Faster. Better. Smarter.
Steeltec LLC offers flexible, fully-integrated solutions
According to Donna Schrouf, director of development for Steeltec LLC in Sanger, Texas, there are a lot of ways building owners, general contractors, developers and others can approach construction using steel as their primary framing material. However, having a full range of options doesn’t mean that all of them are a good fit.
Quite the contrary.
Since it was founded in 2015, Steeltec has distinguished itself by being able to custom-design, fabricate and install light-gauge steel structures and also bring land-planning, architectural, engineering and construction services to the table.
“The key word is flexibility,” Donna says. “Some companies only do wall panels. Some only do roof trusses. We can custom fabricate all the light-gauge structural elements needed for a specific project.” While other companies do this, Steeltec also provides related materials, such as insulation and services that range from site assessment and land planning through building design and construction.
When Steeltec’s in-house staff can’t provide something for clients, its long-term partners or additional businesses owned by Steeltec’s founder, Michael Todd, step up to fill the gap. Michael also owns Justland Development LLC, a land-development company, and Steeltec Constructors LLC, a general contracting firm. Both of these complementary companies add staff and expertise to Steeltec’s teams as needed. The result: a streamlined, fully integrated manufacturing and project-delivery process.
Plus, according to Donna, the leaders of project teams Steeltec assembles have a thorough knowledge of when light-gauge steel is appropriate and what its capabilities are because they’ve “all grown up in this part of the building industry together.”
Finding the Fit
The critical first step for every project Steeltec undertakes is defining the particular needs of each client—and knowing when there is a good fit.
“Light-gauge isn’t for everyone,” Donna points out. While both structural steel and light-gauge steel can be used to construct primary structural elements, buildings with especially large, free-span spaces or heavy structural loads require heavier-gauge steel.
“If you have a gymnasium, a warehouse or something like this, it would make more sense to use structural steel,” Donna says. “The light-gauge we provide is excellent for hotels, assisted living facilities, medical offices and clinics, and custom homes—buildings up to nine stories. We don’t try to make our system fit a client’s need if it’s clearly not the best solution. It doesn’t serve anybody—us or them—to just say yes.”
Once it’s clear a light-gauge steel solution will be best, Steeltec can play a variety of roles. “We can provide just the product fabricated or the product knocked down so the customer can put it together,” Donna says. “We’ll take concept drawings and create a CAD design for fabricating the wall panels, trusses and other steel elements, tell our clients what kind of materials they’ll need and let them know what all this will cost.”
Since multi-unit residential buildings, medical clinics, hotels and other types of commercial facilities are more complex and subject to specific life-safety codes, Donna says she contacts Steeltec’s project partners to provide whatever expertise is needed for these.
“The state of Texas requires all assisted living facilities that are over two stories to be built from noncombustible materials,” she explains. “It’s likely this will become a requirement for other residential buildings after the recent apartment fires in Dallas. Steeltec still designs, engineers and fabricates the steel framing system. We do the shop drawings and submittals. We tell our architectural partner what our products are and what our intent is. Then our designer will work with the architect to design the shell of the building.”
At that point, if a client also needs general contracting services, Steeltec Constructors can join the project team. “This team will pick the exterior cladding, roof material, flooring, fixtures—and bring the trades to the project,” Donna says. “During design, we’ll call electrical and HVAC engineers to have them create drawings that show us where the chases and electric boxes need to go, etc. So, when Steeltec Constructors gets the project, it receives a full set of drawings. Or, if the customer has its own installers or GC it likes to work with, we’re fine with that.”
There are also times when Justland and Steeltec collaborate. For example, when clients have a basic idea of what they’d like to do but haven’t purchased the land for a building, Michael and his staff at Justland can help them find the ideal site.
“If Steeltec is designing the houses within a development out of light-gauge, for example, then we’ll provide drawings to show the building footprints so that Justland can figure out the subdivision,” Donna says. “There are a lot of options. You can take all or none.”
Regional Focus, National Reach
Although most of Steeltec’s clients are based in Texas and the surrounding states, Donna says the company “can go anywhere” and would like to grow its plant “and have manufacturing facilities in different areas” where certain characteristics of Steeltec’s products and processes have especially strong market appeal.
“We have a lot of termites in Texas so the fact that our product is pest-resistant is a big benefit here,” she explains. “If you live in a place like New Orleans, where there is a lot of moisture, it’s important that our light-gauge is mold- and mildew-resistant.”
This is one of the key issues for residential and health care facilities, too. For example, Steeltec is working on a 10,000-square-foot clinic in Kaufman, Texas, that serves a public health function. “They treat uninsured and underinsured patients,” Donna says. “The doctors volunteer their time, and they don’t turn anyone away. We are doing the full design and trying to help our client find the most cost-effective way to build. The fact that light-gauge resists mold and mildew is a benefit for asthma and allergy sufferers who will work at or visit the clinic.”
Converting to Light-Gauge Steel
Although it’s ideal for clients to choose the framing materials and methods they prefer before design work begins, Donna says Steeltec can convert drawings for buildings that use another material, such as wood or block, to ones that use light-gauge steel.
“We have a couple of house projects going on right now that were originally designed to use wood,” she says. “However, the builder educated himself about the benefits of light-gauge and decided it is a better material to use. We provide an engineered product that homebuilders can put up in a day.”
“The key word is flexibility. Some companies only do wall panels. Some only do roof trusses. We can custom fabricate all the light-gauge structural elements needed for a specific project.” Donna Schrouf, Director of Development, Steeltec LLC
Addressing Site Conditions
There are also times when Steeltec’s team must address challenging site conditions.
“We did a dormitory building at The Pines Catholic Camp in Big Sandy, Texas, that included everything from fabrication, to the architecture and engineering, to full construction,” Donna says. “This project was in a hilly area, so finding a level spot for the building was important. The owner also wanted the structure to face the seven Stations of the Cross.”
Steeltec was able to manufacture the light-gauge structural elements off-site, making the construction activities that occurred at this location more efficient.
People and Partnerships
Although Steeltec’s flexible, fully integrated approach to delivering light-gauge steel solutions is impressive, Donna emphasizes “people are what make a company unique.” In addition to hosting annual gatherings for its employees, such as a Christmas party, she says the company’s leaders show their appreciation, celebrate successes and “are there” for their employees and longstanding project partners throughout the year.
“You don’t just tell someone you love them on Valentine’s Day, do you?” she asks. “Well, we do things with—and for—our employees all the time. We’ll have lunch or dinner together. If their families have a need, we ask: ‘How can we help you?’ This is just human compassion and understanding that people are first, business is second. No matter what the name of the firm is or what people’s titles are, it all comes down to integrity—people who want to do the right thing with humility and have a commitment to service. Otherwise, you’re just not going to make it long term.”
Following the printing of this article, Steeltec LLC is now owned by Katerra Labs.