It looks like wood's turn to get nervous in the tug-of-war against steel to be the building material for mid-rise commercial construction, if numbers crunched by the Steel Framing Industry Association hold up.

Larry Williams, executive director of the Falls Church, Va.-based industry association, shared with ProSales numbers that suggest building designers are increasingly turning against wood-frame construction during the period between when they issue an initial project specification and what their specs said as of this past Aug. 1.

For instance, Williams' numbers show, between the first quarter of this year and Aug. 1, the number of project specs calling for cold-framed steel rose by more than 600 while the number of projects featuring wood fell by more than 400.

Here's what SFIA says it's seeing:

NUMBER OF PROJECTS (SPECIFICATIONS)




TOTAL PROJECTS / United States






All Projects

CFS

Wood

 

(orig. snapshot)

8.1.2015

(orig. snapshot)

8.1.2015

(orig. snapshot)

8.1.2015

1Q 2013

15,261

15,312

4,472

4,552

1,988

5,314

2Q 2013

21,396

21,483

5,835

5,915

2,087

6,328

3Q 2013

18,220

18,232

4,283

4,408

2,484

4,640

4Q 2013

15,350

15,321

3,581

3,624

3,515

3,646

1Q 2014

19,553

19,631

4,706

5,178

4,082

5,166

2Q 2014

25,487

25,517

5,504

6,626

5,311

6,820

3Q 2014

21,842

21,883

5,204

5,369

5,919

5,474

4Q 2014

18,533

19,058

4,358

4,315

6,453

4,420

1Q 2015

23,911

24,320

4,357

4,973

5,347

4,900


Williams told ProSales in a Nov. 20 email that he credits the shift to several factors, including several major fires that have taken place at wood-framed construction sites in the past year. 

"Through this all, I would say that it’s notable that the numbers for cold-formed steel have remained relatively consistent--which is rather remarkable given the amount of resources the wood industry has poured into building code advocacy, education/promotion, lobbying, etc. over the last several years," Williams wrote. "I think there’s two messages there:  Owners, designers, and builders who use cold-formed steel have established a preference for the material characteristics (consistency, strength, non-combustibility, etc.) and understand the economic argument for cold-formed steel; The resilient base of users is a great platform to build a larger market on--but the industry has much more work to do in this area, and we’re getting back to doing just that."

Naturally, Williams has a vested reason to promote steel in its competition with wood. So: Is he right? Register your opinion in the comments section below.