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The free encyclopedia for UK steel construction information

Residential and mixed-use buildings


The use of steel in the housing and residential building sector has grown in recent years primarily because of the
growing appreciation of the performance benefits that arise from the offsite nature of the construction process, which
is particularly important in urban or mixed-use buildings. Offsite steel construction technologies improve the final
quality of the building and its speed of construction.
Steel is also a lightweight construction system which minimises loads on the foundations, and therefore saves on substructure costs, which can be important on brownfield or infill sites or for building extensions.
The main market for steel in this sector is in multi-storey residential buildings, and particularly buildings of mixed-use,
where the lower levels are for commercial use or, in some cases, for basement car parking. For mixed-use buildings,
the compatibility of floor grids between the commercial, car parking and residential levels is a key factor in the design
solution and is more easily achieved using steel construction. Modular or volumetric construction has also achieved a
high market share in the construction of student residences and hotels, where an economy of scale in manufacture of
the modules can be achieved.
A variety of steel building technologies may be used in this sector, including structural steel frames, Infill walling, floor
decking, lightweight faade and roofing systems, and modular systems. There is a strong supply chain for delivery of
these technologies into the residential building market.

Bourbon Lane Housing,


London

Park House, London

Riverlights, Derby

The Cube, Birmingham

Waterfront South, Walsall

Ducie Court, Manchester

NEO Bankside, London


(Video case study)

Trinity Square,
Gateshead

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University of Stirling
Residences

Hallsville Quarter Phase


1, Canning Town,
London

Red Bridge House,


Crowborough

Kew House, Richmond

Weathering Steel H
ouse, Putney

Student Accommodation,
Newcastle-upon-Tyne

University of Salford
student accommodation

Attributes of steel construction


Main article: The case for steel

Three storey housing using light steel framing, Basingstoke

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The housing and residential sector demands buildings that are energy efficient, rapid to construct and of high quality.
Steel and composite construction has achieved a significant market share in the medium-rise residential sector in the
UK because of the need to build quickly, particularly in urban projects. The construction process is improved, is faster
and disturbance is reduced through the use of off-site manufactured steel components.
A variety of steelbased technologies may be used cost effectively in this sector, depending on the scale of the
building, as follows:
Light steel framing for housing and medium-rise residential buildings.
Structural steel frames supporting either composite floor slabs or precast concrete units. This also includes
Shallow floor systems
Non-load bearing light steel infill and separating walls within steel or concrete structures
Modular construction using fully finished 3-D units that are structurally stable as a group and can form whole
buildings or parts of buildings.
The main market for steel is in multi-storey residential buildings for which its attributes of offsite manufacture, speed of
construction, and light weight are maximised. This is important in large urban projects in tight infill locations or in mixeduse buildings, for example when residential units are built over a retail or commercial area. A good example of this
mixed-use is in the design of modern supermarkets in urban areas, which for planning approval, often combine some
residential or public use. The long span of the supermarket at ground floor level means that the upper residential levels
are supported on the roof of the supermarket. Therefore reduction of loading, and achieving the required acoustic
attenuation and fire resistance are key design issues affecting the design solution, which are solved by use of steel
construction technologies.

15-storey student residence using light steel infill walls, Southampton

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Similarly, when a residential building is constructed over a car park, the column on the upper levels must take into
account the efficient use of the car parking space below. This dictates the column positions as a multiple of the car
park spaces, e.g. typically 5 to 5.4m and 7.5 to 8m spacing. One technique is to use Square Hollow Sections (SHS) as
columns that can be designed to fit within the width of light steel separating walls in the upper residential levels.
The highest level of pre-fabrication is achieved when using modular steel systems, which have achieved a strong
market share in the student residence and hotel sectors where there is an economic imperative to build fast. In the
case of student residences, often the land on a university site is only released for building at the end of one academic
year and the building has to be available for student accommodation at the start of the following academic year, i.e. a
window of just 14 months. This dictates the whole procurement and construction process.
Similarly, in hotels, the client related benefits of speed of construction can be quantified and each month of early
occupancy can be equivalent to 1% of the build cost. Many hotels are built using modular construction systems where
considerable economies can be achieved by economy of scale in the manufacturing process.
An example of this is the Aspire programme which delivered high quality accommodation for military personnel using
light steel modular construction. An example of this type of modular building for military accommodation is shown.

Military accommodation using modular construction


(Image courtesy of Rollalong)

In housing, the benefits of steel construction are related to reduced cash flow and early completion of the show house
and the early phases of the project, which therefore encourages sale of the later phases. The BRE SmartLife study[1]
investigated four house building systems (light steel, timber, concrete and block-work) on three different sites in
Cambridgeshire. The results showed that light steel systems were the fastest to construct, and had the highest site
productivity and created the least waste.
The benefits of steel in residential and mixed use buildings are summarised as follows:
Speed of construction
All steel construction uses pre-fabricated components that are rapidly installed on site. Short construction periods
leads to savings in site preliminaries, earlier return on investment and reduced interest charges. Speed of construction
in urban residential projects is important to minimise disturbance to adjoining properties.

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Flexibility and adaptability
Steel-framed systems using infill and separating walls are inherently flexible in terms of their location on plan and can
be meet a variety of apartment layouts. They can be reconfigured in the future to meet new demands or even change
of use. Modular systems can be dismantled and moved, thereby maintaining the asset value of the building.
Light weight
Steel structures weigh less than half of an equivalent concrete structure and light steel framing or modular systems
weigh less than a quarter of a concrete structure, which saves on foundation costs, and on the supporting podium
costs in a mixed-use building.
Quality and safety
Offsite prefabrication improves quality by factory controlled production, and reduces dependency on site trades and
the weather. Working in a controlled, manufacturing environment is substantially safer than working on site. The use of
pre-fabricated components reduces site activity for frame construction by up to 75%, thereby substantially contributing
to overall construction safety.
Fire resistance
Fire safety during construction is an important consideration and one which has adversely affected timber framing.
Steel construction is inherently non-combustible and does not add to the fire load.
Environmental benefits
Many of the intrinsic properties of steel usage in construction have significant environmental benefits. For example, the
steel structure is 100% recyclable, repeatedly and without any degradation; the speed of construction and reduced
disruption of the site gives local environmental benefits.

