From wartime quonset huts to modern sporting facilities, spanning maximum distance with no internal support has been an important goal for designers of engineered steel buildings. It is no different today, although the variety of uses has been expanded to include virtually any structure imaginable, from car dealerships to houses of worship.

Not a New Phenomenon

Although metal structures have been prevalent for the last 100 years or so, primarily for agricultural uses, metal buildings really came of age during the era of the second world war. Their history, however, extends to the late 1700s when British builders used metal structures for the textile industry as well as for agricultural purposes. The versatility of prefabricated metal structures was amply demonstrated, and the economy of such buildings made their use standard for commercial and industrial applications. While older mills and factories were still built of brick in many areas, metal buildings were a “cheap alternative” in cities. Metal structures were warehouse-like, generally single story, and without a lot of personality. They were, however, extremely efficient, cost-effective and durable.

The ability to erect serviceable buildings quickly and economically ensured that the emerging steel building industry would flourish. Following World War II, when steel became readily available for civilian uses, the industry standard was set. Prefab metal buildings and, later, pre-engineered roofs and wall panels became the commercial standard. Today, prefab metal building prices represent a substantial economic advantage for commercial use.

A Lot of Advantages

Metal buildings are easy to maintain, retain their good looks over a long period of time, require a lower measure of construction expertise, offer owners long-term advantages in terms of maintenance and upkeep costs, and are adaptable to a wide variety of site conditions and uses. From barns to parking garages, from retail spaces to warehouses, and throughout the country, metal buildings prices are lower than other types of construction, not only in terms of initial costs, but also in terms of building lifespan. Also, because the structural and load-bearing requirements can be easily engineered and specified, code compliance is not often an issue.

While, initially, metal buildings had height and span limitations, modern engineering, fabrication and erection techniques have expanded the possibilities in ways never before imagined. Today, with the advent of computer assisted design, massive structures, unusual architectural forms and interesting uses for metal buildings have become more the norm than an exception.

Really — Is that a Metal Building?

There are, essentially, two type of metal construction: Arched and straight wall. Although there are some variations, each is easily recognizable. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a metal building has to look like a warehouse, though. Just because the bones of a building are steel doesn’t mean that the skin has to look like corrugated metal. Think about some of the most impressive automobile dealerships you have visited. The huge showrooms floors are most likely enclosed by metal posts, beams, walls and roof. No other material can span large space as effectively. What but a metal building could provide the roof span and unobstructed floor space that an airplane hangar requires?

Think, also, of large religious buildings. Those impressive vaulted ceilings, arches and expansive meeting halls are most likely fabricated with steel. Part of the beauty of metal buildings is that they can take on the look of almost anything the designer can imagine. Stucco, stone, synthetic siding, rustic materials and a variety of roofing options can enhance or disguise the look of the metal structure at a building’s core.

Likewise, the mini-warehouses and storage facilities, apartment parking garages, manufacturing plants, retail centers, municipal buildings and event centers that you are used to visiting may flaunt their metal underpinnings. Modern live-work spaces in trendy locations like Santa Fe and San Francisco delight in their chic industrial appeal, and gain notoriety and praise from city planners and the public alike. Metal building pricing in modern society makes steel the material of choice not only for commercial projects and agricultural use, but for large-scale residential applications such as retirement centers and nursing homes. Safety and reliability weigh heavily in such choices. Community centers and municipal facilities increasingly rely on the aesthetic appeal of metal buildings to add spice to the landscape in addition to safety, function and cost-effectiveness.