History of steel frame homes

Updated February 21, 2017

Steel- and metal-frame homes in the United States are a relatively new residential construction choice, but they have been popular in various other parts of the world for many years. Since the 1950s, Japan has successfully used steel frames for residential construction and steel-framed office and commercial buildings have proliferated all over the world for the past six decades.

Japanese Innovation

In the years immediately following World War II, Japan faced a serious housing crisis that required the fastest construction possible of four million new homes. Prior to 1940, most commercial and residential buildings were made of wood, but they were destroyed during the war. After World War II, Japan did not have the wood to replace these houses--that would have required 150 years worth of timber growth. So, Japan turned to readily available--and non-flammable--steel, and the steel housing market was born.

The Japanese steel industry developed and manufactured light-gauge steel components that mimicked the shapes and sizes of traditional lumber, and these were successfully used in new home construction frames. These designs quickly gained favour and have been improved over the years, resulting in a constant rise in constructional steel housing around the world.


Following the success of steel-frame homes in Japan, the United Kingdom housing market turned to readily available metal- and steel-building materials. Today, several of the top 20 home building companies there use steel-frame construction for new flats and two-story homes.

Australia also favours steel-frame housing for new residential developments, and general contractors and project managers in that country often use the same successful designs on multiple projects. Scandinavian builders use steel- and metal-frame construction for affordable apartment communities and incorporate other unconventional materials, including mineral wool and gypsum board.

United States

The United States utilised steel and metal framing for commercial structures and office buildings for many years before embracing the concept for residential construction. New affordable home construction in the United States is now comprised of 20 per cent steel-frame houses. In the past 15 years, the steel- and metal-frame housing marketing has been a boon to the residential construction industry.

Upward Trend

As recently as the 1990s, very few steel frame houses were built in the United States, but the trend has dramatically increased. Because steel-frame homes are termite proof, fire resistant and highly energy efficient, the market share for steel- and metal-frame homes has increased every year.

The Future

Since the structural steel materials have such low levels of waste and are largely comprised of recycled steel, this type of housing has been embraced by environmentalists and economists, ensuring its popularity for the foreseeable future. Many companies are exploring lighter steel frame options as well as alternative construction methods. Each day also brings new standardised blueprints and plans for steel homes, solidifying their future in tomorrow's housing market.

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About the Author

Cassie Damewood has been a writer and editor since 1985. She writes about food and cooking for various websites, including My Great Recipes, and serves as the copy editor for "Food Loves Beer" magazine. Damewood completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Miami University.