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Economic benefits of steel construction in residential buildings
Factor

Improvement

Economic benefit

Speed of construction

20 to 40% reduction in construction


time relative to site-intensive
construction, depending on the
scale of the project

The economic benefit depends on


the type of project- for example, a
student residence has to be
delivered often within one
academic year. For residential
buildings, an individual apartment
cannot be occupied until the
building is complete and so there is
an imperative for speed of
construction in terms of cash flow

Site management costs

Site management costs are


reduced because of the shorter
construction period

Site management costs can be


reduced by 20 to 30% which can
lead to a 3 to 4% saving in terms of
overall building cost

Minimum floor to floor height

Shallow floor systems systems


have been developed to minimise
the overall floor zone to as little as
400mm including a resilient floor
covering and ceiling

A 5% reduction in floor to floor


height can lead to one additional
floor in 20, and to a similar
reduction in cladding cost, which is
equivalent to about 1% in total
building cost. Floor to floor height
often must conform to multiples of
brick dimensions e.g. 2850 mm

Foundations

Steel construction is less than half


the weight of an equivalent
concrete structure, which is
equivalent to a 30% reduction in
overall foundation loads

Foundation costs for residential


buildings represent 5 to 10% of the
building cost. A 30% reduction in
foundation loads can lead to a 1.5
to 3% overall saving in terms of
construction cost

Mixed-use buildings

Long span steel construction at the


podium level provides more flexible
use of space below, which depends
on the function of the building

The lightweight nature of the steel


structure of the upper residential
levels minimises the loads on the
podium level and therefore saves
on the cost of the podium structure

Types of residential buildings


In its simplest form, a single family house consists of one occupancy, whereas a residential building consists of
multiple occupancies, in which each apartment is on one level, although duplex apartment on two levels can also be
designed. The anatomy of a residential building is dependent on its size and location, and increasingly residential
buildings are designed as mixed use in combination with office or retail space and car parking on the lower levels.

Housing
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Energy efficient house constructed in South Wales using light steel framing

Housing may be in three basic forms; detached, semi-detached and terrace, generally in two or three storeys. In
terraced housing, floors generally span between party walls and roofs span between the front and rear faade walls.
Trimmers are required around stairs in order to support the floor. In semi-detached and detached housing, the span of
the floors depends on the plan form of the building. Floor spans of 3.5 to 5.5m are typical, which can be achieved using
a range of steel technologies.
Modern housing in urban areas often has a relatively small footprint so that there is a benefit in building to 3 storeys,
for example using a mansard type roof for habitable space. However, an important requirement of 3 storey housing is
the means of escape in fire, which requires that all doors to the stairs are self-closing and have 30 minutes fire
resistance.
In light steel systems, relatively large openings can be created for patio doors, etc. without requiring separate lintels,
which is required in blockwork walls. Curved roofs and usable roof space can also be designed. A high level of thermal
efficiency can be achieved by placing the majority of the insulation outside the light steel structure to create a warm
frame. U-values of less than 0.15W/m2K were achieved as in the project in South Wales (shown).

Residential buildings in suburban areas


In out-of-town or suburban areas, residential buildings are often smaller (typically 3 to 5 storeys) than in urban
projects, and are less constrained by the buildings around them. In this type and scale of project, the choice of facade
and roofing material has to match or blend in with nearby buildings.
Brickwork faade walls and tiled roofs are the preferred external materials in these types of buildings. These traditional
cladding materials may be supported by the internal steel structure so that the structural system is not apparent in
terms of the buildings appearance. Indeed, the steel structure can enhance the appearance by permitting use of
interesting features, such as large patio doors, mansard roofs, and projecting balconies.
Modular construction may also be used for town houses and residential buildings of all types. The project shown uses
groups of 2 and 3 modules to create each apartment of 60 to 80m2 floor area. The modules are clad in a variety of
materials and steel balconies are connected to the modules.

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3 and 4 storey housing using modular construction, Twickenham


(Image courtesy of Futureform)

Residential buildings in urban areas


In urban areas, residential buildings are often complex in form in that they are often designed to fit in tight infill sites or
to replace existing buildings. The nature of urban projects is also that the urban street scape has to be part of the
architectural concept. Also, many sites are next to busy roads and railway lines and so questions of isolation to
external noise and vibration are important design issues.

Harlequin Court , Covent Garden Curved faade attached to shallow floor construction

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The important design requirements for urban residential buildings are:


Structural systems that can accommodate a variable plan form and avoids obstructions or existing services in
the ground
Light weight construction systems to minimise ground works
Fast construction systems with minimum disturbance to the neighbouring buildings
Variety of architectural treatments, such as curved facades and roofs, and creation of private space by
balconies, etc.
Minimum floor-to-floor height to keep within planning limits for overall building height
Street-scape created by ground floor retail units with a compatible structural grid to the residential levels above
Safe access and use of lifts and other public space.

Apartments built using modular construction, Dublin


(Image courtesy of Vision Modular Systems)

Good examples of the use of steel in urban residential projects are shown. The nature of this type of building is that
floor spans are in the range of 5 to 7m, and allow for flexibility in the positioning of internal walls to optimise on the
layout of the apartments. Because of this, steel shallow floor systems have proved popular because they provide a
floor depth of less than 400mm, and achieve excellent acoustic insulation and fire resistance. A project in central
London using a shallow floor system is shown.
Internal and external walls may use light steel and are movable to suit the clients and users demands. This can be
important to housing associations who may wish to vary the accommodation that they offer depending on family sizes.
Modular construction is a good solution for urban residential projects, which require extremely fast, high quality
construction that is achieved by off-site manufacture. In this case, the architectural concept has to be such that the
repetitive use of modules of similar size can be used efficiently. A good example of a 5 to 8 storey modular residential
project in Dublin is shown.
SCI P328 gives case studies on residential buildings using steel.

