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How to identify a metal building

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How to identify a metal building

Jeff Koos | October 9, 2015
How To Identify A Metal Building
How To Identify A Metal Building

Once upon a time, all metal buildings pretty much looked the same. The original metal buildings—also known as pre-engineered buildings—were strictly utilitarian boxes available in a few standard sizes. They were easy to spot.

Then, a revolution occurred, which can be summed up in one word: architecture. Contemporary metal building systems have such broad versatility of design and size, and so many options in shape and finish materials, virtually none of the old pre-conceptions apply.

Metal Building systems are no longer “pre-engineered” in the old, one-size-fits-all sense.  Every building is now custom engineered using advanced computer design software. The difference between standard and custom virtually disappears. Today’s metal building system can be the shape and size needed for the application envisioned by the architect. 

Metal buildings all used to be clad in metal panels. Now, a wide variety of exterior looks and materials can be utilized to give your building a distinctive appearance.  Stucco, EIFS, masonry veneers, and wood are all available, not to mention a new generation of metal panels that offer outstanding appearance options and performance.

Glazing—even vast expanses of glazing—are possible.  The metal buildings of yesteryear were drab and largely windowless. Now, an application that depends on big, beautiful windows—such as a car dealership—can have everything it needs in a metal building system.

Even on the interior, a new metal building system may not reveal its nature the way the old ones did.  You used to see the tapered columns protruding from finished walls on the interior, but that’s no longer necessary.  Straight columns, which can be completely concealed by the interior wall finish, are available, eliminating that industrial look and allowing almost any look you want.

So, how can you identify a metal building?  Here are a few clues.

Large Clear Span – One of the great advantages of a metal building system has always been the large, column- less clear spans that are possible, and that has not changed.  If the building you’re looking at has a vast, open area inside with no columns to interfere with the view and utility of the space, it may be a metal building system.  (Some very large metal building systems are designed with interior columns, a modular design that allow almost infinite size to be constructed.)

Occupant Comfort – If the building has good temperature control, it could be a metal building.  While the original metal buildings could be drafty barns, the new systems, with insulated wall and ceiling panels or conventional insulating materials, are high performing and energy-efficient. 

Fast Construction – If you happen to be present during construction, and you notice that the building goes up really fast, it could be a metal building system.  Metal building systems have always been fast-erecting structures, and that has not changed.  In fact, modern manufacturing methods provide part labeling that makes construction even faster and more error-free than ever.

Affordability – If you’re paying for a new building, and you notice that it’s much more affordable than you expected, you might be getting a metal building.  Metal building systems save on construction cost and construction time (which is another cost).  That may be one of the reasons metal building systems now account for over 50% of the new, low-rise buildings constructed in the US.    


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