Steel Buildings, Metal Buildings &
Prefab / Pre-engineered
Steel buildings introduction
Using metal as a building material is
nothing new - iron beams first made
modern skyscrapers possible. Buildings
made entirely of metal have been
cropping up across the country for 60
years since the Quonset hut was invented
during World War II. However, until the
end of the 20th century, most of these
steel buildings were garages, airplane
hangars, barns, and warehouses.
Today, modern building materials,
insulation, and finishing options make
steel buildings a better choice for many
types of buildings such as churches,
retail stores, manufacturing plants,
sports arenas, and offices. Their
primary advantages over traditional
construction - that they are cheaper and
faster to build - stem from the fact
that much of the work is done at a
factory that fabricates the component
parts of the building.
Whether your business needs 10' x 20'
sheds or 150' x 300' manufacturing
facilities, steel buildings might be the
best choice. However as with any
construction project, there are some
complicated decisions to make and
potential pitfalls to avoid. 512
deVeloping will help you decide the best
steel building for your business.
Steel building process and benefits
The benefits of a steel building come
from the construction material itself
(steel) and how the structure is built.
The combination of metal construction
and pre-fabricated components provides
three main advantages:
• Cost. Because the labor to put up your
building is drastically reduced, you can
save 30% or more over more traditional
• Speed. A finished steel building can
be operating in 60 to 90 days, instead
of 6 months or more.
• Durability. Without requiring
repainting or other maintenance, steel
buildings are guaranteed to last 20 to
30 years, depending on the manufacturer.
Here is an outline of how a typical
steel building project progresses:
1. Design. Before any work can proceed,
you need to specify the size and shape
of the building, the type of roof and
interior walls you want, the number and
placement of doors and windows, and any
façade or other cosmetic enhancement.
It's of course always cheaper if you go
with general sizes that they already
build them in. There are many sizes that
they are already manufacturing for you
to pick from and most likely that will
fit what you are needing.
2. Engineering. Once the basic design is
chosen, and you've paid a deposit, an
engineer will create the specifications
and blueprints for the building, if they
have not already come with the building.
The blueprints will specify what
materials should be used and what loads
the building will need to be able to
withstand to meet local building codes.
3. Fabrication and delivery. After the
blueprints are signed off on, the real
production begins. The beams, posts,
girders, side and roof panels, and even
the fasteners to hold the building
together are all produced at a factory,
then shipped to your construction site.
The parts are pre-cut to the exact
dimensions you need, pre-drilled, and
ready to be bolted together. This step
can take 3 to 6 weeks.
4. Sitework. While the components are
being manufactured, the building site
can be readied. Steel buildings require
foundations, which are usually poured
5. Construction. Once the components
arrive and the foundation is ready, the
actual construction can take place.
6. Finishing. Adding insulation,
interior walls, exterior finishes, doors
and windows, steps, plumbing, and all
the pieces that turn a metal box into a
building you can appreciate.
7. Walkthrough. Like any construction
project, our steel building will be
approved by a building inspector once it
Designing your steel building
There are two major sets of factors that
will influence the design and
construction of your steel building. One
is practical: the actual use of the
building. This requires work on your
part to think through exactly how you'll
use the building. For example, if you're
building a warehouse, you may need
roll-up doors high enough for your
forklifts to drive through. Steel
buildings always require foundations,
which in most cases are flat concrete
The second is legal. Texas has building
codes that will apply to your project.
These will include things like wind
load: how much of either your building
must be able to stand up to. If you're
building a church or emergency vehicle
garage, extra "importance factors" may
apply that require push the code
requirements even higher. Other legal
requirements include local zoning laws,
drainage requirements, and more.