Mixed-use residential buildings

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Residential building over commercial levels supported by inclined tubular columns, Manchester

In urban projects, there is often a need to combine various uses in one building for example:
Retail space at ground floor
Office space on the lower floors
Car parking at basement or ground floor
Residential units on the upper floors
Roof-top penthouses or public space.
The design issues associated with mixed-use buildings are;
A structural grid that is compatible with the uses on the different floor levels, particularly due to the car park
levels, or
A transfer structure that allows the columns or walls on the upper levels to be different from those below
Access to the upper levels that is independent to the lower public levels
Effective fire resistance and compartmentation given the different fire safety measures at the various levels
High level of acoustic insulation between the various occupancies
Different but visually compatible architectural treatment of the public spaces and the residential space.

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Design concept for mixed use urban residential building based on use of steel frames
(Image courtesy of HTA Architects)

The projects shown illustrate some of these issues. A steel transfer structure can be designed efficiently, and can be
part of the architectural concept. In this project in Deansgate, Manchester 16 residential floors of steel and glass are
supported on inclined tubular steel columns above a public concourse and commercial space.
A design study of a 5-storey residential building constructed over a ground floor retail or commercial space and with
below ground car parking is illustrated. The primary structure is steel frame using a shallow floor system with columns
arranged on a 7.5m spacing on the facades and at a spacing internally to suit the use of the car parking level. All infill
walls and separating used light steel C sections so that the space could be configured so suit the apartment layouts.

Student residences

Student residence in Sheffield using modular construction with communal space at ground floor
(Image courtesy of Unite Modular Solutions)

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Student residences have been built in large numbers to satisfy the burgeoning demand for student accommodation,
particularly in metropolitan Universities and Colleges. The nature of student residences is that en-suite study
bedrooms are normally of standard dimensions typically 2.7m wide x 6m long, and 5 or 6 rooms are served by a
communal kitchen. This group of rooms is generally treated as single occupancy from an acoustic separation and fire
compartmentation point of view. A double corridor is often provided so that the rooms on each side of the building are
separately accessed. This means that the overall building width is typically 15m.
The construction cycle for student residential buildings is often only 12 to 14 months, i.e. June of one year to August of
the next. This requires a rapid construction programme often with the constraints of nearby buildings remaining in
operation during term time. A variety of steel construction technologies can be used in this sector, but the most rapid
technique is achieved by modular construction, which is up to 40% faster than traditional site-intensive construction
methods.
In common with other urban project, student residences often combine communal space and office space at ground
floor, which can mean that the upper levels use a different structural system to that below. A good example of this is
shown. In this and other similar projects, a podium level is created at first floor on which the modules are placed.

Hotels

Hotel constructed using modules with a steel rain screen facade system, Ashorne Hill
(Image courtesy of Ashorne Hill Management Centre)

For hotel projects, it is commercially imperative that they be built rapidly and to a high and repeatable quality. Typical
hotel rooms are 3 to 4m wide and 5 to 6m long and are built either side of a central corridor, so that the overall building
width is about 12 to 14m. The length of the wing of the building is dependent on safe mean of escape in fire, and
normally alternative fire exits are required at either end of the corridor.
A variety of steel construction systems may be used in hotels depending on the size and height. For 2 to 4 storey
hotels, modular systems have been popular, especially where standard room specifications can be manufactured offsite and can achieve economy of scale in production.
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A further feature of hotels in urban areas is that the ground floor is used for a restaurant and lobby and sometimes
retail outlets, so that the bedrooms on the upper levels are constructed on a ground floor podium similar to other mixeduse buildings.

Forms of construction
Main articles: Composite construction, Floor systems, Long-span beams, Infill walling, Modular construction
Various forms of steel construction may be used in housing and residential buildings, depending on their size and
complexity. These are described below;

Light steel framing


Light steel framing consists of C sections that are cold roll-formed from galvanised steel strip of 1.2 to 2.4mm
thickness. The C sections are placed at 400 or 600mm spacing to be compatible with plasterboard dimensions, and
are typically:
75, 100 or 150mm deep for load-bearing walls
150, 200, 250 or 300 mm deep for floor joists.
Light steel frame walls are manufactured as storey-high panels and 2.4 to 4m width and support the floors directly by
use a Z section over the wall. This is normally 2mm thick and also acts a lintel over openings. The walls can resist
vertical loads up to 100kN/m as a line load, typical of their use in a 7 storey building. The walls are braced to resist
horizontal loading, and bracing may be in the form of integral K or W bracing using C sections or X bracing using flat
strip.
Floor joists can be installed as individual sections or as part of a pre-fabricated floor cassette. Spans of 3.5 to 6m can
be designed with joists normally at 400mm spacing. Lattice joists may be used for longer spans.
Single span, simply supported floors consisting of 150mm deep composite floor slabs may also be carried by the light
steel walls, where a very thin floor is required. Such floors are supported by the Z section over the walls and spans of
up to 5m are possible. For the purposes of fire resistance, rebar is required in the deck trough.

Light steel floor joists in housing

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Light steel floor joists in


housing

Integral K- and Xbracing in light steel


walls
(Image courtesy of
Fusion Building
Systems)

Guidance on the design of light steel construction in


residential buildings is given in SCI P402.

Steel frames with light steel infill walls


A variety of structural steel systems may be used in
residential buildings. The structural system consists of
beams and columns on a regular grid on each floor, in
which the floor spans between the beams. The floor slab
may be in the form of in-situ concrete placed on steel
decking or alternatively precast concrete units. The
faade and internal walls comprise light steel infill and
separating walls and they allow the internal space to be
configured to meet the architectural requirements.
Further information on multi-storey residential buildings
using steel is available in SCI P329 and SCI P332.
Composite beam and composite floor slabs

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Steel framed residential building using steel decking'

Composite construction consists of downstand I-section


steel beams with shear connectors (studs) welded to the
top flange to enable the beam to act compositely with an
in-situ composite floor slab. In residential buildings, the
beams are usually chosen to be shallow (such as 203,
254 or 305 UC sections) so that the overall floor depth is
less than 500mm. The maximum span of these beams is
normally about 30 times their depth (therefore up to 9m),
which is within the range of application in residential
buildings.
Columns are often in the form of Square or Rectangular
Hollow Sections that fit within separating walls. Typical
sections are 100x100, 150x150, 200x100 or 200x150
SHS, depending on the wall width.
The composite slab comprises profiled steel decking of
various shapes that span 3 to 4m between secondary
beams. Composite floor slabs are typically 130 mm to
150mm deep in residential buildings, depending on the
deck height.
The profiled steel decking supports the wet weight of the
concrete and construction loading. Sufficient composite
action occurs between the decking and concrete so that
it is generally the construction condition that controls the
maximum spans that can be achieved. Where the
decking is propped during construction, longer spans
can be achieved but the span: depth ratio of the slab is
limited to about 28 so that the serviceability performance
of the floor is acceptable.

