Surviving in a Tough Economy:
Research Helps Metal Buildings Build Market Share
Cutting-edge research is allowing metal building systems to gain
market share, even through the long economic downturn. In spite of
economic circumstances, the Metal Building Manufacturers
Association (MBMA) firmly commits to maintain its significant
investment in spearheading and funding industry research.
MBMA has long been known as the association that focuses on
industry research. Through this effort over the past 50 years, MBMA
has gained a well-recognized and respected reputation among the
leading research institutions, researchers, and code and standard
This consistent and continuing research commitment is designed
to do three things for the metal building systems industry:
• Increase our ability to design more efficiently and
creatively, incorporating more material options while streamlining
the structures and adding strength and flexibility.
• Increase our knowledge in sustainable building trends.
• Advance the state of the art for metal buildings within local
and national building and energy codes and standards.
But what rewards do these efforts reap? Consider the value of
the following recent initiatives:
Full-scale wind load testing was performed on overhead doors to
better understand the interaction of rolling sheet doors with jambs
of varying stiffness. The goal of this project is to provide new
design methods that take into account the complex relationship
between the stiffness of the door and the stiffness of the jamb and
to provide cost effective solutions that stand up to severe
hurricanes and other wind events.
Research on the flexural strength of Cs and Zs with rigid
insulation has given the industry tools to calculate the
load-carrying capacity of roof and wall systems where rigid
insulation is placed between metal panels and girts or purlins.
This method of insulating a metal building may become more common
as codes require even greater energy efficiency.
Shear strength of tapered members research has shown that the
actual shear capacity is greater than the predicted capacity that
is currently specified in the codes. This should result in the
adoption of a new method that better predicts the strength, thereby
permitting more efficient design where shear governs.
Flange brace research led to the development of a tool that
provides metal building manufacturers a path to generate design
rules for the strength and stiffness requirements of flange braces.
This is particularly significant since strength and stiffness
requirements for flange braces used in metal building systems are
different and are affected by more variables than those developed
for conventional steel construction.
A base plate software tool has been developed to help determine
the rotational stiffness of column bases in metal building system
frames. This tool allows manufacturers to design frames with
greater accuracy, especially when determining the lateral
Seismic behavior of metal building frames is being evaluated
using full-scale shake table tests, cyclic tests of column and
rafter assemblies, and advanced computational tools. This intense
research is leading to seismic design methodology that will
recognize the energy dissipation that is inherent in typical metal
building steel moment frames, and remove or relax some of the
current building height restrictions.
Research has confirmed that a steel roof or deck that acts as a
flexible diaphragm reduces seismic demand on a building and has the
potential to reduce the demand on a building's longitudinal
bracing. This results in savings due to the use of fewer struts and
supports, and the possibility of using roof diaphragms in higher
All of this research is costly and time-intensive, yet it is the
essence of what has made metal building systems advance from
simplified structures to some of the most adaptable, innovative and
energy-efficient types of construction in the one- and two-story,
low-rise commercial building market. Today, metal building systems
have achieved a reputation for superior quality, efficiency,
strength and durability. While the marketplace remains sluggish,
the ongoing efforts to improve the quality and integrity of metal
building systems will help the industry be ahead of the curve when
the economy improves. This research also reinforces
the industry's potential for true leadership in the years to
I see MBMA board members-manufacturers and associate member
suppliers-pull together to support each other like never before. In
particular, they are volunteering time and expertise to help us
move this technical research forward.
Fred Koetting is chairman of the Metal Building
Manufacturers Association, Cleveland. To learn more, visit