Green Building Options

Metal building systems combine flexibility and sustainability

Blain’s Farm & Fleet knows all too well the misconception about conventional construction versus construction with a metal building system. In fact, the chain’s director of engineering, Neal VanLoo, recently was challenged by an architect when building a new store.


“The architect was against using a metal building system because he thought the design would be a square, fixed-dimension tin box,” VanLoo said. “We had to sit down and review the plans with him in order for him to realize the benefits of a metal building system.”


VanLoo said Blain’s Farm & Fleet exclusively uses metal buildings for new construction. (The Janesville, Wis.-based retailer made the change because of flexibility, economics, delivery and quality.) Its new 114,500-sq.-ft. store in Verona, Wis., is a good illustration: The building is a metal building system with a standing-seam metal roof. The walls are insulated precast concrete panels, split-face block, and horizontal and vertical architectural metal panels.


Sustainability is important to Blain’s Farm & Fleet, whose Verona store has high insulating values, skylights and clerestory windows. Its metal building system plays a key role in its green construction. Steel, the primary material in a metal building, is the most recycled and recyclable building material. Plus, the array of available choices for walls and ceilings means that insulating values can soar with a metal building.


“For those seeking LEED accreditation, steel can help achieve that goal,” explained Chuck Haslebacher, chairman of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA). “The steel members of a metal building are engineered specifically for each building and then shipped to the construction site. Along with no wasted materials, this offers customization, a quick construction period, and the capability to erect a building year-round.” 


Despite the benefits of metal buildings, there is a perception that a conventional building design is the most economical and permanent choice. Haslebacher disputed the notion and explained that with current steel-building solutions, owners and developers receive the building package from a single-source supplier.


“A metal building from a single source can offer a faster, consistent and more efficient construction life-cycle cost,” he said. “The products reach the job site faster, and engineering costs are typically lower than conventional engineering. And metal building systems are permanent structures lasting 60 years or more.”


They are also very versatile, according to Haslebacher.


“The versatility of a metal building system allows many other exterior materials to be used,” he explained. “The steel frame bears most of the building load, so the exterior finish can be brick, glass, masonry, EIFS, insulated steel wall panels or other options. With these materials, the distinctive look can be created to express a retail corporate image.”


A good example is the Ace Hardware in Boone, Iowa. The store is a metal building construction. The builder/steel erector R.H. Grabau Construction, Boone, used a combination of glass split-face block and special insulated embossed panels. The subtle colors were chosen to create a contrast with the Ace Hardware sign for aesthetic appeal, as well as long-term durability from the elements. A metal roof and wall system were also incorporated to create an energy-efficient package.


INTERIOR: On the interior, metal buildings provide easy adaptability, with the steel spans allowing for creative and interchangeable interior designs. 


“When one tenant moves out and the new one wants a different layout, the wide-span configurations of a metal building allow spaces to be reshaped and remodeled,” Haslebacher said. “Also, the metal building provides flexibility for mechanical additions and interior electrical layout alternatives.”


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