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Supporting Resiliency with Optimized Metal Building Systems

Supporting Resiliency with Optimized Metal Building Systems

Through hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, heatwaves and wildfires, climate change-driven disasters continue to bombard the country. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information reported that 18 events in 2022 caused 474 direct/indirect fatalities, and at least $165 billion in damage.

With increasing urgency, building owners, architects and contractors are turning to metal buildings to deliver resilient, robust and safe buildings to better mitigate risk.

“In the aftermath of a disaster, a building’s resilience can be understood, not just from its ability to endure a disaster with minimal structural damage, but truly be quickly repaired as needed, and put back into service,” explains Eric F. Pros, AIA, MBA, CPD Director of Design, DS Architecture, Cleveland.

Metal buildings fit the bill as an exceedingly strong, sturdy and durable building system which can be customized and fortified by the design and construction of its structural members, connections and bracing.

Metal buildings are highly fire resistant and have been proven to stand up against extreme weather events. For example, metal roofing can withstand winds of 140 mph, the equivalent of the highest ranked Category 4 hurricane. Furthermore, the low weight of flexible frame options offer higher resistance to tectonic forces in seismic zones. According to Dr. W. Lee Shoemaker with MBMA, shake table testing at the University of California, San Diego demonstrated that various distinct metal building structures were able to satisfy code performance requirements and were capable of withstanding and maximum earthquake event.

These flexibility and customization qualities are also cost effective and tread lightly on the environment with metal building’s use of recycled materials, recyclability and reduced waste, alongside the building’s ability to support energy-efficient operation.

“Steel is a truly circular building material, with a robust lifespan followed by a rebirth as new steel through energy-efficient electric arc furnaces,” states Tony Bouquot, General Manager, Metal Building Manufacturers Association. “Metal building systems are one of the most flexible, efficient and resilient uses of steel in construction.”

Assisting building teams with the design and construction of resilient buildings, the American Institute of Architects has developed The Fundamentals of Resilient & Climate Adaptive Design. Breaking out these fundamentals into eight key areas, metal building systems check every box.

  1. Place-Based – Metal buildings can be easily and cost-effectively erected, and strategically placed in key locations on a property and within a community.
  2. Risk-Prepared – Backed by research, full-scale tests and building codes compliance, buildings can be designed to weather earthquake, hurricane and tornado loads.
  3. Precautionary – Resisting mold growth, rust and decay, metal building maintain their integrity under normal temperature fluctuations.
  4. Equitable – Large clear-span expanses allow for easily adaptable floor space and room configurations., and low-rise design enhances accessibility, accommodating people with varying needs and abilities.
  5. System Centric – Through the selection of colors, textures, building scale and size, buildings can easily be designed to blend in with existing structures and the surrounding landscape.
  6. Service Life FocusGalvalume metal roofs, commonly used on metal buildings, have been proven to last more than 60 years under all types of weather and climate conditions.
  7. Ready – A popular choice for fire stations and government facilities, metal buildings can be designed to easily support the operation of a building after an emergency or disruption.
  8. Adaptive – The steel spans of a metal building system are designed to easily reconfigure building areas, allowing quick accommodation for changes in function, ownership equipment and regulations.

In summary, Pros adds, “Metal buildings provide the resiliency characteristics required to ensure the continuity of essential operations; and they can be supplemented with other building systems to provide increased protection from disasters.”

The sustainability traits associated with the structural system of a building are directly related to the size, weight, and environmental impacts of the materials used for construction. In that regard, it is significant to note that metal building systems using optimized built-up steel frames and cold-formed structural members are structurally very efficient. That means they can use less steel for the same performance as building systems that use hot-rolled members (i.e., I-beams, columns, etc.). Since the metal building steel structure is custom designed to meet the needs for the project, the lighter-weight cold-formed steel members are simply engineered and shaped to put the strength where it is needed and eliminate any unnecessary dead-load weight. This applies to primary members such as columns and rafter beams as well as secondary members like purlins and girts that attach to the primary steel. Overall, that translates to an optimized, lighter-weight, custom-engineered steel structure. Further, since steel is commonly sold by weight, a lighter weight structure also means project cost savings. [Source]For more information, visit the Metal Building Manufacturers Association and MBMAeducation.org.