Promoting commercial post-frame construction

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NFBA’s Post Frame Marketing Initiative (PFMI) is raising funds to help open new markets for commercial building while targeting the design community, code officials, and engineers to design, spec and put out post-frame projects for bid.

Because PFMI funding comes from both NFBA builders and suppliers, it sends a message to the construction industry that the entire NFBA membership is behind the initiative. As a result, since November 2009, PFMI raised more than $220,000 from NBFA members via face-to-face and web meetings.

“From a marketing standpoint, we are taking on two issues,” says John Hill, president of Lester Building Systems and current chair of the NFBA Board of Directors. “We need to educate influencers who are already out in the field practicing design and architecture, and we have been doing this. But if we want students to learn about post-frame construction, we need to target schools. We are reaching out to department chairs and curriculum staff. We are leveraging existing relationships, knocking on doors, and placing ads in appropriate publications.”

To date, PFMI funding is supporting myriad educational programs, many developed by NFBA Technical Advisor Harvey Manbeck, PE, PhD, professor emeritus at Penn State University. The educational modules being offered to code officials, architects and engineers, and college and technical school curriculums can pay back dividends for years to come.

Among these programs are:
• A 6-session curriculum on basic post-frame design concepts and applications. Developed by Dr. Manbeck, this curriculum consists of a student manual and six scripted PowerPoint presentations. The course materials are designed for professors at engineering schools who want to expose their students to post-frame design and construction as part of their wood structural design courses. The goal is to have many engineering schools across the country adopt the curriculum.

Topics include post-frame building design without diaphragm action, post-frame diaphragm design methods, and a comprehensive design example of a commercial post-frame building system.

See details of this program, Page 9.

• PFA Online University. PFA Online University, www.postframeadvantage.com, provides free educational programming for design professionals and structural engineers to learn about post-frame construction in commercial projects. The sessions are based on Dr. Manbeck’s aforementioned six-part education module for designers and engineers. Plans are now underway to expand NFBA’s Online University course offerings. All sessions qualify for American Institute of Architect Continuing Education credit

• Online guide specification. In 2009, NFBA unveiled its online version of a program for development of a Guide Specification for Post-Frame Building Systems. This online application is particularly useful to architects or engineers developing specifications for their first post-frame projects. The online application provides a user-friendly and editable specification document in Masterspec’s three-part format.

• Programs for building code officials. Building code officials in Pennsylvania recently attended a new and comprehensive six-hour seminar on commercial and residential post-frame systems. This program, developed cooperatively by Dr. Manbeck and NFBA’s Atlantic Northeast Chapter members Tim Royer, PE, Tim Little and Ken Kistler, will serve as a prototype for similar programs throughout the country in coming years. Plans are for NFBA to offer them to Indiana code officials during 2010, and to exhibit at related events.

• Other educational programs for architects and engineers. PFMI has helped introduce architects and engineers new to post-frame building systems at many venues across the country, including WoodWorks’ Wood Solutions fairs and workshops, Structural Engineers Association of Ohio meetings, and American Institute of Architects state meetings.

Steve Eversole, NFBA past chair and president of Lancaster, Ohio-based Eversole Builders, acknowledges that architects and engineers may be reluctant to try new things. He sees the introduction of a post-frame curriculum to students as an opportunity to break through to a captive audience.

“Architects and engineers were not taught about post-frame in the schools, and this is a different means of construction than what they are used to,” Eversole says. “When they see the things that can be done with post-frame, they will be more likely to embrace this technique because of its ease of construction, cost-effectiveness and thermal values.”

Eversole believes that schools that familiarize future architects and engineers with the post-frame technique can “prime the pump” for the future of the post-frame industry.

“My company deals with the end consumer, and we are actively trying to get architects, engineers and code officials to accept post-frame,” he says. “When they receive education through manuals and PFMI, we see them become more accepting of this construction method. PFMI can educate the industry and its gatekeepers that a post-frame building is a strong, efficient, engineered structure that will pass the test of time.”

Code officials represent another group that NFBA is actively seeking to educate, according to Randy Rideour, president of Atlas Bolt & Screw and chair of the NFBA Supplier Council.

“Our focus has been in designers and architects, but we are also making a push to get in front of code officials. But working with code officials at all levels, we will be positioned to expand our efforts and touch important new audiences.”

Last year at this time, industry research predicted that the commercial market for post-frame construction would grow over the next several years. The good news, according to Ridenour, is post-frame’s “piece of the pie” should grow even if, for whatever reason, the commercial market is flat.

“We have a great story to tell and more resources to get our message out there,” Ridenour says. “We will get more market share because of what we can bring to the party. All components, including cost, sustainability, and design flexibility, are helping position us to get our fair share. Even then, we will have to fight for our market share — we can’t assume we will get it regardless of what the industry is doing.”

Hill extends kudos to the post-frame industry and to NFBA members for their financial support.

“Any NFBA member can get behind the PFMI and help us with a contribution, however modest,” he says. “Our members are invited to use the many tools that we have created; if they make a financial contribution, this enables us to create even more tools to help members make their case with architects, code officials, building managers or other influencers.”

More information is available at www.nfba.org or www.postframeadvantage.com, where designers and architects can request a free copy of the “Post-Frame Advantage Handbook,” which details the benefits of post-frame construction for builders and end users.

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