We recently received this message from a customer:
“I like that you mention the durability of metal buildings. I’ve been wanting to get an external building and I think metal could be a good cost-effective option. While I don’t think I would want one that’s pre-made, a customized metal building could be a great way to fulfill my needs as well as to ensure it doesn’t wear out or break very easily.” ~Tyler M.
Tyler’s message is important for two reasons:
- It points out the often-overlooked benefits of custom metal buildings.
- It assumes that custom and prefab metal buildings are complete opposites (which isn’t always true!).
After reading this, we realized that some clarification about steel structures is needed.
So, here’s everything you need to know about custom-designing prefabricated metal buildings:
Can You Customize a Prefabricated Building?
The terms “custom” and “prefabricated” (or “pre-engineered”) aren’t mutually exclusive.
Some custom-designed buildings are indeed prefabricated structures and vice versa.
But not always.
With an architect and engineering team to bring your design visions to life, you can customize a prefabricated building.
The strength and longevity of the steel wall panels remain the same. The difference is in the details — the roll-up doors, insulation, skylights, mezzanine, and roof pitch (among others).
We’ll talk more about the customization options later on.
The Levels of “Custom”
The “custom” bit often starts in the project’s design phase. The amount of customization that happens depends on how unique a building the company needs.
Some clients already have a simple design — such as a basic 80-by-80 airplane hangar — and don’t need to hire an architect or engineer. Without the need to customize, a standard steel building kit would be the perfect fit.
Some Professional Planning
Other visions have interior electrical, mechanical, and plumbing needs that require professional planning, like a more complex manufacturing facility. The design team may need to factor in a fire sprinkler system, a conveyor belt electrical set-up, or a custom loading dock area.
Completely Custom Build
A few have ideas for a building that need a completely specialized design from the start. For example, in 2019–20, we spearheaded the Monarch Casino Storage Facility at Floyd Hill.
To put the term “custom” into better perspective, this warehouse featured a 5,000-square-foot freezer, a dry storage area, and a massive walk-in cooler. No other building in the area shares the same exact features or layout!
Related: Custom vs. Standard Metal Structures
How Are Custom Prefabricated Buildings Made?
In conventional construction, nearly every piece of the project occurs on-site. A parade of trucks arrives at the job site carrying the bricks, lumber, etc., and a crew assembles the structure from those materials.
In prefabricated construction, only the foundation is constructed on-site — the building arrives in premade sections.
Here’s a closer look at the custom prefabricated building process:
The Planning and Design Phase
When it comes time to plan your steel building, the sky’s the limit. You can select the size, colors, door placements, windows, overhangs, and more.
Our team of architects and engineers will work with you to design a blueprint based on your needs. Then, our construction team will turn that blueprint into a fully functional structure.
The Cutting and Building Phase
Once we confirm the design, we’ll send the order to our manufacturing plant. There, we’ll cut and prepare the steel materials to meet your exact specifications. Every piece is crafted and cut with your building in mind.
Next up, we transport these sub-assemblies to the construction site, with everything from the fasteners to the roof panels arriving by truck.
This construction process has a few key benefits.
For one, it reduces the amount of construction workers needed on the job site. It also bypasses problems often found in on-site construction, such as bad weather, lack of water (for mixing concrete), etc.
The on-site crew lifts the materials into place with a forklift until it begins resembling a complete structure.
Prefabricated Metal Building Customization Options
Pre-engineered metal buildings offer lower costs, faster build times, and more durability than traditional buildings. It’s no wonder they are becoming trendier in the commercial world.
Business owners and CEOS turn to custom building structures for their office buildings, riding arenas, carports, agricultural buildings, and more!
But just how far can the “customization” aspect go?
How “steel” does a commercial steel building have to look?
Let’s find out!
While traditional buildings have several size constraints, the only thing limiting the size of your custom build is the size of your lot.
A small retail shop could be just 2,000-square-feet. But a warehouse, manufacturing plant, recreational center, or factory could hold hundreds of thousands — or over a million — square feet of floor space.
Custom-designed buildings are also taller than your standard 20-foot industrial structure. If you need a mezzanine or second floor for office space, steel buildings can stand as tall as 40 feet.
What’s the first color that comes to mind when you imagine steel anything?
Of course, you immediately thought of metallic silvers, greys, and chromes.
These custom modular buildings offer more options than just classic metal. Not only can you choose from reds, tans, blues, bronzes, and greens, but you also don’t have to settle for any single color.
Combine cobalt white wainscoting with white trim. Or, choose black panels and create contrast with white doors and features.
Allow your building to stand out in the industrial park or match your company’s other locations.
Exterior Finishing (Sidings)
Classic metal panels deliver a more industrial look. But for an unforgettable first impression that’ll wow both your employees and clients, custom exterior finishes are the answer.
Stone veneer and brick add touches of luxury to a walkway facade, an excellent way to greet your customers. However, the optional stucco, wood, or stone sidings will give off a more rustic, natural vibe.
