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Costs to Build with Cold-Formed Steel Versus a Wood-Framed Building

DEEPBLUE SMARTHOUSE has conducted studies of construction costs in buildings – one designed with wood and the other with CFS framing.

The mixed-use, 49,900 square foot building used in the studies is representative of many residential buildings constructed in the mid-rise market today and includes:

  • A first floor non-combustible (concrete) podium with parking and retail space

  • Residential dwellings on levels 2-5

  • Roof-top/penthouse space atop level 5 housing building services.

The building was a building constructed in Chicago in late 2020. Results include hard construction costs only.

Total building cost w/wood framing


Total building cost w/ CFS framing


Difference in $ (CFS over wood)


Difference in $ (CFS over wood)


Difference in $/sq.ft. (CFS over wood)


The Chicago case where we examined only hard construction costs shows a cost increase of 20% for wood over CFS. Other decisions such as the choice of exterior or interior finishes could have a greater impact than the choice between these two framing materials. Further, there are some mitigating costs not included in this study that would likely lead to the CFS building dropping to a cost less than the wood building, especially over the long-term. These include the cost of insurance products such as property and general liability necessary during the operation of a building, as well as lower call back and maintenance costs. The CFS building could also have been constructed without the concrete podium (100% CFS for all stories) since it is a noncombustible material, further reducing the cost of the CFS option.

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