Metal Architecture Home

Marvin K. Snyder, PE, AE: Innovative metal building systems pioneer has legacy of testing and advanced construction methods

2012 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

Hof  Snyder Marvin

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 industry.

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.

"What's important to me about the metal construction industry is quick and economical construction providing superior cost control, erected qulaity and long-term performance."

-Marvin K. Snyder, PE, AE

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