Some aspects of your design involve both
practical and legal considerations: for
a retail facility, appropriate parking
and handicapped access fall under both
512 deVeloping is equipped for all major
construction projects, you'll need to
rely on our expert advice to assist your
Commercial steel buildings design
Commercial steel buildings come in two
main designs: arch style and rigid
Arch style steel buildings (aka Quonset
huts) became popular during World War
II. They are built from a series of
interlocking metal ribs that form the
roof and sides of the building. Arch
buildings are mostly used for storage
buildings, garages, and sheds. Small
arch style buildings are popular among
do-it-yourselfers as their construction
methods are simple and they are less
expensive per square foot. They are not
very adaptable or customizable, however.
Their construction only allows for doors
and windows in the endwalls, not the
sides, and the overhead clearance drops
considerably as you get further away
from the center of the building.
The primary type of steel building used
for commercial and industrial
applications is the rigid frame style
building. These are constructed with
steel skeleton framing and flat steel
panels for the roof and walls. They can
include doors and windows in any wall,
and can be expanded with relative ease.
While they are still much easier to
build than traditional buildings, more
expertise and equipment is required to
construct a rigid frame building than an
arch style building.
An additional type of building often
produced by the same manufacturers is
the pole barn. Pole barns are simple
buildings that use steel framing, but
feature wood floors and/or walls. They
are primarily used for agriculture.
Note: most of the topics addressed in
this Buyer's Guide apply more to arch
style and rigid frame buildings.
How big do you need it?
One of the advantages of commercial
steel buildings is the huge open spaces
they can easily contain. However, try
not to get carried away: the bigger the
building, the more it will cost you. The
first consideration about size, of
course, is usage. Whether the building
is going to contain shelving units,
parking spaces, pews, or offices, you
should carefully plot out a desired
floor plan to determine the height and
width you need.
A large majority of steel buildings are
single story, but they can be built with
two or three floors if your application
calls for it.
You also need to decide if you can live
with interior columns or not. "Clearspan"
buildings - those without any interior
columns - can be up to around 150' wide.
However the wider they get, the more
weight the frame has to support and the
more expensive the building becomes. In
"modular" commercial steel buildings,
width is nearly unlimited - over 1000'
is possible - but you'll have a series
of metal columns inside. (Note: the term
"modular buildings" also refers to an
entirely different type of construction
in which smaller, more finished
buildings are completely produced in a
factory then shipped to their
Metal building sizing
There are two aspects to your metal
building's height: overall height,
measured on the outside, and interior
clearance. The overall height may be
regulated by zoning laws, but the
clearance height will usually have more
of an impact on your design decisions.
At the low end, 10' clearance is plenty
for many applications. Heights of up to
30' can accommodate extensive warehouse
shelving systems, heavy construction
vehicles and tractor-trailers, or even
airplanes - but of course you'll pay
more for additional clearance.
Rigid frame metal buildings can come
with several types of roofs. "Single
slope" construction starts with one side
wall higher than the other, and the roof
simply slants from the high wall to the
lower. "Peaked" or "gable" roofs have a
more traditional peak, with the roof
running down to both sides.
You may be able to choose the pitch of
your roof, as well. Pitch is usually
expressed as a ratio: 1:12 is the
flattest type of roof, rising 1" for
every 12" of width. 4:12 is usually the
steepest pitch available for steel
buildings. Increased pitch gives you
more interior clearance, helps improve
the building's ability to shed rain and
snow, and can result in a better looking
building - but also increases costs.
Arch style buildings have no distinction
between roof and walls - their curved
sides act as both at the same time. Some
arch style buildings come to more of a
point at the top, while others are
uniformly curved, but generally they
have fewer options than rigid frame
Unless your metal building is going to
be an unoccupied storage building, you
will need insulation. The same rating
system used in residential construction
is used for commercial steel buildings:
R-7 is equivalent to 2" of insulation,
and R-19 is 6".
An important note about insulation: if
you're going to be heating and cooling
the building year round, you'll save
money by buying R-19 insulation. Even
though it is more expensive initially,
the savings in your energy bill will
easily make up for the cost in just a
year or two. You may also want a vapor
barrier for the roof and walls, which
can prevent condensation.
