The Flexibility of Steel Will Blow Your Mind!

Welcome back to our blog!  This week’s topic will focus on the “flexibility” of steel structures.

Although steel does physically “flex” – as it’s designed to do just like any other form of construction, the flexibility we are talking about is the kind that maximizes investment, speeds up the process from concept to occupancy, and gives an owner the ability to evolve their building with changes in the needs of their business.

A Lot More than a Metal Box

Until about the last ten years or so, your typical “steel building” meant a metal box that stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the blossoming landscape of other types of construction.

While maybe this was true decades ago, technology and the increasingly exacting demands of the end user have taken steel structures leaps and bounds forward in many aspects, both in the construction methods and materials utilized, making today’s steel structures far superior than their distant cousins of back in the day.

Real Examples of Steel Being Not So Unsightly

What do we mean by flexibility?

While it would take us hours to go into every example, check out this latest case from right here at Solid Steel Buildings.

Our team is about to start construction on a two-story, retail and commercial space in Tampa, Florida.

The owners came to us looking for a pleasing building that satisfied the demands of the local gentrification in the up and coming area surrounding downtown Tampa, as well as having a signature structure inside and out that matches the look and feel of the premium products they sell to demanding homeowners as well as commercial clients.

Initially, the designers were under the assumption that constructing with steel meant unsightly interior columns and steel beams that were not the look they wanted. However after a few short meetings they quickly learned how we could transform their dream into reality.

We worked closely with a team of interior designers and engineers to create the aesthetics desired both inside and out, and we were able to adjust the engineering of the structure down to the smallest detail to accommodate the design team at every request, utilizing architectural exterior panels, interior ceiling liners, non-standard column tapering, and a mezzanine system designed to meet their needs.

In the end, this project will prove to be a showpiece, all the while adhering to local building codes as well as the demanding environmental concerns of the south Florida environment, and probably one of the most important aspects, brought in at a cost of about 30% below conventional construction methods.

When it comes to Solid Steel, the Sky’s the Limit!

As you can see from the example above, a custom steel structure can be engineered to exacting standards of owners, as well as the demands of local municipalities, no matter if it’s a retail space, industrial warehouse, or essential facility.

At Solid Steel We’re all about solutions. While we can and still do provide many, many types of buildings from basic back to complex, the “flexibility factor” is only limited by ones wants and needs. Offering our customers choices is a key ingredient to our own thriving success.

Building owners come to us with a dream, an idea, or a requirement to upgrade—and we offer a menu of options to meet every preference, scope and budget. Solid Steel is flexible and agile, just like the choices we offer.


Who’s The Strongest of Them All?

Imagine a building material that is so strong municipalities around the country are using it to build storm shelters to protect their citizens the next time tornado or hurricane warnings are issued. This material is so durable that top aircraft industry professionals trust it to house their most valuable assets. This is exactly the type of security and protection that metal buildings offer.

But metal buildings are more than just reliable protection from the occasional wind, ice storms, hurricanes, tornado or fires; they also protect interiors from pest infestations, mold, mildew and rot.

Steel has other strengths, (pardon the pun)

  • Wind resistance due to ductility – It can bend without breaking. Metal buildings can withstand forces up to 150 MPH without incurring damage to the exterior or foundation.
  • Steel can absorb more energy than less sturdy materials but does not attract lightning any more readily than anything else.
  • If lightning does strike a steel building or roof, the damage is minimized because the lower electrical resistance of steel spreads the heat of strike out along roof and walls to be grounded in the earth.
  • Steel protects people and property within the building, including electronics, from effects of a lightning strike.
  • A steel structure remains standing in Seismic Zone 4, the highest classification of seismic zone which are most prone to seismic waves and shifting grounds.


Take a look at just how solid steel is to protect you from the elements.

Did You Know That a Custom Engineered Metal Building…..


…Is Green:  Custom-engineered steel buildings are increasingly recognized as energy efficient and cost-effective buildings with optimum functionality. The green qualities of a metal building system with recycled content and recyclability makes them an easy choice for today’s ‘Green Campaign.’ Metal buildings can be insulated to achieve extremely high R-values. A steel structure can aid in achieving credits with LEED registration and in achieving an EPA Energy Star Cool Roof rating.  A significant percentage of the steel in custom-engineered metal buildings can be made from recycled materials.

…Is Designed to Suit: Custom-engineered steel building systems are designed to suit an owner’s specific needs. Steel building systems appeal to Architects and Owners because they allow for cost- effective design versatility. Most buildings are a traditional rectangular shape, but often an Architect or Builder or even the site itself will require we use different geometric shapes.  A steel building can achieve most imagination-forward designs.

…Is Assembled Quickly On-Site: Building owners can take occupancy sooner; some estimates show time savings of as much as one-third that of conventional construction time.

