Steel Framing in Residential Architecture
Our founders Josh and Alex chat to Est Living, about how our steel windows and doors can suit any home, thanks to their design and functionality.
We sat down with Metro Steel Windows’ Alex Criticos and Josh Lyle to take a deep dive into steel frame doors and windows for the home and how they work with local architects to put functionality first.
Steel framing is synonymous with modern Australian residential architecture. Whether a heritage revival or a new build, we see architects rely on steel framing as a critical feature in their design resolution.
“Slim, strong and functional” are how Metro Steel Windows founders Josh Lyle and Alex Criticos describe their steel frame windows and doors. Based in Melbourne, Australia, they’ve taken their shared background in engineering and construction to establish a range of classic window and door profiles for residential and commercial projects.
Following our tour of the Colonnade House by Splinter Society, we caught up with Alex and Josh to learn how they worked with the design team to create the expansive steel frame bi-fold doors and pivot windows in this project while learning what makes steel framing a premium, long-lasting and sustainable choice.
From a residential design and architecture perspective, what’s the appeal of steel framing?
Alex Criticos: Nothing compares to steel framing’s slender profile. It’s also definitely the touch and the feel. If you hold and swing a steel frame door, it’s got some weight to it. It’s similar to the feel of a solid timber door to a hollow timber door in a home. You may not see it, but you feel it.
Likewise, the way glass is integrated and selected with the design. Naturally, steel framing is a more premium product. Original steel windows are so hard to find. From a wear and tear point of view, steel frame doors and windows are solid. They’re low maintenance, and if you take care of them, they’re going to last for a very long time. Steel is also a 100 per cent recyclable material.
Steel frame windows and doors correspond with what architects are looking for, both in contemporary and heritage architecture. The profiles that were previously used in heritage buildings, we still use. That’s the legacy we’re continuing.
Everyone associates black frames with steel framing, but we’re now starting to see an exploration of other colours such as white, grey, green and bronze.
Why Metro Steel Windows?
Josh Lyle: Our steel frame windows and doors are bespoke, premium and elegant.
Our range has a superior, genuine profile that’s made in Europe, designed for windows and doors. This is coupled with our design and engineering experience. For example, steel fabricators can create a frame from standard sections to be glazed, but it’s not specifically designed to seal, hold its structure and function as a window.
We also pride ourselves on our lead times and manufacturing capacity. All these aspects are why we can complete several large projects simultaneously within our lead times. That’s why we do a lot of commercial work for clients such as Woods Baggot, Six Degrees and Hamilton Marino. We have experience in the industry – we know the beast.
On the residential design front, we’ve also worked with Melbourne-based Rob Kennon Architects on projects such as their Waffle House, several projects by another Melbourne-based practice Powell and Glenn and Cera Stribley and homes with interior design studio, Mim Design.
We work directly with architects, designers and builders to help them with a design solution, especially when it comes to the functionality of our product.
What types of profiles do you offer – and how do they differ?
Alex Criticos: Firstly, there’s a Classic profile. It’s not the original style steel window product from the 1920s. But when you’re working above a certain height or width, it’s our go-to product. The original steel window profile from the 1920s was the W20 profile. Closer to the 2000s, they produced the W40 profile, slightly deeper in its profile depth to allow for double and triple glazing. When you look at it, you wouldn’t know any different.
We’re interested in the internal use of steel framing. How often do you work with a client on this brief?
Alex Criticos: We see a lot more internal projects now, and they’re all a really strong outcome. It’s the same product, but it can be done differently for internal purposes. For example, the glazing doesn’t need to be as thick or as extensive, and you don’t need thresholds in your doors. You also don’t have to worry about the transition details between inside and outside.
How was steel framing used explicitly in the Colonnade House by Splinter Society?
Josh Lyle: The whole job was Classic profile due to the doors’ height and spans. We worked directly with the builder on the big pivot windows facing the pool and bifold doors out the back. We’re pretty proud of this project from the facade aspect because we are one of the only ones to offer pivot windows or bi-fold doors as large.
You don’t generally see bi-folds that have 1.3 meters by 3.4-meter door leaves, so the size and the span of the bi-folds in this project are what makes it unique. They weigh about 150 kilos each but don’t feel cumbersome because our slim profile is strong enough to work. You can weld as many pieces of steel as you want together, it may work, but it will move away from the architectural intent. We wanted to realise the architectural intent, which also includes the functionality.
All of the windows onto the pool are operable pivot windows. While they are large, they function. We talk about this a lot with our clients. First and foremost, we need to make sure they operate. We like to ask how our product is intended to be used, do they have small children that would need to come in and out these doors? It goes beyond the aesthetic value of steel framing.
Steel has its strengths and weaknesses. But when we consider how it comes together, the glazing, how it’s worked into the design, how it’s installed to let it function continuously – that’s when we see great success, as in the Colonnade House by Splinter Society.
How does working on a new build or extension compare with a heritage renovation?
Josh Lyle: In a brand new build, you play more with the integration of steel windows. With heritage homes, it’s a lot more work around the existing structure – but the challenge always pays off. It’s very satisfying for us when the steel framing appears like it’s always been there.
Why do you believe steel framing is a more sustainable offering?
Alex Criticos: What’s particularly appealing about steel framing is that it’s 100 per cent recyclable.
We’ve seen a big push towards passive living, and from this perspective, steel windows perform well, thermally and acoustically. That also stems from the integration of the glazing. This is where our expertise in glass and facades and our relationships with local and international suppliers becomes really important.
We also consider the acoustic aspect. For example, we worked on the Nightingale 2.0 project with Six Degrees, next to a train station in Fairfield, Melbourne. We had to consider keeping the sound pollution low with steel framing while maintaining the architectural intent. So we created specific double glazed units with reeded glass on one side and acoustic laminate glass on the other.
Could you talk to some of your custom colours?
Alex Criticos: We can accommodate a range of colours in our paint system and coating process. We follow a process so that the frames will last and the colour is durable – even in coastal conditions.
What can we expect to see in the projects you’re currently working on?
Josh Lyle: More exploration of arches and curved units, in conjunction with the play on typical steel window colours. Keep an eye out for the Metro Lifestyle products in 2022.