Steel beams and precast concrete slabs

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In the residential sector, precast concrete slabs are often
used, and they may be supported on steel beams that
align with the walls so that they do not project into the
room space. The precast concrete slabs may be
designed to act compositely with the steel beams and if
so, the steel beams must be at least 190mm wide to
provide support to the precast units and to allow
sufficient space around the shear connectors. Often UC
sections are used as the supporting beams to minimise
the overall floor depth. A typical use of precast concrete
slabs on a steel frame is shown.
Shallow floor systems

The USFB system


(Image courtesy of Kloeckner Westok)

Shallow floors offer a range of benefits such as


minimising the overall height of a building for a given
number of floors, or maximising the number of floors for a
given height of building. Additionally, a flat soffit is
achieved - there are none of the interruptions found with
downstand beams - which gives complete freedom for
the distribution of services below the floor. These
benefits should be considered in the context of a given
project to identify when they are most appropriate.
The shallowness of the floors is achieved by placing the
slabs and beams within the same zone. This is achieved
by using asymmetric steel beams with a wider bottom
than top flange, which enables the slab to sit on the
upper surface of the bottom flange with adequate
bearing, rather than the upper surface of the top flange
as found with downstand beams. The floor slab may be
in the form of a precast concrete slab or a composite slab
with metal decking (either shallow or deep decking may
be used). An added benefit is that some forms of shallow
floor construction inherently achieve composite
interaction between the beams and slab, thereby
enhancing structural efficiency.
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A number of shallow floor solutions are available,
including Ultra Shallow Floor Beams (USFB) from
Kloeckner Westok, and ArcelorMittal's Slim Floor.

USFB with precast


hollocore slabs
(Image courtesy of
Kloeckner Westok)

USFB with deep


decking
(Image courtesy of
Kloeckner Westok)

Kloeckner Westoks USFB system comprises a shallow


and asymmetric Westok cellular beam with
reinforcement placed through the cells to anchor the slab
to the beam. This simple detail provides a
straightforward and cost-effective disproportionate
collapse detail and is also used to resist torsion in the
final condition. For composite slabs with metal decking
the reinforcement is placed in the troughs of the metal
decking. With hollowcore slabs, the reinforcement is
placed in alternative cores of the precast unit. To restrain
the top-flange of the USFB in the Normal Stage, the
insitu concrete should be cast flush with or over the topflange, in which case a minimum cover of 30mm is
recommended.

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USFB cross-section
(Image courtesy of Kloeckner Westok)

The USFB is manufactured from standard rolled sections


, and is available in increments of 1mm depth. They are
typically 150-300mm deep and are sized and designed
using Westoks freely available Cellbeam software
package based on each individual project requirements
and floor grids etc. The software carries out all of the
necessary structural checks, including torsion checks in
the Construction Stage. USFBs can economically span
up to 10m with structural depths that compare very
favourably with R.C. flat slabs. As such, they are popular
in many sectors including Residential.
Plug Composite Action can be mobilised for USFBs,
which has been demonstrated using full-scale laboratory
testing, to further enhance the capacity of the section. To
mobilise Plug Composite Action, the following detailing
should be adopted:
Composite slabs with metal decking: Concrete
cast level with, or above, the top flange
Precast units generally: Minimum 50mm topping
level with, or above the top flange
Hollowcore units: Every 2nd core broken out and
filled with concrete and reinforced through the
cell
Solid in-situ slabs: Concrete cast level with (or
above) the top flange
Infill walling
In residential buildings, light steel walls are widely used,
both as infill walling at the facade and as internal
separating walls. A typical example of infill walling used
shallow floor construction is shown. For floor-to-floor
heights of up to 3m, the C sections are generally 100mm
deep and are placed at 600mm spacing. A variety of
cladding materials may be supported by the infill walls.
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Light steel infill walling in a residential building

Modular construction

Multi-storey modular residential building, West London


(Image courtesy of Caledonian Building Systems)

Modular construction consists of 3-D or volumetric units


that are generally of room size, and a group of modules
can be arranged to provide a stable building form.
Modules are typically 2.7 to 4m wide and 6 to 12m long,
and are designed to be load-bearing, either through their
side walls or through corner posts and edge beams.
They can be designed to resist horizontal loads for
buildings up to about 6 storeys high. For taller buildings,
an additional braced core or in some cases, a concrete
core is used to provide stability to the group of modules.
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The modules are tied together at their corners so that
loads can be transferred between them both in normal
conditions and in extreme cases of loss of support from
below (called structural integrity or robustness in the
Building Regulations).
The main feature of modular buildings is the economy
that results from the repetitive use of similar sized
elements, such as in hotels and student residences. The
corridors and circulation space is generally constructed
from planar elements, but large modules can also be
designed to incorporate a central corridor.

Mixed use of modules and steel framed construction

It is also possible to optimise the use of modular


construction in steel framed buildings by designing the
modules to incorporate only the highly serviced parts of
the building such as bathrooms and kitchens. Modules
can be supported by shallow UC or shallow floor beams
so that the overall floor depth is minimised. A typical plan
form of a mixed modular and steel framed structure is
shown.
More guidance on design using modular construction is
given in SCI P302.

