Metal Building Systems’ Many Benefits

Metal building systems are the most widely used construction method for low-rise, non-residential construction in the United States. Whether you are talking about strip malls, airplane hangars, industrial complexes, fire stations, gymnasiums, churches or warehouses, chances are high they are metal buildings.

Growing in popularity and capabilities

By Brian Shelton

Chief Mar23 1

But to have any of those facilities, those buildings must be built on-site, and before that they must be manufactured. There is not a single right way to make this all happen but going with a metal building system does have some benefits. How does the metal building industry operate that makes it so different than other traditional construction methodologies?

No two metal building manufacturers are the same. Where some are involved in a building project long before any design work begins, others are heavily involved long after their products deliver. When there is not an architectural firm involved, most metal building manufacturers will be responsible for developing the actual building layout and exterior finishes. From there they seamlessly move to the design work needed to size structural members that result in a complete building system that meets all codes and loads requirements. The project then moves to detailing/drafting where fabrication drawings are produced for use in manufacturing the parts and pieces, as well as producing installation drawings, or for construction drawings. These are to be used by the on-site installers. This marks the start of the actual manufacturing of products.

Inherent Momentum

Because the early product development and other steps leading up to the actual fabrication process are done by the same entity the direct control of other downstream processes introduces inherent momentum. With these fluid integrations of processes comes a better understanding of the finished products at every step along the way and ultimately, we see a streamlined process. General contractors, erectors and end users of metal buildings all benefit from the synergy that comes from this integrated, design/detail/manufacture single-source arrangement. One of those is the close control over materials used and processes employed that result in tighter quality control and fewer mis-fabs.

Another benefit being the speed at which a metal building systems approach can deliver a finished product to a job site when compared to other traditional methods. Working within the traditional structural steel construction methodology means the A/E design professionals are separate entities from the fabricator. Structural steel fabricators exist in many different forms, but steel fabricators for your typical structural steel project are just fabricators. In contrast to a metal building manufacturer, they only manufacture the parts. Additionally, it is commonplace for the architect to be one entity and the engineer of record to be yet another separate entity. Almost always, the steel detailers are yet again another separate entity.

Finally, there is the fabricator, who may be very far removed from the building project, and then there is the GC and other subcontractors. There are exceptions to all of this, but you can see that most processes are performed by separate companies. Information is partitioned, siloed and then passed through many hands of which can contribute to missteps.

This includes the developer, the construction manager, the general contractor, and in some cases even the end user, one of which is left to assemble and manage this team. The scenario described here is an ages old process. It does produce finished products, although some may argue always introducing longer lead times and higher costs. The traditional structural steel building process is fundamentally plagued with a lack of integrated processes and may prove detrimental to a project’s positive outcome on the calendar and in the wallet.

Metal buildings have a wide range of design applications. The capability to integrate most any exterior wall finish results in aesthetically pleasing exteriors. With their use of tapered beams, they are by design a highly efficient use of steel. And since steel is the most recyclable building material in general use, environmentally friendly by default. And lastly, by integrating many of the processes required to take a building from idea to reality by a single entity, the time span from cradle to grave is condensed saving time and money for all involved.

Brian Shelton is the marketing manager at Chief Buildings, Grand Island, Neb. For more information, visit or call (308) 389-7317.

Chief Mar23 2