Kevin Bernhard is steely.
His vision for the future of construction is simple — steel.
It's also simple — literally.
If you've ever built something from Ikea, you know that it's a marvel of form and function, and that's how Bernhard sees the future of building — machine-drilled and pre-fabbed steel framing assembled quickly and easily.
Kevin Bernhard is plenty busy with his main hustle — JK Bernhard Construction, but he's not one to rest. Bernhard diversified his company by opening Steel Frame Solutions, LLC.
The strategy for the company is simple — simplified construction solutions.
"If we can get those wood framers interested in how to do this," Bernhard said.
The way Bernhard sees it is all about improving a product, improving labor and, ultimately, the process. The technology harkens back to those school-aged Erector sets.
He's starting to see some movement.
"A lot of it changed when lumber went up," Bernhard said. "I think once they figure out the ease of it."
Steel trusses are ready for shipment. The simple design and construction makes it an attractive alternative to wood-frame housing.
That ease is lining up the pieces and bolting the work together. Pre-made joists, windows and trusses are manufactured in hours. The barrier to entry is following the instructions — like hot to make the KLIMPFJÄLL dining room table at Ikea.
The improved efficiency of the technology has put Bernhard in place to provide steel fabrication for construction projects big and small. The investment is clear at his Goat Creek Road factory — a clean setup where the technology can produce pieces within hours.
However, plenty rely on the familiarity of building a house out of sticks, including production-scale builders.
"They're used to doing it this way, and this is how they've always done it," Bernhard said. "If we can get in front of them and they see from multifamily to production builders to even custom homes, it all works through this because it's all driven from your original plans."
Despite the strength of steel-framed construction, builders still use wood. In 2020, about 91% of housing was wood frames. The steel-frame market capture about 1%, but that's expected to change, according to industry analysts. One analyst, Grand View Research, suggests the light-gauge steel market will grow by about 5% between now and 2028.
The company also markets steel framing for the interiors but isn't afraid to offer other design solutions.
Bernhard's campus is an example of his commitment to the process — combining the classic features of a Hill Country architectural aesthetic, including stone and metal. It's also a high-tech operation.
"We make it look like it's not just a metal building," said Bernhard, who earned a construction science degree from Texas A&M. "We add a lot of glass."
Kevin Bernhard checks the progress of two of his employees setting up a machine for production.
The company's offices look more like a tech company, with a Texas flair, than a construction firm, and Bernhard stresses the company is moving forward with more innovations. Software programs help drive a builder's vision to the precision of the manufactured project. Finalized plans tell the machines where to place the holes and how to fabricate the pieces.
Bernhard believes this is the future, and he's already delivering plenty of product across Texas and into Oklahoma, but more is on the way.