Podium structures

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Podium structures can be designed in steel to support


another form of structure above. A podium is often known
as a transfer structure where the column grids above and
below are different. A good example of this is when a
residential building is located over commercial space or
car parking. The transfer structure is designed to support
the weight of the building above. Load bearing walls or
columns are positioned so that they are supported by the
steel beams of the transfer structure.
An example of a modular residential building for a
housing association is shown, in which the modules are
supported on a first floor podium with ground floor offices
below. The beams in the podium level align with the side
walls of the modules. The braced steel structure also
provides the access and circulation space and provides
stability to the upper levels. The modules are also
constructed with integral balconies.
Modular building

During construction
(Image courtesy of
Rollalong)

Completed building
(Image courtesy of East
Thames Housing
Association)

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For car parking below podium level, columns should


align with multiples of car park spaces, i.e. a multiple of
2.5 to 2.7m and in the other direction should be on a
4.5m, 7.5m and 4.5m grid. In some cases, a 16m clear
span supporting steel structure can be designed to
provide more flexible use of the space below. Long-span
cellular or fabricated beams may be used efficiently if the
residential levels above are sufficiently lightweight to be
supported by these beams. The beam depth may be
taken as typically span/20 or around 800mm for a 16m
span.
The most efficient use of podium type structures is in
mixed-use buildings with 4 to 6 levels of residential use
above 2 storeys of commercial use. The upper levels
should have a separate entrance area and means of
escape in fire, which often leads to use of multiple braced
steel or concrete cores, which can be designed to
provide stability to the super-structure.
Other functional requirements for podium structures are
fire resistance and structural integrity as key elements,
and distribution of services and pipes from the upper
levels. The long-span beams at podium level are often
perforated with large web openings to allow the services
to be distributed horizontally.

Key issues in the design of


residential buildings
Main articles: Cost of structural steelwork, Cost planning
through design stages, Sustainability

Procurement
Procurement in the residential building sector is generally
contractor or developer-led. An architect employed by
the developer would first prepare the scheme drawings
for planning approval, which would include the materials
to be used in the facade and roof but not necessarily in
the primary structure. For mediumrise buildings,
solutions in concrete, steel or timber would be equally
feasible at this stage of the scheme design.
Having gained planning approval on a scheme layout,
the detailed design would be carried out to the level
required for competitive tendering by a main contractor.
The chosen contractors tender would be based on a
form of construction that is most cost-effective for the
particular project and location, which would depend on
issues such as site logistics, availability of suitable subcontractors, minimum ground and temporary works, etc.

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Steel technologies would be considered strongly at this
stage because they are procured through specialist subcontractors with a proven track record, and are installed
rapidly on site with minimum contractual risk. The design
of the light steel structure is carried out by the specialist
supplier and coordinated with the overall building design.
The specialist supplier would generally carry out the site
installation.
A recent important innovation is that of Building
Information Management (BIM) systems in which the
design team, contractor and specialist suppliers share in
a common design and drawing system. Steel systems of
all types are designed and detailed by compatible
software that is used in the manufacturing process and
can be incorporated into the BIM system easily.

Building economics
The economics of private housing and residential
building is dependent on the market conditions and
saleability of the properties. Mixed-use buildings would
also include commercial space which would lead to
further income. In the social housing sector, housing
associations take a longer term view of the overall
building economics, which would include issues such as
maintenance, design life, and flexibility in use to meet
future housing needs.
The approximate breakdown of total build cost for a multistorey residential building is as follows:
Foundations 5 to 12%
Super-structure and floors 15 to 20%
Cladding and roofing 20 to 25%
Windows and doors 10 to 15%
Services (mechanical , electrical & lifts) 15 to
20%
Services (sanitation and water) 5 to 8%
Finishes and fitments 20 to 25%
Site management (preliminaries) 10 to 15%
Preliminaries represent the costs of the site management
and on-site facilities, including hire of cranes, storage
space and equipment. Site preliminaries can vary with
the scale of the project, and a figure of 15% of the total
cost is often allowed for site-intensive residential
construction reducing to 10% for projects involving
higher levels of off-site prefabrication, such as steel
construction. Further cost information is available here.

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Construction programme
Speed of construction is very important in housing and
residential buildings projects in order to reduce cash flow
and to minimise disturbance to the nearby properties.
The construction programme for a typical residential
building project is presented below:

Typical construction programme for a typical, medium


size residential building using steel framing

Sustainability
In the context of housing and residential buildings, the
principal sustainability issues to address include how to
minimise operational energy use, particularly in the
heating, and lighting systems and any specific planning
requirements for renewable energy systems.
Information on the sustainability of steel in housing and
residential buildings is available in SCI P370.
Guidance on the design of sustainable mixed-use
buildings is given in the Target Zero design guide on
mixed-use buildings.
Thermal performance
The thermal performance of residential buildings
depends on the strategies necessary to achieve the
Target Emissions Rate (TER) and the Target Fabric
Energy Efficiency (TFEE) set under Part L1A[2] of the
Building Regulations. The TER is expressed as the mass
of CO2 emitted in kilograms per square meter of floor
area per year. The TFEE rate, which is a target
introduced in 2013 for new dwellings only, is expressed
as the amount of energy demand in kilowatt-hours per
square metre of floor area per year. The TER and TFEE
rate for individual dwellings must be calculated using
SAP 2012.

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In light steel structures and infill walls, the required level
of thermal insulation is achieved by warm frame
construction in which the majority of insulation is placed
outside the steel elements, as shown for brick and
insulated render cladding. Mineral wool is also placed
between the C sections, but this is combined with 70 to
150mm of closed cell insulation board external to the
frame.
Typical

Brick wall attached to


light steel framing

Insulated render
attached to light steel
framing

The table shows the typical thickness of external


insulation in to achieve given U-values. Two types of
insulation board externally are considered; PIR
(Polyisocyanurate) closed cell insulation for brickwork
facades and PIR or EPS (Expanded Polystyrene)
insulation for insulated render facades.

