Steel buildings have come very much into vogue this year. Here are a few reasons why.
What are the advantages of steel buildings over traditional wooden buildings?
- They are economical for just about any building project
- They are typically better insulated
- Buildings made of steel offer flexibility in building design
- They are pre-engineered against wind and snow issues
- They have far fewer foundation problems
- They are durable, still standing after many years
- Steel structures require much less time and money for remodeling
- They cost less to insure
- They are insect-resistant
- Steel buildings are much easier to assemble
Let’s break this list down.
1. They are economical for just about any building project
Steel is one of the most cost-efficient materials for use in commercial, residential or agricultural buildings.
Every dollar must be accounted for in construction projects, and steel has unique benefits that give it the edge over many other types of building materials — particularly short-term.
And, in the long-term, costs incurred in the build-out of a large metal building can be amortized much more efficiently than by using any other material.
In fact, using prefabricated steel is typically one of the easiest ways to save money when you’re building a big metal building.
After all, cost means more than just the price of materials. Time and effort needed to construct the building – – from blueprints to assembly – – must also be rolled into the final overall expense. When these soft costs start adding up, it’s helpful to save a little money on the construction materials line item that includes the cost of steel.
2. Steel buildings are typically better insulated
Most builders of steel structures these days recognize that the better insulated you can make your building, the happier your owner or tenant is going to be. Because if you’re paying the utility bill, better insulation translates directly into energy cost savings.
Without proper insulation, many buildings cannot keep their heat during long cold winters. And during the summer, the roof and the walls of steel buildings especially can easily transfer the sun’s heat indoors.
Traditional insulation is installed between wooden studs, but metal building insulation is usually installed directly over the framing, offering continuous coverage.
In fact, insulation nowadays is usually blown-in, using technology known as closed-cell insulation or open-cell insulation. And while this type of insulation is considered to be relatively pricey, building owners report that it is far superior over traditional insulation — and worth the extra expense.
3. They are pre-engineered against wind and snow issues
What is a pre-engineered metal building and why is having one so important?
“A pre-engineered metal building system is a building enclosure system that always includes a structural system and often includes roof and wall cladding,” say the experts at EDIS, a company that provides planning, building, and operations expertise to a wide-ranging group of private and public markets.
Cladding is any material used in a structure’s exterior.
So what is meant by pre-engineering a metal building? The diagram above shows a system of rigid frames that are fabricated from plate steel and then cold formed into an “I” shape through a special manufacturing process, according to EDIS engineers.
“These rigid frames consist of roof beams and columns that are field-bolted together. They can span large distances without intermediate supporting columns, and are commonly spaced at intervals between 15 feet and 60 feet.
“And in some instances they can span, column-free, up to 300 feet across a building.”
This kind of structural Integrity is why pre-engineered metal buildings are often the only structures still standing after a tornado or other significant wind event.
The same could be said for the building’s ability to withstand the brutal Northern winters recently that left up to four feet of snow piled onto metal building roofs in a matter of hours.
4. Buildings made of steel offer flexibility in building design
Free-standing metal buildings that are pre-engineered can offer incredibly creative options for interior designers.
Nowhere has this become more apparent then in the recent swell of Interest in so-called barndominiums, where it is not uncommon to see 25 to 30 ft vaulted ceilings that run the length of a 50 foot or even a hundred foot building.
Aside from offering the opportunity for a spectacular 20 foot Christmas tree, this clearspan design has provided equestrians the unheard of ability to not only house their horses under the same roof as their living quarters, but to trick out entire riding arenas inside as well — rodeo quality dirt as well.
Churches, civic centers, airplane hangars — all these would not be possible without the design flexibility offered by modern steel buildings.
5. They have far fewer foundation problems
The folks at Whirlwind Steel offer an excellent explanation of why metal building foundations present fewer problems then either pier and beam or cinder block footers.
“Before construction begins, the land is surveyed for site levelness and to mark the boundaries of the lot. When that is complete, the plot is graded and at that point you learn what type of soil your foundation will sit upon.”
Poor soil conditions, they say, may require a thicker foundation or more reinforcements. Or in some extreme cases, you might face the necessity to even bring in a better grade of dirt to spread on your existing earth.
However, once contractors are satisfied that the underlying dirt is suitable, an engineered foundation can be poured.
