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High-Rise Renovation

Cold-formed steel contributes to innovative ceiling system

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The F-Track and T-Grid system made this retrofit job a quick and easy install, thanks to cold-formed steel’s conduciveness to repetition, speed and accuracy. {Photo: Kevin Engemann, Super Stud}

New York City is known for its bright lights and multitude of high-rise buildings. When floors 18 and 19 of Penn Plaza—a 25-story Manhattan highrise building—were being renovated, high labor costs, quick job turn around and the availability of skilled workers were main concerns for the project.

The two-floor project in a standard high-rise office building required a large number of repetitiveness in the ceiling installation process, as the majority of retrofit jobs do. The updates needed on floors 18 and 19 included a ceiling system that was as efficient and economical as possible, but one that didn’t require a lot of specialized training. Rather, it called for quick installation by mid-level installers following a process that could easily be repeated throughout each floor.

To address the challenge, the project adopted an overall ceiling system approach utilizing an innovative new ceiling system comprised in part by cold-formed steel. Cold-formed steel’s conduciveness to repetition, speed and accuracy coupled with the fact that it is a noncombustible material made it a perfect fit for this high-rise building project.

The ceiling system solution utilized a combination of cold-formed steel F-Track and a T-Grid suspension system from Super Stud Building Products Inc., Edison, N.J. F-Track is a cold-formed steel ceiling framing system designed to be a cost-effective option for fitting both horizontal and vertical framing attachments for horizontal corners such as soffits, drop-ceilings, box-outs and other drywall features that require smooth and straight corner intersections. The project took advantage of the flexibility cold-formed steel provides utilizing a double-thick F-Track adding rigidity and strength to the system. Cold-formed steel is also an easy product to train installers to work safely with—another plus to help meet the project goals.

The T- Grid suspension system, which has a four-flange configuration that permits framing attachments from three directions, created a system that can be used in either vertical or horizontal applications. T-Grid also provided a backer surface to attach single-layer gypsum board without having to add blocking. This single application helped to “cut our framing time in half,” says Artie Avon, job foreman from Techno Acoustics, Maspeth, N.Y., the project contractor.

An installation system process was created using the combination of cold-formed steel F-Track and T-Grid which transformed a slow job into a quick and easy task that could be repeated effortlessly. The ceiling system allowed workers to install it quickly and safely with minimal training or advanced skill requirements.


T-Grid provided a backer surface to attach single-layer gypsum board without having to add blocking. A four-flange configuration permits framing attachments from three directions, creating a system that can be used in either vertical or horizontal applications. {Photo: Kevin Engemann, Super Stud}

Overall, the solution resulted in a reduction in labor time for the project and an increase in the overall efficiency of the project’s timeline and bottom line; all while allowing for a mid-level installer to take on the job.

In addition to efficiency and flexibility, the cold-formed steel product helped save a full days’ worth of labor costs and saved more than $2,100 for this project. The project also realized 20 percent faster installation of soffits as a result of the innovative ceiling system.

Building professionals looking for solutions to their projects should consider exploring cold-formed steel. Washington, D.C.-based BuildSteel, a partnership of cold-formed steel framing manufacturers, suppliers, producers and industry organizations, is a resource that offers free project assistance to help building professionals overcome obstacles using cold-formed steel.

Labor costs are high and a shortage of skilled workers is the norm, so keeping construction jobs on time and on budget is imperative. Greater New York City is certainly not the exception to this dynamic; it’s a challenge to keep jobs in the green. This ceiling system solution was up for the task.

Don Allen, PE, LEED AP, is an internationally recognized expert on cold-formed steel structural design, and is involved with hundreds of cold-formed steel projects each year. He is director of engineering at Super Stud Building Products Inc., Edison, N.J., and serves as member of Washington, D.C.-based BuildSteel’s project assistance team, where he provides complimentary assistance for construction projects utilizing cold-formed steel framing in the U.S. and Canada. Allen can be contacted at To learn more about BuildSteel, visit