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Typical external insulation thicknesses required to
achieve various levels of thermal performance in light
steel residential construction
Uvalu
e of
wall

Brickwork
facade

Insulated render
facade

PIR t
hick
ness
(mm)

Over
all
wall
dept
h
(mm)

PIR t
hick
ness
(mm)

EPS
thick
ness
(mm)

Over
all
wall
dept
h
(EPS
)
(mm)

0.25

50

315

50

60

210

0.22

80

345

60

80

230

0.20

100

365

80

100

250

0.18

120

385

90

120

270

0.15

150

405

110

150

300

-2

K-1)

Thermal bridging
Thermal bridging that is associated with linear and point
effects on the building envelope are known as nonrepeating thermal bridges. Thermal bridging should
ideally not add more than 20% to the overall heat loss
through the building envelope.
Air Leakage
In housing and residential buildings, air leakage of warm
air and hence air infiltration of cold air, can account for
over 30% of heat loss from the building and should be
controlled. Standard air-tightness testing involves large
fans imposing an internal pressure of 50 Pa within the
building. For residential buildings, the air infiltration that
is used in whole building energy calculations is taken as
5% of the value.
Typical air-tightness data for light steel and modular
housing and residential buildings is presented in the
table . Improved air-tightness can be achieved by use of
an external sheathing board or by vapour check
plasterboard.
Typical air-tightness data for light steel residential
construction
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Air
permeability
target
(m3/m2/hr)

Light Steel
Framing and
Steel
Structures
with Infill
Walls

Modular
Construction

< 10

Normal
construction
practice for a
planar
construction
with no special
measures for
air-tightness

Modular
construction
achieves
improved airtightness due
to its off-site
manufacture see below

<7

Seal joints and


gaps at top
and bottom of
walls using
acoustic
sealant. Seal
external
insulation
boards. Use
socket pads
to seal around
these service
penetrations

Air-tightness of
7 m3/m2/hr is
achievable due
to precise
cutting of
boards and
sealants at
junctions in the
module
manufacture

<5

Use of external
sheathing
boards plus
the above
measures.
Vapour check
plasterboards
may be used
internally. Use
sleeves around
pipes at the
airing
cupboard to
roof space
junction

Use external
rigid sheathing
boards or
double layers
of
plasterboards
internally, plus
the above
measures in
quality
controlled
manufacture

<3

Special
measures
including one
or more
techniques:

Achievable
with rigid
sheathing
boards and
sealing around
all service
penetrations
(due to the
cellular nature
of modular
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Sheath
ing
boards

construction)

Vapourcheck
plaster
board
Double
layer
service
void
internal
ly
Mecha
nical ve
ntilatio
n is
require
d

<2

An
impermeable
continuous
membrane
may be
required to
achieve
minimum air
leakage

As for planar
construction,
but the
performance is
more reliable
and less
dependent on
site installation

Control of condensation
Condensation is a phenomenon where warm moist air
condenses on cold surfaces. This effect is minimised by
ensuring that cold spots on the internal surface of the
building are within limits (normally 10% of the
temperature of the rest of the wall). Where there is a risk
of condensation within the cladding itself, a vapour tight
membrane may be placed on the inside of the building.
This should be supplemented by effective and controlled
ventilation of the internal space. Use installed with foilbacked plasterboard or with a separate membrane in
rooms with a high humidity environment.
Information on energy efficient housing using light steel
framing can be found in SCI P367.
Renewable energy systems
The most common renewable energy technologies that
may be found in housing and residential buildings
include:
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Photovoltaic (PV) panels attached to the roof
Solar thermal hot water panels attached to the
roof
Ground or air-sourced heat pumps
Small-scale wind turbines
Combined heat and power (CHP, which may be
suitable for larger projects)
Biomass heating and hot water distribution
(suitable for social housing).
The relative merits of each system depend on the type
and scale of the housing or residential project. PV and
solar thermal panels are now conventional technologies
which can be easily attached to light steel roofs.
For larger residential buildings, CHP and biomass
systems require a more complex energy and
maintenance strategy, which is best managed by the
building owner such as a housing association. The
excess heat produced by CHP can also be used for
swimming pools or distributed as part of the district
heating system.

Floor zones
The overall floor zone includes the structural elements,
e.g. beams and slab, the acoustic floor system, services
zone and the ceiling. The acoustic floor system is
common to all forms of construction and consists of
battens, resilient layer and boarding, or alternative a
mineral wool layer on which the boarding is placed. Its
primary function is to reduce impact sound transmission.

In housing, the plasterboard is either directly fixed to the


floor joists or indirectly via resilient bars fixed to the joists.
An overall floor zone of 450mm is normally allowed in
housing which leads to a floor-to- floor height of 2850mm
which is compatible with multiples of brick dimensions.
In residential buildings, the plasterboard ceiling is
suspended below the beams and floor slab. A horizontal
service zone is created, or the steel beams can be
perforated by web openings (usually in the form of
fabricated or cellular beams) which allows ducts to be
distributed throughout the building. Shallow floor systems
can also be used to provide an uninterrupted zone for
services. An overall floor zone of 450 to 600mm is
normally allowed in residential buildings. A depth of
450mm is possible using such shallow floor systems.

Below ground car parking


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The design issues to be addressed in below ground car


parking are:
Compatibility of column grid with the superstructure
Fire resistance requirements, including effective
ventilation of any fire that may occur
Retaining walls around the perimeter of the car
park area
Vehicular access via a ramp from street level
Access to the upper levels
Protection to the columns against impact.
Below ground car parking can be achieved using column
positions as follows:
Longitudinal spacing of 5 to 5.4m for 2 car
parking spaces, or 7.5 to 8m for 3 car parking
spaces between the columns
Transverse spacing of 4.5m, 7.5m and 4.5m
across the building to allow for a central access
aisle and turning arc into the car parking spaces.
For podium type structures, it is possible for clear spans
of 16.5m using long-span steel beams over the car
parking areas at ground or basement level.

Service integration
In steel-framed residential buildings, web openings in
beams provide space for ducts to extract stale and moist
air from internal bathrooms and kitchens. Because of the
need to minimise the overall floor zone in residential
buildings, beams are often relatively shallow at 250 to
350mm deep and so service openings are 150 to 200mm
deep.
Shallow floor construction has proved popular in the
residential sector because an uninterrupted service zone
is created under the beams, which leads to an overall
structure and service zone of less than 600mm, and
often as low as 450mm.
With light steel framing construction, a service zone is
provided under the ceiling so that the fire protection
function of the plasterboard is not affected by the
horizontal ducts. Also, vertical ducts through the floor or
floor slab have to be fire protected to prevent passage of
smoke or flame in a potential fire.

