How It’s Made: Metal Building Innovations Are Revolutionizing Low-Rise Commercial Construction [Video Transcript]

The growing popularity of metal building systems is evident with every drive through cities and suburbs across America. Car dealerships, retail stores, offices, restaurants, churches, schools, the list goes on. In fact, the members of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, MBMA, represent billions of dollars in annual steel shipments, and their custom structures account for more than 50% of the total non-residential, low rise construction market in the United States.

Why such growth? Imagine a construction process where boundaries of design are limited only by the imagination of the architect. Imagine state-of-the-art design and fabrication processes that greatly minimize the use of raw material, and thus reduce impact on the environment. Imagine a system where virtually all steel content is recycled at the end of the building’s useful life. These attributes, and more, make metal building systems so popular.

Innovative changes through the years have transformed metal building systems construction. Flexibility in design, and end use have enabled them to dominate the one and two story non-residential construction market. Featuring sleek architectural wall panels with sweeping expanses of glass, brick, stone, wood, or precast concrete today’s metal building systems are virtually indistinguishable from other forms of construction.

The construction of any metal building system relies on four major functions; design, systems engineering, fabrication, and construction. All of which must work together. Metal building systems provide a unique application for computer aided design, because they use standard components that fit customized applications. Once a professional engineer inputs the building’s geometry, loading conditions, and other vital data into the computer structural design can be rendered in a matter of hours, rather than weeks, as is often the case with other types of construction. When fabrication drawings are complete the manufacturer provides structural components, wall and roof panels, fascia and soffit systems, and more. By the way, if you want to start building your own steel buildings, check out for some great resources.

Steel arrives, in the metal building manufacturers plant, in large coils of varying thickness. Some steel is destined to become the structural frame, others will become purlins, and girts that support the roof and walls, and finally, some coil is pre-painted and will become the exterior roof and wall panels.

The steel is straightened, and then highly optimized plasma cutters create the optimal three plate shapes that will eventually be welded as the flanges and webs of the structural frames. Computer controlled welding machines are used to weld the web and flanges together to form the structural frame of the building. End plates are welded to the beam ends to facilitate erection at the job site. Lighter gauge coils are straightened, and run through roll formers that shape the purlins and girts that will support the walls and roof. Pre-painted coil, available in a myriad of colors, is run through specialized roll formers that shape and strengthen the panels into attractive profiles for roof and wall panels.

Once all materials are fabricated, they are loaded on a transport truck and delivered to the job site. This assures single source responsibility, and prompt product delivery. On the job site, the manufacturer’s expertise and materials meet with the skilled hands of authorized independent builders. In many instances, the builder acts as general contractor. Typically, the start to finish time needed to complete a metal building system is one third less than that of other types of construction. This reduced time translates into savings for the building owner.

One of the most important technological advances in building construction is the standing seam metal roof. It can be designed with a low slope, or it can be highly visible with a steep slope that adds distinctive aesthetic appeal. Some structural standing seam roofs feature a unique faceting system that permits the roof to expand and contract during temperature changes, maintaining its weather tightness. Life cycle studies confirm that standing seam metal roofs are the most cost effective roof system available.

The International Accreditation Services, AC472 Program is a unique industry quality accreditation program, which assures that metal building systems manufacturers undergo rigorous examination of their engineering, manufacturing, and management activities by an independent auditing firm. Annual onsite audits at each manufacturing plant and design location affirm that accredited manufacturers maintain high levels of competency, quality, and integrity in metal building design and fabrication.

Be sure to specify AC472 accredited manufacturers for every project. Today, design opportunities for metal building systems are virtually endless. From traditional to contemporary, to the avant-garde, more and more architects and owners are discovering that metal building systems are an attractive, popular, and cost, and energy efficient building solution.

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