These two steps – – engineering both the soil and the slab –- will make all the difference down the road. Because the last thing you want is to have your foundation crack under the weight of your big new steel building.
6. They are durable, still standing after many years
A recent question on the super blog Reddit sparked a conversation about how long metal buildings last – – in other words, what kind of life expectancy may they have?
Engineers both retired and current took to their keyboards and offered varying anecdotal stories.
“I’ve seen chemical plants with metal structures that are over a hundred years old,” said one veteran engineer. “However, the life expectancy can vary greatly depending on the use of the structure.”
In chemical plants for example, a building’s life can be short — the victim of various acidic compounds in the air.
But — just to throw out the super ballpark number, without any sort of input, say the pundits on Reddit — is that your average steel and concrete structure will last 40 to 50 years without maintenance
7. Steel structures require much less time and money for remodeling
Or rather, do steel structures require less time and money for remodeling?
The good people over at EVC Studio — an architectural and engineering college based in Colorado — spoke to this topic recently and came up with a predictable answer.
They weren’t being facetious. They were simply stating the obvious. Remodeling any structure, any size, is going to invariably present a certain level of risk. That is, the risk that you’re going to uncover something unexpected that will cost big bucks to repair.
However, this isn’t the case with big steel buildings or even small steel buildings. it isn’t that they are impervious to decay. But they are very close to it.
Rhino Steel Building Systems talked candidly on their website recently about putting a new face on an old metal building.
They said that in their experience — and that of their customers — being able to quickly and efficiently update an aging metal building is one of Rhino’s chief virtues.
In fact, In a recent blog post, Rhino talked about renovating a couple of units in a warehouse district that they own. They chronicled the process in a kind of case study.
The structures were 15,000 square feet and 9,000 square feet respectively, and both were 14 feet tall. The steel framing on the buildings was in great shape structurally, but to increase the value to new tenants, Rhino decided to update the exteriors.
They removed weathered steel wall panels and put new wall sheathing on. Then they added contrasting steel trim and steel gutters with downspouts to complete the new look.
Before updating the interior, however, they decided to take that opportunity to put new, more energy-efficient materials inside. And, in addition, they put a new roof over the old, installed insulated overhead doors and put in sturdy steel walk-in doors, replacing the existing doors.
They recently started renting out the two units and report that new tenants are delighted with the new/old structures.
8. They cost less to insure
Because of their exceptional strength and durability, metal buildings cost far less to insure than wooden buildings. In addition, they are extremely resistant to weather conditions and fire.
Whirlwind Steel reports that metal building systems have lower insurance rates in classes 1 and 2. And are comparable to class four, but higher than classes 5 and 6.
They also point out that insurance is a significant expense for any property owner and that the more square footage there is to ensure the higher the cost for repair or replacement.
This will typically mean higher rates for bigger buildings.
9. They are insect-resistant
Because most steel buildings sit on a concrete pad, there is zero chance for termite infestation – – a perennial bane for old wooden structures.
This is not to say that metal buildings have no enemies in the insect world. Anyone who has a steel shed in their backyard can attest to critters clinging to the outside base of the building, particularly under plants.
But those backyard sheds typically do not sit on any kind of concrete slab, typically choosing instead to use bricks, concrete blocks or railroad ties as their foundation of choice. Just about all of these materials do have their share of bugs, however.
Warehouse-size metal buildings, however, do not usually have a problem.
10. Steel buildings are much easier to assemble
Champion Buildings reports that metal buildings, including those that are prefabricated and then framed on site, save a lot of time and money on labor.
They add that buying a turnkey all-in-one solution saves time and money with less coordination and time waiting for supplies to be delivered.
Many shipments are brought to your job site on the bed of a flatbed truck and can be assembled quickly by a small crew — simply matching letters a to a and b to b.
This primarily applies to one-story buildings, of course. For multi-story buildings, you will need different construction techniques and a professional crew.
Steel buildings have many advantages, including the ten we touched on today. And we will even throw in the 11th one, although it’s not often exercised.
Did you know that most metal buildings can be recycled at the end of their useful lives? It’s true. Steel can be recycled endlessly without losing any of its strength or original properties.
So now you know a few more facts about the advantages of metal buildings over any other kind. Come back to this website often for even more random wisdom and fun factoids from the fascinating world of metal buildings.