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Metal Building Systems: The Cost-Effective Choice in Commercial Construction

Building smart means building strong, sustainable, and cost-effective projects. A metal building system might be the key that unlocks the savings for your next construction project.


The construction industry faces an uphill battle with soaring material costs and growing demand. Rising prices for lumber, concrete, and other traditional building materials are squeezing budgets, leaving businesses and investors scrambling for cost-effective solutions. Choosing the right material for your structure is a crucial decision that influences both short-term and long-term considerations.



Producer Price Index - Lumber and Wood Products - Federal Reserve of St. Louis

Lumber prices went on a wild ride between 2019 and 2023, experiencing dramatic increases, volatility, and finally some recent stabilization. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), lumber prices alone skyrocketed by 133% between April 2020 and April 2021. And while steel prices are not immune to price volatility, there was a much more moderate increase of 38% in the same period. This translates to significant savings for those opting for metal structures.


According to a study conducted by the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA), metal buildings offer significant cost advantages compared to conventionally built structures of similar size and functionality. 


Here are some key findings:

  1. Cost Savings: Metal buildings can be 20-50% less expensive to construct than their conventionally built counterparts.

  2. Insurance Rates: The insurance rates for metal building systems are often lower than those for buildings with wood structural frames, both in sprinklered and non-sprinklered scenarios.

  3. Life Cycle Assessment: MBMA has published a Life Cycle Assessment report on primary and secondary structural steel components used in metal building systems.


Let’s look at the world of metal building systems, exploring various applications and customization options, and showcasing real-world examples of why metal buildings are a more cost-effective choice.


Economic Advantages of Metal Structures


Metal structures, especially those constructed with materials like steel and aluminum, have gained popularity for their cost efficiency in the construction phase. The streamlined manufacturing processes and the ability to prefabricate components off-site significantly reduce labor costs and construction time. A study from the IJSREM found that companies using prefabricated metal buildings saved an average of 25% on total project costs, with 35% lower costs and 20% faster erection times. This efficiency translates into direct savings for project owners without compromising the structural integrity of the building.


Longevity and Minimal Maintenance Costs


One of the key factors contributing to the cost-effectiveness of metal structures is their exceptional durability. Unlike traditional materials such as wood, metal is resistant to common issues like rot, pests, and decay. This longevity ensures that maintenance costs remain minimal over the lifespan of the structure, saving both time and money for building owners.


Longevity:

  • Lifespan: Metal buildings typically boast lifespans ranging from 40 to 70+ years, significantly exceeding the lifespan of wood buildings (20-30 years) and even exceeding some concrete structures depending on construction and environment.

  • Durable Materials: The primary material used in most metal buildings, galvanized steel, offers exceptional resistance to corrosion, rust, and decay. This resistance comes from the zinc coating applied to the steel, acting as a protective barrier against the elements.

  • Minimal Structural Degradation: Steel's inherent strength and low susceptibility to weather-related damage minimize structural degradation over time.

Minimal Maintenance Costs:

  • Low Maintenance Needs: Compared to wood and other traditional materials, metal buildings require significantly less maintenance. They don't need regular painting, sealing, or termite treatments, reducing associated costs and labor.

  • Weather Resistance: The weather-resistant properties of metal minimize damage from rain, snow, wind, and even harsh sunlight, eliminating the need for frequent repairs and replacements.

  • Reduced Risk of Rot and Infestation: Unlike wood, metal is immune to rot and insect infestation, further reducing potential maintenance issues and costs.


While metal inherently offers longevity and low maintenance, proper design and construction practices are crucial for maximizing these benefits. Factors like choosing high-quality materials, applying appropriate coatings, and ensuring proper drainage contribute significantly to long-term performance.


Reflectivity and Solar Reflectance Index (SRI)


While metal buildings inherently have lower SRI, using appropriate treatments and design considerations can mitigate this issue and create energy-efficient structures. These can include:

  • Reflective paints and coatings can increase the SRI by reflecting more sunlight, reducing heat absorption, and lowering interior temperatures. Light colors (white, silver) are naturally more reflective than dark ones.

  • Cool metal roofing: This type of roofing features special pigments or coatings that reflect more solar radiation, reducing heat transfer into the building.


The reflective nature of metal surfaces plays a significant role in minimizing the absorption of solar radiation. This characteristic contributes to a lower Solar Reflectance Index (SRI), effectively reducing the heat island effect in urban areas. Metal building systems provide sustainable and energy-efficient structures.



Pine Cove Christian Camp

Design and Customization


Metal building systems offer cost-effective design and customization options through pre-engineered designs, software efficiency, modularity, and scalability. This allows for efficient use of materials, reducing waste during construction. Additionally, the ability to create large, open-span spaces without the need for interior support columns can lead to cost savings in terms of both material and labor. The ability to work with architects and engineers further optimizes cost while achieving specific needs and aesthetics.


Remember, while metal buildings provide inherent cost benefits, project-specific factors like complexity, customization level, and location can influence overall costs. Fluctuations in steel costs also impact overall pricing, as do geographic factors. Consulting with qualified metal building professionals like Tyler Building Systems is crucial for accurate cost estimates and ensuring designs maximize cost-effectiveness for your specific needs.


Speed of Construction


Time is money in the construction industry, and metal structures are known for their quick erection times. With the majority of components being manufactured off-site, construction timelines are significantly shortened. This not only reduces labor costs but also allows for quicker occupancy, enabling businesses to start operations sooner.


Here's a breakdown of the key areas where prefabrication and streamlined processes lead to significant cost savings:


  • Reduced Labor Costs: Prefabricated components arrive ready for assembly, significantly reducing on-site construction time. This can translate to 20-50% less labor needed compared to traditional methods, leading to substantial cost savings on wages, benefits, and overhead.


  • Smaller Crew Size: Fewer workers are required on-site due to the prefabricated nature. This reduces labor coordination, management, and safety oversight costs.


  • Shorter Project Duration: Faster construction means less time paying salaries and benefits, minimizing overall labor expenses. Shorter construction reduces the duration of site preparation, permits, utilities, and security needs, decreasing associated costs.


The speed of construction associated with pre-engineered metal buildings offers significant cost advantages by minimizing labor, financing, and overhead expenses. Faster construction can also provide intangible benefits like reduced disruption, quicker decision-making, and improved project management. These savings contribute to the overall cost-effectiveness of this building method, making it a compelling choice for various applications.


Metal Building Systems Are A Cost Effective Choice


The cost-effectiveness of metal structures is a result of their efficiency in various construction phases, coupled with their reduced maintenance costs, durability, and energy-efficient properties. As a metal building expert, I advocate for the consideration of metal structures in construction projects, emphasizing the economic advantages they bring to the table. By choosing pre-engineered metal building systems, builders not only make smart financial decisions but also contribute to the development of sustainable and resilient structures for the future.


Pre-engineered buildings offer flexibility to accommodate various needs and budgets, ensuring cost-effectiveness across different project types. The specific cost savings depend on project size, complexity, and location. However, studies suggest prefabrication can deliver 15-30% overall cost savings compared to traditional construction. 



Tyler Building Systems

When you’re ready to explore your next project, call Tyler Building System at (903) 561-3000. We’ll be happy to start the conversation and help you on your way to a more cost-effective choice. 


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