Thanks guys - I appreciate the responses. The owner says that the bbq is designed for "direct heat" bbq as they do it in North Carolina. However, "direct heat" can mean different things depending on how far the meat is from the food source, and you can always use a baffle and a water pan to control the heat. My main concern is for when I'm grilling steak as I like to start on the hot end of the scale and then taper down after I've achieved my sear and char marks. I like this design for this reason because I can raise and lower the coal grate level depending on my needs, and the cooking grate is large enough to move a lot of things to the sides if necessary.
How long would 9 gauge expanded steel last if I used one sheet to support the coals and another to grill/bbq? Obviously heat on the bottom grill would be pretty hot as I'd shovel wood coals directly on the material; the heat on the top grill would vary from 200 - 600 degrees, depending on whether I was bbqing or grilling.
Great site - I've already learned a lot. I've almost gotten all of the hardware that I need for my UDS build that I'll start this winter. This pit build is for a couple of years from now when I relocate.