Have Factory, Will Travel This clever trailer enables steel framing to be manufactured on site.

Photos: Courtesy NexGen Framing System

Have Factory, Will Travel This clever trailer enables steel framing to be manufactured on site.
 

What’s even better than using recycled steel for framing? Making it on the go. Cliff Singleton, owner of NexGen Framing System LLC, operates out of Melbourne, Fla., but his three trailers, each containing a metal-extrusion machine, can bring a framing factory anywhere. These portable units feed coils of recycled steel (derived from old cars and such) through a computerized extrusion unit to create the top and bottom plates, studs, and components for steel trusses. This eliminates both the middleman and shipping time, and consequently reduces costs by about 30 percent to 40 percent. After the parts are made, it’s a simple two-day process to erect the ultra-strong, foam-insulated structures.

The benefits extend far beyond savings. Because the assembly process is simple, Singleton hires local labor for jobs, such as a current nonprofit building project in Titusville, Fla. For large projects, he sets up a small factory nearby with the same extrusion technology.

The company’s focus extends globally, too, having recently won contracts to build 3,000 homes a year for the next 10 years in Djibouti, Africa. Also on Singleton’s radar is rebuilding in tornado-stricken areas such as Joplin, Mo.

Right now the fleet consists of three units, but with the “really, really fast expansion” of the past few years, Singleton’s business model seems poised for success. John Nossal, Singleton’s sales agent and an architect himself, sees a bright future for the system: “When the building industry does begin its comeback, I’d like to believe this construction process will be in the forefront.”

Singleton’s aiming even higher. “I want to be the Wal-Mart or Home Depot of the building business,” he says. “I want to be known as the guy who brought it to the marketplace.”