The Zero Waste Framing Challenge

US Frame Factory is testing out a new framing standard called Zero Waste Framing. The goal is to simply have 0 waste from the framing phase of a building. Traditional stick construction is notorious for high material excess waste, so our challenge to architects, engineers, manufactures, distributors, and installers is to use methods that reduce the waste from the framing process to 0. The reason to pursue Zero Waste Framing is to benefit the environment and in doing so reduce your cost and lead time on projects.

Why is this possible?

Initially, this standard primarily targets light gauge steel framed buildings. Light gauge steel is both recyclable and manufactured in a near continuous process; therefore, people who build with it should be able to achieve zero waste. Due to a continuous manufacturing process from flat coil, only as much material needs to be drawn and cut as is needed in a given building. Further more, any biproduct waste of the manufacturing process is usually small pieces of metal from the punching and shearing process. Those items can be recycled with any metal scrapping agency.

Although this standard does not target wood framing, there are ways to frame to a Zero Waste Framing standard in wood framing. Wood framing can recycle or reuse wood cutoffs for good purposes such as mulch, heating, or paper products. Still the objective is to only cut as much as you need at the height that you need.

Who does this target?

This standard targets projects and is applicable to any group that is involved with a project. Here is how it is applicable to each party:

  • Architects select Zero Waste Framing as a standard for their projects they are designing and managing. This means that Architects will adhere to Zero Waste Framing standards as the design such as designing in a method where framing member sizes will be easy to determine and calculate length of early in the project.
  • Engineers design to a Zero Waste Framing standard by detailing projects in a way that enables material takeoffs early before the framing stage of the project. They can use programs like AGA CAD or MWF Strucsoft such that all the members are known.
  • Installers order materials based on precise takeoffs. Ideally those takeoffs are generated directly from engineering takeoffs, but in the event that they are not framers can still review plans and work with manufacturers that are capable and willing to precut material to specific dimensions.
  • Manufacturers offer materials precut instead of only selling stock lengths. This waste reduction is facilitated by their willingness to accommodate and precut.
  • Distributors sell custom length material instead of stock lengths. Distributors can also offer their customers ways to recycle unused material and cutoffs.

Distributors and manufacturers in particular are not incentivized to sell custom length because it reduces the amount of material that is purchased. However, by embracing and enforcing a zero waste standard, their clients can push them to deliver custom length product.

Benefits of Zero Waste Framing

Contractors and owners can see a lot of benefits from adopting a Zero Waste Framing mentality. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Reduced cost of project because of less material needed
  • Less labor cutting equates to less labor cost on the project
  • Less environmental impact of each jobsite
  • Increased build times due to precut components
  • Less human error in cutting reduces waste as well


We are always thinking of ways to improve construction. Eventually we would like to implement Zero Waste Construction, but for now we are doing Zero Waste Framing. Are you interested in Zero Waste Framing? If so, reach out to our team at US Frame Factory.

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