Buildings & Interiors

Ranch Buildings, The Steel of Texas

Gone are the days of Quonset huts with their half-circle domes atop steel foundations. Not that there is anything wrong with Quonset huts, which garnered their name from the location where they were first manufactured (Quonset Point, North Kingstown, Rhode Island). But even their strongest defenders admit that they are so plain just looking at them inspires yawns.

In striking contrast, today’s metal buildings offer all the style of a fashionista’s closet while still incorporating a well-deserved, enduring reputation for sturdiness, weather resistance and a clear-span interior; that is, uninterrupted or undivided by support posts or walls, as is the case in standard (“stick-built”) construction.

In fact, the newest generation of metal buildings incorporates the structural strength and integrity of steel framing further enhanced by metal roofing, metal wall panels and other metal fabrication items.

The finished result is a building that requires little or no painting or maintenance, holds heat (and cool air) effectively, and blends well with conventional stick-built construction styles, whether they are Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired office buildings and homes or cubist architectural interpretations which serve as museums, libraries and auditoriums. In fact, there is no style or type of building that can’t be melded with a steel building to create greater space while retaining artistic integrity.

In fact, according to the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, or MBMA, the industry saw member sales in 1956 of $69.6 million, demonstrating that metal buildings already had a strong foothold in the building construction trades. By 1960, a mere four years later, sales had reached $98.6 million, with the industry shipping 260,000 tons of steel from fabricators to builders.

A decade later, sales had climbed to $363 million, an almost fourfold increase driven in part by the development of the standing seam roof system and the discovery of modern metal coatings, or paints, that allowed metal buildings to display their true colors – in this case, everything from burgundy to saffron and silver.

In 1980, the metal building trade reached another milestone, selling and assembling more than $1 billion worth of steel structures comprised of more than a ton of steel delivered and assembled. Two decades later, at the dawn of a new millennium, sales were over $2.5 billion with more than 1.875 million tons of steel shipped and assembled to create steel buildings that had no exemplar in terms of usability, sturdiness and ease of maintenance. In fact, metal roofs alone now represent a building paradigm often used in both commercial and residential structures for their ability to last a long time, in many types of weather, resisting fire, insects and solar degradation.

Unlike stick-built construction, which goes up onsite with men cutting the lengths of 2x6s and 2x4s as needed, metal building systems are engineered using CAD (computer aided design) software to eliminate the guesswork and mistakes of wood building systems. Thus, while metal building components fit together perfectly, providing strength and structural integrity, wooden joists and cross members are cut on the job site and – sometimes just slightly longer or shorter than architectural drawings call for – fitted together in a less-than-perfect system as far as structural solidity goes. And these small errors eventually lead to much larger problems, since structural integrity depends so strongly on accurately sized wall and roof members.

Today’s metal buildings are assembled from four main components: rigid frames, wall girts and roof purlins (i.e., horizontal wall and roof supports), cladding or wall members, and bracing. And, though all metal buildings are alike under the “skin”, so to speak, they can be fitted with facades that allow them to stand alone or be incorporated into existing facility types like churches, schools, medical facilities, retail sales locations and office buildings – not to mention warehousing, distribution centers, athletic facilities, police, fire and EMS stations, passenger airline terminals, and even apartment buildings.

Thanks to metal’s versatility, which allows individual components to be engineered and manufactured to specified dimensions, and designed to meet loading conditions such as snow, J4 Building Solutions and other metal building contractors offer any enterprise (including homeowners) a shelter that will last a long time and look good doing it.

© J4 Building Solutions

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