Fire safety
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Fire safety is very important in residential buildings and is


characterised by:
Safe means of escape in the event of a fire,
involving alternative escape routes and fire
protected lobbies, etc.
Measures to control the risk and severity of the
fire, such as smoke detectors and sprinklers
Fire doors to prevent passage of smoke
Effective compartmentation of dwellings through
the walls, floors and service ducts
Suitable periods of fire resistance to permit
effective fire fighting and to avoid premature
structural collapse.
The following table presents the typical thickness and
number of boards required for light steel walls and floors
for fire by the use of fire resistant plasterboard (known as
type F to BS EN 520[3]).
The table also provides guidance on the design of
composite slabs used in residential buildings. Their
behaviour in fire is dependent on whether they are
designed as simply supported or continuous. For simply
supported slabs, additional bar reinforcement is
generally required in the ribs of the decking.
Number of type F wall boards and ceiling boards for
fire resistance of light steel and composite
construction
Fire
resis
tanc
e (m
ins)

Loa
d-b
eari
ng
wall
s

Infill
wall
s

Su
spe
nde
d
floo
rs

Compo
site
floors

30

1x1
2.5
mm

1x1
2.5
mm

1x1
2.5
mm

Not
require
d,
except
for
acousti
c perfor
mance

60

1x
15m
m

1x1
2.5
mm

2x
12.5
mm

A142
mesh
for cont
inuous
slabs.
12mm
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dia. bar
reinforc
ement
for
simply
support
ed
slabs
90

2x
15m
m

2x1
2.5
mm

3x1
2.5
mm

A193
mesh
for cont
inuous
slabs.
16mm
dia. bar
reinforc
ement
for
simply
support
ed
slabs

120

3x
15m
m

2x
15m
m

3x
15m
m

A252
mesh
for cont
inuous
slabs
or
16mm
dia. bar
reinforc
ement
for
simply
support
ed
slabs
plus
15mm
ceiling
board

Floor vibrations
The control of floor vibrations is achieved by two
methods, based on a minimum natural frequency, or for
vibration sensitive cases, a response factor method in
which the likely accelerations due to walking or rhythmic
activities is calculated. General guidance for residential
buildings is presented below:
The stiffness of the floor should be such that its
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fundamental vibration frequency (natural
frequency) exceeds the likely vibration excitation
(normally walking) by a factor of 3. For a footfall
of two steps per second, a natural frequency of
more than 6Hz generally ensures minimal
vibration response
For lightweight floors, the lower limit on natural
frequency is increased to 8Hz for rooms of
residential buildings and 10Hz for corridors and
communal areas
For open plan areas in residential buildings, or for
areas where there may be rhythmic activities, a
more appropriate method is the response factor
approach which is based on the level of the
vibration, measured in terms of acceleration
Further guidance is available in SCI P354. The Steel
Construction: Floor Vibration publication is also relevant,
and a useful web-based Floor response calculator is also
available to swiftly evaluate the vibration response of
floors.

Acoustic performance

Details to provide acoustic insulation of a composite floor

The acoustic requirements of residential buildings are


such that the floors must provide a vertical acoustic
separating and fire resisting function, as must internal
walls between individual apartments. In housing, there
are no requirements for sound reduction within an
individual dwelling, but the party wall or separating wall
between dwellings in semi-detached or terraced housing
has an acoustic separation and fire resisting function.

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Approved Document E[4] specifies the minimum levels of
airborne sound reduction between dwellings, which is
defined by a parameter DnT,w combined with a low
frequency correction factor, Ctr. The minimum DnT,w +Ctr
limt is 45dB for tests on new dwellings. In addition, for
floors, a maximum impact sound transmission limit is
also specified, which is generally satisfied by using a
resilient floor layer. The following figures show the typical
acoustic build-ups in floors and walls for light steel
framing and for composite floor construction. More
information is given in SCI P320, SCI P336 and SCI
P372.
Details to provide acoustic insulation of light steel
walls and floors

Click here for further


information
Click here for further
information

Health and safety


Modern steel construction in the residential building
sector ensures a high level of health and safety during
construction because:
Safety barriers and edge protection can be
provided as part of the steelwork package
Floor decking and light steel infill walling is
delivered cut to exact length so that little cutting
is required on site.
Light steel framing is manufactured accurately
and is relatively easy to handle on site and is
fixed using hand tools. No cutting is required.
Modular units are installed by crane and are
stable when stacked. Little manual labour is
required on sites using modular construction.
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Corrosion protection
Modern steel frames within heated buildings do not
generally require protection against corrosion. Steel
decking and light steel infill walls use galvanised steel
and so are protected against corrosion in an internal
atmosphere. The zinc coating provides passive
protection. In infill walls, the light steel components,
which are also galvanised, are weather protected by the
cladding system and by the external insulation.
In light steel framing, monitoring studies of 20 years have
shown that the rate of zinc loss, is less than 0.5g/m2 per
year which is commensurate with a design life of over
200 years. Guidance is presented in SCI P262.

Fabrication and construction


Some features of modern steel fabrication and
construction relevant to multi-storey residential buildings
are as follows:
For primary steel frames, the fabrication
processes are similar to the multi-storey
commercial sector. UC sections are often used
for beams to minimise the floor depth.
Most residential buildings are designed as
braced by X or K bracing, although buildings up
to 4 storeys high can be designed for stability by
using moment resisting end plates to connect the
structure.
Shallow floor systems using asymmetric beams
are widely used in the residential sector and
require use of end plate connections to resist
torsional effects acting on them during
construction.
Square Hollow Section columns of up to 150mm
size are often used to fit within separating walls.
Best practice in the construction of steel-framed
residential buildings is available in SCI EP36.

