The World’s Largest Steel Building- Part 1

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July 10, 2015

The Story Behind the Boeing Factory in Everett, Washington

You would expect the world’s largest steel building to be a towering skyscraper in a bustling metropolis.

You would be wrong.

The title of the biggest building on Earth— by volume— belongs to the Boeing Aircraft Assembly Plant in Everett, WA. At an astonishing 472 million cubic feet, no other structure comes close to the size of the massive Everett Boeing Plant.

What Drove the Need for Such an Enormous Structure?

Everett WA FactroyLocated about 25 miles north of Seattle, WA, the Boeing factory saga began in the mid-1960s.

Pan-American ruled the international flight market. They needed larger planes with greater passenger capacity to make international flights more economical. Pan-Am promised Boeing a contract for 25 aircraft— if they could develop a jumbo jet.

Boeing accepted the challenge.

Over 50,000 aircraft administrators, designers, engineers, mechanics, and aerodynamics scientists participated in developing the first jumbo jet. The attempt generated over 75,000 engineering drawings.

While development for 747 was underway, Boeing began searching for the perfect location to build the wide-body jets.

The first problem was location. None of Boeing’s existing plants could accommodate construction of a jumbo aircraft. Boeing needed a new, larger factory.

After scouring the country for the perfect location, Boeing settled on Washington. In June 1966, the company purchased over 750 acres of forest on the northeast side of Paine Field in Everett.

Constructing the World’s Largest Steel Building

Boeing engaged an army of 250 contractors to prepare a 630-acre area for construction. The heavily wooded land pitched and rolled. The forest needed clearing. The topography needed flattening.

Over 2,800 workers hewed trees, blasted hills, and filled valleys preparing the site.

Workers built a five-mile-long railway spur to haul debris away and building materials in to the site. This spur created the second-steepest railway grade in the U.S., rising 500 feet in less than three miles.

Known for the prodigious amounts of rainfall, Washington weather proved to be one of the greatest hurdles for construction the new plant.

Contractors battled over two full months of daily deluges. Windstorms, mudslides, and snowstorms slowed progress.

Behind schedule and desperate, Boeing asphalted 100 acres to allow construction to continue unhindered by Mother Nature.

Construction of three 300’ x 1000’ steel building sections began in the autumn of 1966. Builders completed the roof by November 1966.

Unable to wait any longer to begin assembling the first 747 prototype, Boeing moved forward with production— even before completion of the building. On January 3, 1967, the first 113 assembly workers reported to work at the unfinished plant to begin work on the first 747.

Still the Largest Steel Building in the World

When completed in 1968, the Boeing Everett Plant was the largest steel building in the world. The structure covered 42.8 acres— 2.5 million square feet. The enormous behemoth contained 205.6 million cubic feet in volume.

An expansion of the original structure in 1978-1979 provided space for production of the 767, the original Boeing Everett structure in 1978-1979 and brought the plant up to 3.6 million square feet. The renovation also added four gigantic aircraft doors. Each door measured 87’ x 300’.

A 1993 extension to the Everett Plant added another 1.9 million square feet, bringing the total size of the Boeing factory to 5.5 million square feet.

Steel Made It Possible

Constructing the largest building in the world would have been impossible without steel.

Steel possess the highest weight-to strength ratio of any structural material. Only steel could frame so massive a structure and clear span to such incredible widths.

Build your next project with the same strength and durability as the largest building on Earth— build it with steel.

Pre-engineered steel buildings are surprisingly affordable. Whether you are looking for an aircraft hangar, an agricultural building, a warehouse, a restaurant, a store, an office building, a church, a storage building, or a home, build it to last. Build it with steel.

Call RHINO Steel Building Systems now for details and a free, no obligation quote on your upcoming building project. Our toll free number is 888.320.7466.
Other blogs about famous steel buildings:

Did You Know that the White House is a Steel Building?
A Steel Storage Building to the Rescue
Steel Aircraft Hangars: The Best Aviation Protection

- by Bruce Brown,
CEO of RHINO
Steel Building Systems, Inc

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