We Funded a Survey … Now What?

The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) commissioned a user survey to understand the perceptions of those who may or may not be investing in metal building solutions. Our plan was to take a wide and deep look at the decision-making process in the low-rise commercial construction industry and explore where the market share for metal building systems is headed. We wanted to learn about the factors influencing the decision-making processes of design professionals and find out what factors might lead them to choose one construction solution over another. The findings proved valuable and will lead to initiatives that we hope will influence these decision makers in the future, and help them to better understand the value of metal buildings.

We surveyed nearly 1,000 industry professionals whose careers are in architecture, construction, engineering, specifications or real estate development. Each person was involved in nonresidential construction and has some level of responsibility for the design and specifications of a building’s structure. All had at least some experience with metal building systems.

A portion of the results of the survey were quite favorable. Of the total respondents, the majority said that a metal building system is the preferred building choice for warehouses, storage, agricultural buildings and manufacturing facilities. Most respondents believe that metal buildings are a good choice for open-space floor plans, that they take less time to construct and that they offer lower construction cost. In short, these professionals hold a relatively high opinion of their experiences with metal building systems.

The following statements received a positive response from between 63 percent and 81 percent of participants. These may be helpful findings for use in your company’s marketing and strategic initiatives.

Other portions of the survey pointed out areas where we, as the metal building industry, need to step up our game, increase communications and provide opportunities to better educate even those who are familiar with and experienced in our industry.

The following statements represent less positive responses from participants and are worthy of further commentary.

1. 49 percent of respondents believe that a metal building must include the use of metal panel walls.
This, of course, is inaccurate. What distinguishes metal building systems is their surprising variety due to the flexibility allowed through different combinations of wall materials. Since the structural steel frame bears the load, there are options for architectural or industrial metal walls, brick, glass, wood, masonry, EIFS, insulated steel wall panels or other materials.

2. 45 percent believe that metal buildings are limited in meeting fire protection requirements.
This perception is understandable. When fire protection is required on metal building frames, the assemblies have typically been limited to gypsum board enclosures. However, a recent study, sponsored by MBMA, determined that it is now feasible to use other common materials such as spray-applied, fire-resistive materials or intumescent coatings. Further detail on this topic is available on the MBMA blog at http://blog.mbma.com/fireprotection-alternatives-for-metal-building-frames.

3. 58 percent say that metal buildings must incorporate a metal roof.
While it certainly makes the most sense to use a metal roof on a metal building, it is feasible to use a built-up roof instead. Designers should contact the metal building manufacturer for details.

Those Architects!

As a reader of Metal Architecture magazine, it’s safe to assume that you are an architect or are involved in metal building architecture in some fashion. So, I think you’ll find this next section particularly interesting.

Our survey indicates that architects appear to have strong preferences regarding the appropriate use of metal buildings based on project type. They strongly prefer metal for warehouses, manufacturing, storage and agricultural buildings, yet they are less than half as likely to consider metal buildings for offices, institutional or retail projects than the other audiences we surveyed.

Importantly, we also found that the surveyed architects view metal structures less positively on a wide variety of issues, going beyond just appearance and design. The following chart shows how they rated metal buildings in terms of structural and performance issues such as durability, weathertightness, resistance to weathering, fire resistance and energy efficiency.

As points of reference, here are facts about these issues that have been developed by MBMA over time.

Durability: A metal building structural system can last for six decades or more—longer than most buildings constructed with concrete, masonry, wood or other typical building materials. Extensive research confirms that metal buildings withstand significant earthquake and wind events. MBMA testing shows that metal buildings can withstand winds up to 170 mph. Industry studies also confirm that metal roofing alone can withstand winds of 140 mph and are more resistant to hail damage than other common roofing materials.

Resistance to weathering: Metal buildings and metal roofs do not support mold growth, rust or decay and do not distort under normal temperature fluctuations. Steel framing does not rot, warp, split, crack or creep. The exterior of a metal building is essentially maintenance-free and long-lasting, thanks to superior, life-extending wall and roof coatings that retain color and resist dirt. Metal walls and sloped metal roofing both have self-cleaning properties.

Fire resistance: The typical metal building is classified as Non-Combustible, Construction Class 3. Metal buildings are rated considerably lower than wood-frame structures. The Commercial Fire Rating schedule recognizes the superiority of a metal building over one with combustible floors and/or roof, typical of Joisted Masonry Class 2 buildings.

Energy efficiency/insulation: Metal buildings incorporate high-performance insulation options—from fiberglass to rigid board—which can meet or exceed energy conservation code requirements. ASHRAE 90.1 and the IECC have specific prescriptive requirements for metal buildings. Software tools, such as COMcheck, show energy code compliance using the envelope trade-off approach. This allows builders to select the best balance of high-performance products, such as roof and wall insulation, windows and doors and building insulation.

What's Next?

Would your firm like to help us enhance the perception of metal buildings among architects and building owners? We’re developing an abundance of videos, brochures and other teaching tools to educate and inform all audiences within our industry. If your firm would like to get involved in creating meaningful change to improve the perception of metal buildings, contact me at mbma@mbma.com or (216) 241-7333.

You can see the original article here.