…Can Be Climate-Controlled:  We can engineer a building system to be climate-controlled.

…Will Be Delivered to Your Site Within 6 to 8 Weeks: Efficient design and fabrication of materials within a custom-engineered system result in a low-cost building project. A short manufacturing cycle results in lower construction costs.

…Can Have Clear Span up to 200’: The flexibility of a custom-engineered system has several application benefits. For example, the spanning capacity of a metal building is significantly more than that of a wood, concrete or even a conventionally framed structure. This results in much more flexibility concerning floor space. Additionally, customizable column locations and depths offer adaptability to most floor plans. Metal buildings give the end-user more flexibility and customization for their final design.

…Is Value-Engineered: When we value-engineer the metal building system we save the owner material and labor cost over a less efficient alternative design.

…Can be a Hybrid Building: A custom-engineered building takes advantage of all the benefits of an engineered steel building and adds traditional construction elements like tilt-up walls or architectural elements made of light-gauge steel or wood.

…Has Entered New Market Segments: Due to their versatility, growth can be found through providing structures that go beyond the typical industrial applications. We see great potential in schools, churches and commercial structures. Everyone is looking for more efficient ways to build without sacrificing quality. This need has opened new markets not only in the private sector but also in the government sectors. Barnominiums are one of the new trends in this space.

…Is Virtually 100% Recyclable: So, it does not usually end up in a landfill like other construction materials.

What Is a Building Envelope?

Lately, almost all my Projects have had to address the “Building’s Envelope” to satisfy our client’s local Permitting Office’s energy requirements.  “What is a building envelope?” you may ask.

The building envelope, or shell, is the collective of several parts of the structure that work to enclose the interior environment and includes the roof, walls, windows, doors and foundation.  The purpose of the envelope system is multi-fold and includes ensuring structural integrity, controlling moisture, preventing thermal leakage and controlling air pressure boundaries. The enclosure begins in the ground with the footer, piers, frost wall and floor. It then extends out of the ground as walls, windows and doors and is ultimately capped with a roof.

All parts of the envelope must work together to achieve a common goal, of stopping the flow of air, water, cold and heat while still allowing the inevitable intrusion of water a way to dry out. The parts of the building where this balance is always the trickiest is where the roof meets the walls, the walls meet the floor and the floor meets the foundation.  When the design of these lines is uncertain, there will be a weak spot.  And where there is a weak spot, there is a potential break in the building’s envelope which will allow wind, water, dirt, insects, rodents, etc. to penetrate the interior.
Each part of the envelope has unique challenges that must be accounted for in a proper design.  A roof is bombarded by the sun, cold, heat, rain, snow, wind and hail. Walls contend with most of the same conditions, to a lesser degree. Walls have more weak links, such as doors, windows, signage and decks. Foundations see very small temperature swings because they’re buried underground but, unless you live in the desert, the ground is always wet, and that water is always pushing its way in. Water in the soil will wick all the way up to the roof framing if you let it. Capillary breaks such as brush-on damp-proofing, sill sealer, and rigid insulation block this process.  Many considerations must go into each component of the building to create a proper envelope.

It is vital to create an air barrier, a thermal break, a controlled internal environment, sealed seams and a few other components to be considered a true envelope in all steel structures.  An air barrier is the sum of many parts and consists of materials assembled and joined together to prevent air leakage between the conditioned space and unconditioned space — aka, the inside and outside. A typical air barrier incorporates more than a dozen materials, including some or all of the following: poured concrete, sill seal, wall sheathing, wrap, mastic tape, caulk, spray foam, gaskets, window glass, drywall, polyethylene, weather-stripping, etc. If any of these materials are leaky, the building’s air barrier may be compromised.

A Federal guide has been developed for the exterior envelope design and construction for Federal Institutional, Federal Office Buildings, etc.  This guide has been adopted by most State and Local Permitting Offices either as a general guide or as the official regulations.  Since more strict requirements have been applied to all Construction through local Permitting Offices, that equates to my clients having to spend more money on the building’s materials to get the final Permit to Build.

Unfortunately, many companies in my industry either do not possess the knowledge or choose to ignore properly addressing these building envelope requirements.  When my counterparts at other companies are speaking to customers who are entertaining the idea of building a steel structure, they readily quote a building with 6” (R-19) roof insulation and 3” (R-10) wall insulation even though they know there is NO WAY these minimum R-factors will EVER pass Permitting.

