Expanding the Possibilities of Post Frame

By Lynn Noesser, Chair of NFBA’s Post-Frame Market Initiative Committee

Have you built any “shomes” recently? What about a “barndominium”?

For those asking what the heck a shome or barndominum is, these are terms currently being used by builders and owners to refer to post-frame buildings that incorporate a typical storage or barn space with a living space (which is typically not a post-frame application) inside the same structure. According to a recent survey of National Frame Building Association builder members, 37 percent of their revenue was coming from post-frame construction in the residential building sector. Is your building percentage of living space, or nontraditional post-frame applications, that high?

Through its Post-Frame Market Initiative, NFBA is working to help expand this segment of the market. When PFMI was launched, its primary goal was to educate the architectural and consumer communities on the multiple advantages of post-frame construction in commercial and residential markets. The organization has made great strides in this effort and is influencing specification and construction decisions. Were you aware that PFMI is:

  • conducting twice-monthly American Institute of Architects–accredited webinars that showcase the features and benefits of post frame in nontraditional applications such as commercial and residential buildings and that on average 90 architects attend each month
  • promoting the benefits of post-frame construction in all types of social media (including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) and on the Post-Frame Advantage website (postframeadvantage.com; see Figure 1) and has expanded the post-frame community on each platform year over year: Instagram, 36 percent; Facebook, 544 percent; Twitter, 8 percent; and PFA, 40 percent.
  • conducting or scheduling studies such as (1) a research project on long-span roofing that will study the effects of long-span metal roofing expansion on panel joints and connections; (2) an analysis of post-to-concrete-pier connections; (3) modifications to American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Engineering Practice 559, Design Requirements and Bending Properties for Mechanically-Laminated Wood Assemblies; and (4) updates to ASABE EP486, Shallow Post and Pier Foundation Design Standard
  • adding three chapters—on connection design, girt and purlin design and mechanically laminated assembly design—to the NFBA Post-Frame Building Design Manual?

What are the next key steps for PFMI? Statistics from the PFA website indicate that traffic to the Post-Frame Residential Project Gallery (postframeadvantage.com/design/gallery/residential) is up 234 percent! This finding confirms that our efforts to educate the architectural and consumer communities about the possibilities of post-frame construction are working. These audiences are interested in finding builders that can quote on and build their designs and dreams.

PFMI update graph

Figure 1. Comparison of search traffic on the Post-Frame Advantage website: 2016 and 2017

PFMI’s principal efforts in the past have focused on educating architects and consumers in order to drive interest in post frame. The PFMI Committee conducted a strategic review of the program in spring 2017. Through this effort, committee members learned that a number of builders would be interested in building post-frame structures but have concerns about building codes and also about financing and quoting projects; they need training or tools to assist them. PFMI is positioning itself to provide this assistance.

The committee has now completed its analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing post frame. If you have ever been through such a process, you know the hard work it involves. But you also know the benefits of the exercise. The output helps you construct very clear action plans with defined, measurable steps to help you achieve success. We are in the final stages of this work and expect to complete it by the fourth quarter of 2017.

What we know now is that although the efforts to educate external audiences on the benefits of post-frame construction have been successful, one group was omitted in the education process: the builders. The builders in the industry also need to be trained on how to construct comprehensive quotes. They need to have tools for working with lending institutions, including data on the construction of post-frame projects, the financing of such projects, and information for themselves and code officials on the correct applications.

As we move forward with the work of PFMI, our efforts will focus on continuing to educate people on the use of post frame in nontraditional applications, tracking market changes and creating tools for builders to assist in the overall growth of this new market segment.

PFMI is a separately funded initiative within NFBA. The program’s expenses are funded exclusively through the voluntary contributions of members and of supporting organizations like the American Iron and Steel Institute. Your support—whether new or continued—is crucial if we are to further fund the education of external audiences, the capture of market metrics, the testing of post-frame designs and uses and, of course, the development of tools for builders—all part of our effort to help support and expand your business.

NFBA’s Post-Frame Marketing and Economic Summit, to be held in Indianapolis on August 28-29, 2017, is another such effort. Learn more about the Summit in the article on page 8 and be sure to attend. I look forward to seeing you there!

Lynn Noesser is a member of the NFBA Board of Directors and general manager, North/West Texas, at BlueLinx Corporation. He can be reached at Lynn.Noesser@BlueLinxco.com.

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