The Limitless Possibilities of Metal Building Systems

When you look across the landscape of American business today, the sheer number of metal buildings underscores their popularity. You just can’t drive through a business district in America without finding rows and rows of attractive buildings—and most of them are metal building systems.

Growing acceptance of metal buildings as a practical and durable solution

By Steve Browning

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Car dealerships, strip malls, convenience stores, churches, schools, fitness centers … metal buildings dominate the landscape. Driving further through the business districts into the industrial communities, there you find a preponderance of metal structures of all shapes and sizes. For several years now, Vulcan Steel Structures has been helping Shinhwa U.S. Auto Corp., a subsidiary of South Korea-based Shinhwa Group to build out its automotive parts manufacturing facility in Auburn, Ala. It represents over a quarter of a million square feet. This is but one example of how dramatically we are seeing growth in the metal building industry.

Another great illustration is the expansion of Domtar’s Engineered Absorbent Materials (EAM) subsidiary in Jesup, Ga. The firm is a developer and manufacturer of absorbent core solutions for many of the world’s largest consumer product manufacturers. The $60 million expansion will add an additional large-scale production line to the EAM facility that will supply both domestic and global customers, increasing its exports through the Port of Savannah by 60% and adding approximately 500 containers to their annual exports. Dell Keith, executive director of the Wayne County Industrial Development Authority, called the project, “the largest local industry expansion in several years and it will provide a financial boost for Wayne County’s economy.” Vulcan provided 65 truckloads of fabricated steel for the manufacturing campus’s 200,000-square-foot expansion.

Possibilities Spurred by Economic Growth

All this growth in the metal building industry mirrors the generally healthy construction marketplace throughout America and is spurred by an incredibly resilient American economy. The New York Times recently stated, “The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan scorekeeper, predicts the economy will grow by 6.7% for the year, after adjusting for inflation. That would be the fastest annual growth since 1984 in the United States, and it is significantly faster than the budget office and the Biden administration had each predicted earlier this year.”

This trend is underscored by other indicators, such as The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index (LEI) results, showing that, in the first half of 2021, the LEI rose by a robust 5%. The data suggest that we will continue to see solid economic growth into 2022. And, in July, constructionpros.com cited a recent Global Capital Projects Outlook study which reported that firms within the U.S. construction sector express strong optimism about business opportunities within the next year.

Overall economic growth is bound to add to the need for more metal buildings as businesses become energized in our post-pandemic era. At Vulcan, we have seen phenomenal growth in 2021 and expect it will continue into 2022.

New Markets Open to Metal Building Systems

Metal building system opportunities will not only be enhanced by a strong economy but by a growing acceptance of metal buildings as a practical and durable solution for an expanding audience. For example, a number of developers have created entire retail and commercial communities by constructing a complete multivenue complex where people can meander from building to building and shop, eat, meet with friends, participate in a class and so much more. Such venues are gaining ground and are incredibly efficient from economic, environmental and aesthetic perspectives. You can see an entire collection of examples on this topic in a case study titled “Commercial Communities” on the Metal Building Manufacturers Association’s website at www.mbma.com/Case_Studies.html.

Interestingly, we see more and more government complexes composed of metal buildings: offices, recreation and community centers, vehicle maintenance buildings, fire stations, education and training facilities, and airports. Nearly every building owned by a city, municipality, county or state has the potential to be composed of a metal building system or comprised of a family of metal buildings all working together, such as an airport terminal and airport hangars.

Market growth is seemingly spurred not only by the imagination of an architectural community that increasingly embraces the attributes of metal building systems, but also by the greater development community that grasps the value-driven attributes of these structures. This continuing trend bodes well for an already burgeoning industry.

Steve Browning, president and CEO of Vulcan Steel Structures, is a past chair of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) and is also active in the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association (MBCEA). To learn more, visit www.vulcansteel.com

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