Why is that sort of behavior being conducted in my Industry?  The answer is simple, many companies strive to appear that they are giving the best cost and rely on the customer not thoroughly reviewing exactly what is included for the price.  Everyone wants to spend less money, right?  First-time builders look at a quote that has the building, drawings, gutters, doors, windows, insulation, and delivery all included and think, “That is a price that fits my budget.” Unfortunately, they are soon to find out that the insulation does not meet the Building’s Envelope Requirements.  Now they have an unexpected expense to upgrade the insulation.  And this is when the unsuspecting, trusting customer gets whacked over the head with a brutal change-order.  This problem is usually compounded when the customer realizes, in many cases, that the building does not have a full trim package, the doors are chintzy, gutters are sold to them without the downspouts, screws aren’t included, mastic tape is not included, and the list goes on of potential costs the customer thought were all included.  Leaving these items out of the initial building sale and then issuing change orders to the customer later is just an unfortunate way that many companies try to make profit.

Back to the Envelope…. When you are planning, preparing and investigating on what Steel Building Provider you are going to engage to help you fulfill your dreams of constructing a new building for your business, please do two things to protect yourself as a consumer.

  1. Do your due-diligence with your local Permitting Office and verify what your Building Envelope Energy Requirements are going to be.  Verify your local office does not have a “one-off” law requiring something that no one would know is required.  For example, one time a building required an 8” curb around the perimeter per the Building Inspector on every building in his township.  That was the Inspector’s preference and there was no way around it.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know and my client didn’t know either.  It cost my customer more in concrete to create that curb.  And unfortunately, it was an unexpected expense.
  2. Only work with Steel Building Representatives that mention to you that you will have a minimum Energy Requirement. A Representative that mentions your minimum requirements is more concerned about your Investment than about grabbing a building deposit check.  A Representative who shares his or her knowledge with you, even though it may not be what you want to hear, or prevents you from building because the requirements kill the budget, is an honest Representative.

So, please reach out to your local officials and ask, “What are my Building’s Envelope Energy Requirements?” And, “Are there any requirements a first-time builder in the area wouldn’t know that I need to know?”

Good Luck and Happy Building!!!

Before You Add-On an Addition to Your Existing Building Read This…

img_3121As of recent, it seems that there has been an uptick in companies that are needing to expand their facilities.  I have been getting a lot of calls from clients interested in adding on an addition to their existing facilities.  Some of my clients have an existing metal building and some do not.  Either way, a Custom-Engineered Steel Building is a cost-effective and quick solution to any business owner looking to add more square footage to their space.

A few factors for a business owner to consider prior to commencement of any Expansion Project is:

  1. The Condition of the existing building
  2. How closely the addition needs to match the aesthetics of the original structure
  3. Confirming there is another space to build per the setbacks
  4. The grade of the lot

If the condition of the existing building is poor, many times it is more cost-effective to demolish the structure and start over.  Additionally, if the original building is not in compliance with current building codes, it is also sometimes more cost-effective to go with a full demolish.  So, please examine the condition of your original structure verses what your area’s codes will require you to “upgrade” and decide what the best solution is for your Investment.  Is it to demolish and start over or to keep the structure you have and just add onto it?  Once that is decided, consider the aesthetics.

A Custom-Engineered Steel Building is so versatile that it can be designed to match any exterior look on the market.  With all the various options available comes an array of price-points.  If you want your addition to have a brick exterior wall just like the brick on your existing building, just know it will have a higher price per square foot than an addition with standard steel sheeting.  That said, any exterior look is within reach with a Custom- Engineered Steel Building.

Most local Building Departments have guidelines for how close you can build to your property lines.  Please practice due-diligence and confirm with your local municipality that you can build the size building that you think is best for your Expansion Project.

Get proper site-work estimates on your lot.  Make sure you are fully aware of what the cost of grading, excavating, installation of utilities, etc. will be prior to moving forward.  I have seen site-work quotes “kill” a project.  And you do not want to be blind-sided by an unexpected cost during the Construction phase of your project.

Once you have hurdled these initial considerations it is time to move onto the actual expansion.  What type of expansion are you considering?  Is it an endwall or sidewall expansion?  Will this expansion create valley conditions between the two structures where snow or rain can penetrate the exterior?  Do I need additional engineering to “beef-up” my existing structure?  Am I creating a condition where snow can drift off onto the other building resulting in a structural issue?  What type of flashing is required to weather-proof my two buildings?  Does this expansion require a load-bearing endwall or a full rigid frame endwall?  Am I making my building wider, or longer, or both?  What will be the Foundation Requirements for my expansion?

There are a myriad of questions that need to be asked and answered just like the ones listed above.  Make sure any Building Rep you are speaking to asks you these type of questions.  Anyone at SOLID Steel would address these concerns in our first discussion with you because we want to custom engineer a building that works for your business 30 to 50 years from now and not just on day one.  If you are not being asked questions like the ones above, hang up.  Move on until you find someone who is as interested in your investment as you are.

No matter what idea you have for future expansion, a Custom-Engineered Steel Building can produce the results you are planning.  Reach out to a Building Solutions Manager and share your ideas with us so we can supply a solution that works for you!