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How to Cut Steel Building Costs

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April 3, 2019

Getting the Most Bang for Your Metal Building Buck

Did you know there are design choices you can make to reduce steel building costs?

It is a simple concept: the more steel used in your structure, the higher the price.  To lower the cost per square foot, make changes that conserve steel.

Reconfigure Your Building Size

Simple design changes you can make to save on metal building costs.Naturally, the smaller the building, the lower the total costs.

However, it is possible to change the dimensions of a metal building to whittle the price down— without changing the total square footage.

For example, let’s say you plan a 5,000 square foot building that is 100’ wide and 50’ long.

The wider the structure, the more steel required to support that width—especially if it is a clear span design.  However, it is very economical to add to a metal building’s length.

Therefore, by changing to a 50’ width by 100’ length, the steel building costs less.  Yet, you still get exactly the same 5,000 square feet of space.    (Provided, of course, that change fits your land and use requirements.)

(Learn more about building dimensions in our Guidelines for Metal Building Sizing.)

Clear Span or Modular?

One of the great advantages a pre-engineered steel system offers is column-free interiors.  Hangars, warehouses, indoor horse arenas, and churches demand such unfettered space.

However, if your building application allows, a modular steel frame with minimal interior supports is often less expensive than a clear span frame.  This is especially true for extra wide buildings.

Remember, the wider the structure, the more steel required to support the structure— especially in a completely open design.

Straight or Tapered Column?

Larger steel structures use heavy-duty tapered columns.  Designed to offer the greatest strength with the least amount of steel, tapered steel columns rule in extra wide designs.

In fact, the efficiency of tapered steel systems means that mid-sized projects may enjoy a lower cost per square foot than smaller structures.

But the economics of scale tend to reverse again on mega-sized buildings.  Typically, buildings in the 5,000 to 10,000 square foot range enjoy the lowest cost-per-square foot.  At 10,000 square feet and above, the square foot price begins to rise again.

Straight-wall designs require lighter, less expensive steel columns.  Generally, you will find this system is more economical for structures 40 feet wide or less.  In widths in the 50-foot-wide range, consider getting a tapered column quote and a straight column quote, to see which option is better.

Lower the Eave Height

Again, the less steel you order, the lower your overall costs.  Therefore, choosing a 12-foot over a 20-foot eave will save money— if you are not maximizing the overhead space.  If you plan to add a self-supporting mezzanine floor system for additional floor space, then the higher building height may actually lower your cost per square foot.

Lower the Roof Pitch

Raising the pitch of a metal building roof raises the price.  As the pitch increases, so does the amount of steel.  Consequently, the lower the pitch, the lower the price is.

The most economical metal structure gable roof is a 1:12 pitch.

Of course, if your application calls for an extreme pitch— such as a steep roof for a large church sanctuary—  be assured that complex rooflines present no problem for a pre-engineered system.

Also, keep in mind that lower pitched roofs may not be suitable in areas prone to heavy snow or rain.

While very attractive, steel hip roofs do require considerably more steel.  Therefore, the most expensive roof choice for a metal building is a hip roof.

Less Steel, Lower Freight

Remember: every pound of steel you eliminate from the building kit is a pound off your shipping costs, too!

Build It Yourself

Do you have construction skills and experience?  Then you may be able to erect your own steel building and save thousands of dollars.  Many of RHINO’s clients have successfully completed their own metal buildings.

Be advised, however, that RHINO Steel Buildings Systems recommends choosing professional erectors for all large-scale projects.

Making Informed Choices to Cut Steel Building Costs

Ultimately, only you can decide where to draw the line between your vision and your budget.

Consider all the options.  Discuss your project with a savvy and experienced metal building specialist at RHINO.  Ask for additional advice and money-saving design tips.

When in doubt, have it quoted multiple ways.

When you are happy with both the design and the price, place your order.

Call RHINO now at 940.383.9566.  You will be glad you did!

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