Marvin K. Snyder, PE, AE
Innovative metal building systems pioneer has legacy of testing
and advanced construction methods
Marvin Snyder is an icon in the field of research throughout the
metal building systems industry and has demonstrated continuing
involvement in it for 63 years. Snyder has developed and tested
metal building product solutions, raising the level of respect for
systems construction among independent professional specifiers and
building owners searching for the highest performance in their
project delivery finished construction.
Because of his involvement, innovative metal building systems
and advanced construction methods have been established. These have
helped change the course of the systems industry from shade and
shelter buildings initially relegated mostly to industrial roles on
backlots to sophisticated end uses with the eye appeal and
performance characteristics, to admirable projects on the main
streets of America. For that, the judges honor Marvin K. Snyder
with selection in the Metal Construction Hall of Fame.
"What's important to me about the metal construction industry is
quick and economical construction providing superior cost control,
erected quality and long-term performance," Snyder says.
Career at Butler
After graduating from high school he was in the 99th Infantry
Division in WWII, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Later, Snyder joined Butler Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo., in
1949, right out of college with dual degrees in Architecture and
Architectural Engineering from Kansas State University, Manhattan,
Kan. At Butler, he started work as a draftsman in the engineering
department, soon moved to a position as architect in the sales
department, followed by being asked to head up buildings research
in a newly formed product research department. He co-championed the
need to develop a large facility devoted solely to quality testing
of materials used in manufacturing Butler systems products.
Later, this led to developing roof and wall systems construction
that prompted the industry to emphasize the total performance of
pre-engineered building systems solutions. Fueled largely by
Snyder's dedication, in 1959, Butler established the 11-acre Butler
Research Center in Grandview, Mo. It became an epicenter of
extensive development, testing and refinement for Butler building
solutions to offer competitive cost, predictable energy efficiency,
weathertightness and reduced maintenance. These features have
become the marketing emphasis of the entire metal building
Guarded hot box testing
Snyder has been a driving force behind the development and
refinement of factory-produced glass fiber and foam-insulated metal
wall panel systems. The guarded hot box (GHB) testing he
spearheaded in the 1970s established test-verified insulating
properties for complete wall and roof system assemblies. The
resulting "U factors" enable mechanical engineers to more
accurately size HVAC equipment for initial savings and long-term
heating and cooling cost reductions for building buyers.
Also, the GHB led to thermal performance improvements in the
roof and wall assemblies. "The guarded hot box test is a standard
ASTM procedure for the thermal testing of assemblies," Snyder says.
"Make a big box, put your specimen in the box between two sides and
find out the heat flow with a lot of instrumentation. We built the
box and it was one of the largest boxes, at the time, in the
country. We tested all of our products and also did contract
testing for outsiders. This taught us what went on inside a wall or
roof with the passage of heat. But, the interest in thermal
performance, and subsequently hot-box testing, died out for a
period, so we deactivated the box. But because of the great
interest in insulation today, Butler has built another hot box
twice the size of the one we had and more highly instrumented."
Committees and retirement
Snyder participated on ASTM and ASHRAE committees that developed
universally recognized test procedures along with implementing UL,
FM and US Army Corps of Engineers procedures that led to formal
certifications by these entities.
He was involved with testing concepts for one of the first
contemporary standing seam metal roof systems- the Butler MR-24-and
certified tests demonstrating the roof system's superior
wind-uplift resistance and energy efficiency. Snyder played an
important role in the development of the Butler two-story
structural system, the former Space Grid system for school and
commercial projects, and several wall panel products. He was
instrumental in acquiring rights to the Triodetic space frame
system applied by renowned architect I. M. Pei to the design of the
John F. Kennedy Museum, Boston, and elsewhere; a factory-insulated
concrete wall panel; a device for applying blanket insulation on
roofs and a U.S. Department of Energy grant applied to the
development of a skylight closure system to study selective passive
solar heating. Snyder retired as manager of the Center in 1986.
A gardener for most of his life, his conifer collection is a
frequent site for several large tour groups visiting every year. He
holds five patents for metal wall panels, skylight and structural
systems, and still does consulting for Butler for its patent work.
"I'm a liaison between the inventor and the patent attorneys to
make it easier for the attorneys and less pressure on the
inventor," he says