Soaring roof lines, perfectly executed arches on a grand scale, buildings that look like origami sculptures — what do they all have in common? In addition to their breathtaking ingenuity and futuristic combinations of glass, beams and exposed structural elements, they are all fabricated of steel. They are all beautiful. Many have won awards. All evoke feelings and comment.

This is the future of the metal building and steel framing industry. No longer are metal buildings relegated to the warehouse district and dismissed as purely functional structures, devoid of character and appeal. Architects, city planners, space designers and visionaries of all types have embraced steel as an artistic form, and acknowledged its suitability for commercial use, impressive retail space, sports facilities, forward-looking residential development and innovative office structures that place creativity at the forefront of design.

Not just for bridges and barns in the 21st Century.

Steel in its raw form can be formed into distinctive shapes, curved, soaring, flared; tall, wide and broad. It is ideally suited for constrained building sites, and for buildings which have unusual limitations in either footprint size or height. Load factors and environmental concerns can be engineered out of existence when steel is the building material of choice.

Today’s emphasis on long-lasting buildings and sustainability contribute immensely to the appeal of steel as a building material. Its cost-effectiveness is no minor player in the overall appeal either. Steel has been used for nearly 200 years as a building material for agricultural storage and for strictly utilitarian purposes. Its strength, ability to span large dimensions, resistance to rot and weather and its relatively low cost have always recommended it for commercial, functional use.

Now, however, steel is the malleable material favored by artistic architectural designers intent on making a statement with form. Structural steel boasts a number of important advantages over other materials for buildings of the future. It is:

  • Virtually maintenance free over the long term, compared to wood, stone and concrete
  • A green material
  • Relatively easy to construct
  • Allows modular components to be manufactured off-site and assembled easily on-site
  • Able to withstand weather extremes of heat, cold, snow load, rain and wind
  • Energy efficient
  • Sustainable and conservative in use of natural resources

Throughout a steel building’s long life, it meets or exceeds requirements for all commonly measurable standards. Almost as important, the steel is 100% recyclable, an important concern for the future.

Think of steel in terms of flexibility.

Flexible design, though, is at the top of the list when construction professionals talk about steel building practices. Because steel can be used as a structural component as well as a finishing material, because it is strong as well as attractive, and because it is cost-effective in nearly all instances, it is evolving as the one truly sensible building material for the future.

Numerous examples of innovation show steel as an emerging leader in residential design, with laudable examples of multi-story housing in places as diverse as Missoula, Mont., and Manhattan’s West Chelsea district in New York City. Collegiate and municipal projects in locations with as little in common as El Dorado, Ark., Clemson, S.C. and University of California, Berkeley, have won awards for design and innovation. Domes, retractable roof sections, and cantilevered roof spans with minimal support trusses are features of award-winning projects. Automobile dealerships, shopping malls, modern “cathedrals,” sports facilities and even cruise ships all benefit from the spaces that can be created and enlivened with steel forms.

An ancient iron alloy moves into the future with gusto

Although the use of steel for other purposes is an old story, steel as a building material is still in its infancy, so to speak. But as new technology is developed and refined, steel is sure to be at the forefront. Image Building Systems of Scottsdale, Ariz., is positioned to be a part of that exciting future. With a focus on commercial and residential steel building construction, we have our eyes on the future and our sights on the goal of being a leading designer and erector of pre-engineered metal buildings. Our portfolio of completed projects proves we are well on our way.