A framed structure in any material is one that is made stable by a skeleton that is able to stand by itself as a rigid structure without depending on floors or walls to resist deformation.
Materials such as wood, steel, and reinforced concrete, which are strong in both tension and compression, make the best members for compression. Masonry skeletons, which cannot be made rigid without walls, are not frames.
Wood Steel Wood-frame construction has been the system of choice for many years. It has also been the subject of much research into the optimum value engineered framing design. For the most part, this research has been focused on the downward loads on the structure. More recently, as a result of the losses associated with Atlantic hurricanes, the capacity of the building to withstand uplift has become an important subject. Steel framing design offers greater strength compared to its weight, which facilitates safe construction of high-rise or complex buildings. Because steel is manufactured mechanically, it provides a consistency that can not be found with wood-framed buildings.
Basically, a frame house is one that's supported by its walls. The walls, that is, do more than just enclose the house; they also hold it up. This contrasts with, say, post-and-beam construction, in which most of the weight of the building sits not on its walls but on horizontal beams supported by vertical posts inside the building. The outbuilding relies solely on its walls for support, so it's of pure frame design. Frame construction is probably the easiest kind for the beginner because structural members are comparatively light and easy to join together. It also requires only a minimum of engineering, and its basic principles can be mastered fairly swiftly.
The heavy timber frame, in which large posts, spaced relatively far apart, support thick floors and roof beams, was the commonest type of construction in eastern Asia and northern Europe from prehistoric times to the mid-19th century. It was supplanted by the American light wood frame (balloon frame), composed of many small and closely spaced members that could be handled easily and assembled quickly by nailing instead of by the slow joinery and dowelling of the past. Modern heavy-timber and laminated-wood techniques, however, provide means of building up compound members for trusses and arches that challenge steel construction for certain large-scale projects in areas where wood is plentiful.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_(construction)#Structure http://www.ny27.com/thoreau/ch01.html http://web.dcp.ufl.edu/stroh/WoodFraming.pdf http://ironbedframes1.com/structural-steel-framing Encyclopaedia Brittanica, vol. 1. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Inc., 1974, pp. 1101 – 1102. [Edited by Marianela Najul, for second language teaching purposes (March, 2010) ] http://www.civil.northwestern.edu/people/bazant/PDFs/Papers/S1.p df