LSFG) was formed with the aim of bringing together parties from across the supply chain so that British Steel could understand needs and fund SCI and others to develop solutions that would help assure the quality of light steel framing. A range of design guides was produced, aimed at both architects and engineers, and covering key technical aspects including structure, acoustics, durability and fire.

More recently, the LSFG morphed into the Light Steel Forum Membership of the forum is limited to manufacturers, who fund the group and its activities, which they direct through quarterly steering group meetings. The emphasis remains on producing generic technical information to help inform and convince specifiers, and ensure things are done properly

As well as developing generic guidance, SCI has a long history of providing third-party assurance for proprietary light gauge steel products. While some may feel aggrieved that Modern Methods of Construction sometimes have to satisfy more onerous demands than traditional forms, we recognise this as perfectly reasonable given the shorter track record to rely on. The SCI light gauge accreditation scheme was developed to complement guidance and go hand-in-hand with a desire to ensure light gauge steel solutions were high quality. In a sector where the cost of entry is relatively low, British Steel was well aware of the reputational damage that could be done to the sector by some poor practice.

This scheme evolved into the SCI Assessed scheme, which is much broader and has the flexibility to cover things as diverse as a manufacturer’s engineering methodology to load-span tables. While SCI Assessed continues, we are now offering a third-party Product Certification scheme to meet market needs.

SCI Product Certification

Our Product Certificates cover not only technical content, be that concerning structure, acoustics or fire, but also factory production control to provide assurance that a certified product is, and does, what is claimed. The current scope of certification includes:

·        Roofing and cladding.

·        External wall systems (infill).

·        Light steel framing systems.

·        Modular building units.

We are aware of frustrations felt by specifiers that the scope of a third-party certificate is not always clear. They do not want to have to read the small print before having assurance that a product will do what they want it to do, or being able to fairly compare different products.

For each of the groups listed above, we have a separate Technical Scheme Document that clearly defines the scope of what we will assess and how we will assess it. This ensures that different certificates within a family are immediately comparable – a given certificate may not cover everything (scope is a function of what the certificate holder supplies) but any gaps will be clearly stated on the certificate.

We have also put considerable effort into ensuring that the information and evidence that we require and will accept reflects what is done in practice – for example, we state no preference between designs to the Eurocodes and earlier British Standards, as we know both are still used and indeed both are allowed by the Building Regulations.

There is far too much talk about innovation and disruptive solutions. We don’t want ‘different’ for the sake of it, we want continuous improvement. Sometimes that improvement will come through a significant change, an innovation, and we need third-party certification schemes, such as that offered by SCI, to ensure that the benefits are achieved without paying an unforeseen price. We also need to ensure that such schemes do not stifle innovation.

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