Door Placement and Type
No matter which industry your business calls “home,” door type and placement are among the most practical customizations. Of course, it goes well beyond installing main entry doors or mandatory fire exits.
At the drawing board, you can choose from a range of different door options:
- Sliding doors
- Steel doors
- Glass storefront doors
- Roll-up doors for vehicles or heavy machinery
The physical size, placement, and weight of the doors fall to your discretion, too.
If forklifts travel in and around your facility, lightweight garage doors along each wall are a good choice. Or, you can request a special steel walk door connecting the building’s office space to the parking lot.
Window Placement and Type
Along the same lines, the structure’s windows are customizable in just about every way possible.
For instance, single-hung windows add natural light in computer-heavy office areas, while slimline models illuminate lobbies and entryways. Overhead skylights supply vitamin D to workers on the production line and a natural flood of light in notoriously dark structures.
For buildings accepting walk-in clients into its main lobby, awnings and overhangs provide protection from the often unpredictable Mother Nature.
These building extensions will give visitors enough time to pull out their umbrellas during rain showers and provide sun coverage to employees working with harsh chemicals.
Whether it’s a food storage building or a data center housing millions of dollars worth of technology, steel buildings need insulation around the framing. Yet, the exact choice in insulation boils down to preference and geographical area.
Loose-fill insulation is fire-resistant and affordable, making it a popular choice for temperature control.
Meanwhile, spray foam insulation has a higher per-inch R-value and can fill minor cracks and gaps, making it a better choice for hot and cool areas or odd-shaped walls.
Quality insulation with a higher R-value also keeps energy bills low.
Talk to your general contractor to learn more about the best insulation to keep your employees and equipment safe year-round!
Gutters and Downspouts
Never overlook the importance of good drainage — gutters and downspouts!
In areas where rain and snow are common, wide metal gutters, a pitched roof, and plenty of downspouts will divert water from your ceiling (and your employees’ heads as they exit!).
The interior flooring can be as simple or as fancy as your company needs. Because of its rugged and nearly damage-proof structure, concrete is a popular floor choice in high-traffic areas.
That’s especially true on factory lines and garages where grease and chemicals could spill and cause stains. Concrete flatwork can last for decades with regular maintenance and is even customizable to an extent (i.e., colors, dyes, imprinted logos).
Concrete isn’t the only option, though!
Laminate flooring can provide a welcoming and homey look in office areas and building lobbies without consuming too much of your budget. On the other hand, waterproof vinyl is reliable, durable, and visually appealing.
Roof Style and Pitch
From pitch to eave height to color, there are a lot of choices to make concerning your building’s roof. The right choice for your building will depend on local weather trends and your company’s preferred style.
Here’s what we do know:
Benefits of Custom-Designed Prefabricated Metal Buildings
Whether you’re designing a small office building or a corporate distribution center, the benefits offered by prefabricated metal building systems make them hard to resist.
Once erected, the interior features of a prefab building can be just as high-end as the exterior.
The steel framing, wall sheets, and roof panels are much gentler on the budget than traditional wood. Custom steel buildings also require a smaller construction crew and less in the way of labor costs.
The funding your company saves during the planning and construction phases can roll over to customizations.
There’s more room in the budget for logo-imprinted flatwork, rooftop solar panels, interior balconies, or rustic wood-paneled walls.
Custom prefab steel buildings can be as industrial or modern as you want.
They Match Your Company’s Needs
The glory in custom buildings is that they intertwine with your company’s needs from day one. You, plus a team of architects and engineers, planned every square inch of the building to be compatible with the business’s day-to-day operations.
Every office, garage-style door, storage area, walk-in freezer, and pallet rack has a distinct and pre-planned purpose.
These customizations alone solidify the upfront investment.
Many companies will upsize to a larger warehouse every few years or divide departments between multiple locations based on available accommodations.
With a custom prefab building, you have a long-term solution built for your company’s distinct needs.
They’re More Compatible With the Geographical Area
Steel building systems earn recognition for their sustainability, decades-long warranties, low building prices, and durable steel frames. Yet, these roomy modular structures aren’t only designed for your business’s operations.
The “custom” part also leaks into the local geographical area. These carefully selected characteristics add layers of protection against the elements.
For example, boxed eave roofs are less likely to buckle under heavy snow loads and torrential downpours in the Pacific Northwest. In New England, where temperatures dip below freezing, insulation with a higher R-value can keep indoor temperatures at a pleasant 68 degrees all year.
Or, in areas of the country with high Sun Number Scores, solar panels might be a wise (and green) investment that pays itself off in 30 years.
Prefabricated steel buildings aren’t always customized, but they certainly can be.
And if you’re looking to embark on a building project, we may be able to help. We offer general contracting and design/build services in Colorado, and we specialize in pre-engineered steel buildings. Contact us today to learn more!