Energy Savings with Metal Building Systems

With the days of low energy costs fading quickly in the rearview mirror, it’s time to consider the implications of the new administration’s focus on climate change.

Increased awareness of climate change and potential for increased regulation

By Bruce Bortree

Butler Apr21 1

According to the International Energy Agency, the buildings and buildings’ construction sectors are responsible for over one-third of global final energy consumption and nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions. Given that fact, our industry will make a prime target for increased regulation and taxes, or a combination of both.


President Joe Biden’s platform is calling for an aggressive push to reduce our dependence on carbon-based fuels. This campaign is called decarbonization.

We already have a concrete example of this approach to a heavily regulated energy market. It’s called the state of California. California utilities are facing billions of dollars in cost related to renewable energy mandates and transmission system updates. And decarbonization efforts are prompting municipalities to limit or ban the use of natural gas in buildings. California has a statewide goal of net zero emissions by 2045. Currently, Californians pay on average 17.18 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, compared to the U.S. average of 10.06 cents/kWh. California trails only Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

2021 Energy Terms and Trends

Fuel of the future–Hydrogen is becoming the foundation of the decarbonization efforts. Many industries are focusing on hydrogen to become the fuel for producing zero-carbon goods. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is earmarking $160 million to develop improved technologies for the production, transport, storage and utilization of hydrogen with net zero carbon emissions. The German ministry of economic affairs has invited companies to present ideas for the development of a hydrogen supply chain. Sweden is now testing the integration of hydrogen into its energy infrastructure.

Embodied carbon–The decarbonization movement is also leading to the examination of building energy consumption (operational carbon) and the energy (embodied carbon) used in the manufacturing, transportation and installation of construction materials.

Sustainability–Steel building systems are one of the most sustainable construction methods in use today. The lean design of a metal building means more efficient use of steel and less waste on the job site. And the speed of erection of pre-engineered systems means less time on the job site and fewer trades. All these factors combine to require less embodied carbon than most conventional construction methods.

Tested assemblies–The quickest path to understanding your new building’s future energy consumption is via tested assemblies. U-factor performance of tested assemblies provide the most accurate thermal efficiency ratings to calculate future energy use.

In-place construction costs–These new requirements will demand a renewed focus on in-place construction costs. Suppose a project cannot use standard pre-engineered components with tested U-factors. In-place construction costs will rise from prescriptive measures like long-tab insulation systems or continuous insulation on exterior walls.

COMcheck–The COMcheck software from the DOE is the easiest path for builders, designers and contractors to determine whether a new building will meet IECC and ASHRAE requirement standards as well as state-specific codes. Thirty-nine states use COMcheck software as a compliance method. Eight other states are municipality specific. Only California, Washington and Alaska do not recognize COMcheck. You’ll find that most tested assemblies will supersede more costly presciptive methods. With tested assemblies, you’ll be able to create the most efficient buildings possible to meet or exceed your requirements. Net zero buildings–The World Green Building Council defines net zero buildings as a building that is highly energy-efficient and fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources. Net zero initiatives are springing up throughout the United States. California’s plan calls for 50% of existing commercial buildings to be zero energy by 2030 and new state buildings to be zero energy by 2025.

While the march to net zero is not inevitable, these trends do require a shift in thinking from merely meeting energy codes to maximizing the total cost of ownership from long-term operational costs of energy and maintenance.

Bruce Bortree is builder engagement manager at Butler Manufacturing, Annville, Pa. To learn more, call (717) 867-3293, email or visit

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