Typical details
Main articles: Simple connections, Moment resisting connections, Building envelopes, Facades and interfaces
The following typical details may be considered, depending on the forms of construction
For light steel framing, floors are supported by walls and so these details are the most important in terms of
stability and robustness. The walls are braced to provide the overall stability of the building
For structural steel frames, beams are connected to columns using bolted end plates, which provide some
stiffness to reduce deflections. However, vertical bracing is required to provide overall stability.
Modular systems are tied at their corners by steel plates and single bolts.
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Connections in light steel framing


Connections in light steel framing are generally made by self-drilling, self-tapping screws of 4 to 5mm diameter, and
their shear resistance is about 3 kN per mm thickness of steel connected. Therefore multiple screws (often 6 to 8) are
required in the key connections, such as X- bracing. Connections should be designed to act in sheer rather than
tension as pull-out resistances are lower than (typically half of) shear resistances.
For robustness purposes, additional ties in the form of straps may be required, particularly when SHS posts are
incorporated in light steel walls.

Connections in steel framed buildings


Structural steel frames used in residential buildings are generally designed to be vertically braced in which case, the
connections are designed as simple, i.e. shear resisting. However, for 3 or 4 storey buildings, it is possible to design
moment-resisting connections using extended end plates to steel beams.
If SHS columns are used, then the connections of beams to these may be made by extending the end plates outside
the column width or by welding T sections to the face of the SHS.

Infill walls
In steel-framed residential buildings, light steel infill walls are used to provide resistance to wind action on the faade
and also to achieve the required thermal performance characteristics.
A particular requirement of infill walls is that should provide for relative movement with respect to the supporting
structure and a minimum of 10mm is allowed in steel-framed buildings depending on the span of the edge beams (up
to 6m in this case).

Building envelopes
The building envelope of steel framed residential buildings comprises the facade and roof elements with other
features, such as balconies and parapets, which can be created easily using steel construction.
Faade systems
Cladding systems to light steel infill walls or to light steel load-bearing structures are similar and fall into three generic
categories:
Brickwork that may be ground supported or supported on steel beams at each floor
Insulated render bonded to a sheathing board that is fixed to the light steel walls
Tiled or rain screen system attached to horizontal rails that are screw fixed through the external insulation to a
sheathing board
Examples of these forms of cladding system are shown below. Curved facades can be created by faceting the light
steel walls.
Examples of cladding systems used on

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Curved faade using insulated


render attached to light steel
framing
(Image courtesy of Metsec
Framing Ltd.)

Mixed use of metallic and tiled


cladding in a residential building

Insulated render attached to light


steel infill walls

Information on insulated render systems used with light steel framing is available in SCI P343.
Roofing systems

Composite tile look a like panel used in a residential building


(Image courtesy of Kingspan Panels and Profiles)

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For housing, roofs are normally in the form of traditional, tiles that are supported on battens that span between the roof
trusses at 600mm centres. Where habitable space is required, open roof systems may be created by:
Light steel open roof systems of the form shown
Purlins spanning between cross-walls.
For residential buildings, light weight roofing systems, such as composite panels are more often used. Mansard
shaped roofs can be created in light steel framing.

Balcony systems

Steel balcony system tied to the supporting structure at floor levels

There are various generic forms of balcony systems:


Balconies tied back to the floors
Cantilever balconies from the columns or additional steel posts
Ground supported balconies
Balconies that are inside the faade line of the building, as is the case often for modular buildings.
All balcony systems are made from steel usually in the form of C sections. Two examples of balcony systems in
residential buildings are shown.

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In the project shown, the modules were manufactured with their facade walls on alternate modules set back to create
balcony space for a single bedroom apartment consisting of two 30m2 modules.

Modular building with integral balconies, Hackney, London


(Image courtesy of Alford Hall Monaghan Architects and Yorkon)

Case studies

Bourbon Lane Housing,


London

Park House, London

Riverlights, Derby

The Cube, Birmingham

Waterfront South, Walsall

Ducie Court, Manchester

NEO Bankside, London


(Video case study)

Trinity Square,
Gateshead
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University of Stirling
Residences

Hallsville Quarter Phase


1, Canning Town,
London

Red Bridge House,


Crowborough

Kew House, Richmond

Weathering Steel House,


Putney

Student Accommodation,
Newcastle-upon-Tyne

University of Salford
student accommodation

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References
1. ^ SmartLIFE - Lessons Learned. BRE Press, 2008
2. ^ Approved Document L1A (Conservation of fuel and power in new dwellings) 2013 Edition incorporating 2016
amendments. Department for Communities and Local Government
3. ^ BS EN 520:2004+A1:2009 Gypsum plasterboards. Definitions, requirements and test methods. BSI
4. ^ Approved Document E (Resistance to the passage of sound) 2003 Edition incorporating 2004, 2010, 2013
and 2015 amendments. Department for Communities and Local Government

Resources
SCI P262 Durability of Light Steel Framing in Residential Building. Second edition
SCI P301 Building design using cold formed steel sections: Light steel framing in residential buildings
SCI P302 Modular construction using light steel framing Design of residential buildings
SCI P320 Acoustic performance of light steel framed systems
SCI P328 Case studies on residential buildings using steel
SCI P329 Multi-storey residential buildings using steel: Steel technologies to meet new housing demands
SCI P332 Steel in multi-storey residential buildings
SCI P336 Acoustic detailing for multi-storey residential buildings
SCI P343 Insulated render systems used with light steel framing
SCI P354 Design of Floors for Vibrations- A New Approach
SCI P367 Energy efficient housing using light steel framing
SCI P370 Sustainability of steel in housing and residential buildings
SCI P372 Acoustic detailing for steel construction
SCI EP36 Best Practice in Steel Construction: Residential Buildings
SCI P402 Light steel framing in residential consrtuction
Target Zero: Guidance on the Design and Construction of Sustainable Low carbon Mixed-Use Buildings
Steel Construction: Floor Vibration, BCSA, 2016
Floor response calculator

See also
Floor systems
Car parks
Thermal performance
Modular construction
Service integration
Fire and steel construction
Acoustics
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http://www.steelconstruction.info/Residential_and_mixed-use_buildings - 9th December 2016

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