Other important extras include "walk
doors" for pedestrians, various types of
vehicle doors, windows and skylights to
let natural light in, and gutters and
downspouts to manage runoff. Be sure to
inquire about the insulation value of
the doors and windows: look for
double-pane glass and insulated doors.
The final set of add-ons for your
building are cosmetic. At a minimum,
you'll be able to choose the exterior
color of your building. If appearance is
important, you can choose more expensive
finishing options such as complete
façades of wood, brick, or stucco. These
options are less common, but very
important to some buyers. Interior walls
or partitions to make offices are built
by your construction contractors, not
the metal building manufacturer.
512 deVeloping will erect your steel
building we have expertise with prefab
metal buildings and have leverage with
multiple manufacturers - Our
relationships can help you save money.
We can often help you find the best
deal, and can erect your Texas steel
Building to code
We use Reputable manufacturers and we
will not build you substandard
buildings, so we maintain databases of
current central Texas building codes.
The best way to proceed is to have us
list the codes for your building to meet
in your contract, then we verify those
figures with our local officials before
you sign the contract. 512 deVeloping
never wants you to sign a contract
before we verify together the specs.
A typical price for basic rigid-frame
metal buildings is between $18 and $22
per square foot. This includes
materials, delivery, the foundation, and
construction. A more finished building
may be closer to $22 to $32 per square
foot, and extensively customized
buildings with brick facades, unusual
shapes, or complicated construction can
reach $45 per square foot or more.
Materials alone can cost $8 to $18 per
square foot. This varies according to
size: small buildings cost more per
square foot. Materials for a 250' x 120'
church building might cost $240,000, or
$8/sq ft, while a 20' x 20' garage might
cost $6,000, or $15/sq ft.
Foundation costs are fairly standard,
usually $4 to $8 per square foot for
poured concrete. Remember that GCs may
include this cost in their proposals,
but brokers and manufacturers of metal
buildings definitely will not.
Labor costs will vary widely depending
on the size of the project but can range
from $3 to $10/sq ft. These costs will
be charged by the hour, so increased
complexity will drive them up
Insulation will add thousands of dollars
to the cost of a larger building - but
as mentioned previously, is a very good
investment. It will improve the resale
value and soundproofing of your
building, in addition to saving energy
costs - so it isn't an area to skimp on.
You'll be asked to sign a contract that
details the design loads and
specifications for the building. As with
any major business purchase, you should
inspect the contract very carefully
before signing it. Here are a few things
to look for:
• Substitution clauses. Manufacturers
may try to give themselves the right to
use different materials if those
specified are not available. The idea is
sound, but is often used to substitute
cheaper materials for those you wanted.
Make sure any changes are "equal or
greater value" or have to be approved by
• Specifics. The more specifics in the
contract, the better. The contract
should not just list a "10 x 10 overhead
door" - prices range from $250 to $1200
on such doors. The contract should list
brand names and model numbers,
insulation values, locks, coatings or
paints, and more. This is another way
unscrupulous dealers may try to stick
you with lower-quality materials, so
make sure every component is detailed in
• Responsibilities. Since brokers, GCs,
and manufacturers play different roles
in the process, make the contract
details exactly who is responsible for
each phase of the project: design,
engineer's specification, fabrication,
delivery, construction, and inspection.
Steel building buying tips
Do not pinch pennies.
If you're spending tens of thousands of
dollars, a difference of $500 here or
there is not significant. The building
is going to last 30 years or more, so
make sure you get the building you want.
Look closely at good deals.
When two dealers present bids for
similar buildings that are thousands of
dollars apart, you should investigate
the details thoroughly. Chances are that
one is not including everything you
Verify the building codes.
We can not stress this enough: make sure
you get in touch with your local
building officials once you have
specifications from your supplier, but
before you sign the contract. Changes to
meet code will always drive your costs
up, so to avoid late surcharges, you
need to verify that the contract
includes all the right specifications.
Get it in writing.
Some manufacturers may ask for a verbal
go-ahead to "get the factory working" or
to "lock in this price." This is never a
good idea. Getting the details in
writing will ensure that you know
exactly what you're buying.