Pre-fabricated, structural cold-formed metal framing (CFMF) bearing walls are a trending construction system and an economical alternative to structural steel or reinforced concrete systems for mid-rise construction. CFMF wall systems are particularly desirable for 6- to 12-story multi-family apartments or condominiums, student housing, senior living, and hotels. Vertically-aligned residential demising and partition walls allow the CFMF to stack like timber-framed or concrete masonry unit (CMU) bearing wall construction. However, CFMF wall buildings are less height restrictive than timber due to steel’s higher strength and not as labor-intensive as CMU because of pre-fabrication. Additionally, CFMF systems integrate wall panels as the structural system in what would typically be non-structural, stick-built partition walls.
The prevalence of CFMF wall panel systems comes with design and construction challenges. Delegated design integration, trade coordination in a traditionally non-structural element, and fire-resistive detailing are among the challenges for this system. This article summarizes the CFMF system layout process, design and specification options, and considerations that may be overlooked in initial planning and pricing.