What are the Benefits of a Metal School Building?

Published May 16, 2018 by Whirlwind Team

Benefits of a Metal School Building

There is a school at the heart of every community. Parents select homes based on the distance to the elementary school. Neighbors rally around the Friday night lights of the local high school football team. Cities sell themselves to companies poised to select headquarters by touting the reputation of the school district.

On the other hand, most of the schools are public buildings built with taxpayer money. Everything is balanced against the cost of building and maintaining a school even as the population grows along with the demand for new school buildings.

The cost-effective, value-added answer to obtaining that balance is to build your schools with steel. Take a look at the benefits building with steel brings to your district and program.

Cost Savings

To begin, the total cost of ownership of a metal school building is lower than the TCO of a structure built with other materials. While the upfront cost of materials and labor to erect a steel building maybe higher than wood or concrete, the reduced maintenance required along with savings on insurance premiums and energy more than make up for it.

  • Minimal maintenance - Steel buildings require little maintenance in comparison to other structures.
  • Minimal repair costs - Very little can damage steel panels and members, so repair costs are minimal.
  • Reduced energy use - steel buildings with the appropriate insulation, lighting and HVAC system save money on utilities.
  • Further energy savings - Steel roofs are ideal for installing solar energy panels to supplement or replace electricity from the municipal grid.
  • Reduced insurance premiums - Steel is noncombustible and will not allow flames to spread, therefore insurance companies provide a discount for steel structures.

The choice is saving money now or in the long term. Since school buildings are expected to be permanent fixtures of a community, reducing the total cost of ownership is the appropriate yardstick to measure value and responsible use of public dollars.

Flexible and Adaptable Design

Steel is a flexible building material, meaning you have complete freedom of design. Whether you are required to follow designs specified by the school district or are building a private school with no design mandate, steel lends itself to any shape or style of structure.

Once erected, the interior layout of a steel building is easily adapted to other uses as the needs of the community change. Most steel buildings are built as clear-span structures; the interior of the building is free of support columns. Spaces can be partitioned with movable, lightweight walls. If a permanent wall is created, it is not load-bearing and can be removed if future renovations are required.

Speed of Construction

How much time can you allot for the construction of a single school building? Many districts prefer to begin and complete construction during the summer break, especially if an older school is demolished and replaced. Others try to complete construction within a school semester to avoid holiday delays.

In either case, building with steel is significantly faster than building a wood or concrete frame structure. You building system is designed and manufactured off-site to tight tolerances and high-quality standards to meet local building codes and to ensure all parts fit without cutting or punching on-site.

The building system arrives ready for assembly. All holes are pre-drilled and pre-punched. The frame and panels go up quickly from there allowing other trades to begin their work earlier in the schedule than other construction. Once the frame is up, electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning and finish out quickly follow.

Faster construction translates into lower labor costs and shorter time to completion.

Durability, Strength and Long Lifespan

Once your school is complete, it will last for decades if you build with steel. Steel is one of the most durable building materials you can use.

  • Steel is strong yet light. It has a greater strength to weight ratio than concrete or wood. Your structure requires less material while retaining the same strength as higher volumes of other materials.
  • Steel construction is durable because it resists damage from pests and seismic activity. There is nothing that eats steel, and its strength prevents damage in high winds. Structural integrity is maintained for the safe evacuation of the occupants during earthquakes and fire.
  • Steel withstands high winds, rain, hail and heavy snow without separation from the structure or collapse. The safety of the students is paramount, and steel will perform better under pressure.

The lifespan of a steel building is measured in decades. Your metal school building can host many generations of students without replacement.

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Energy Efficiency

Steel frame design is ideal for the placement of insulation under the roof, within the walls and under the floor. Insulation in the form of blankets or batt is easily installed between the columns in the frame. You can use spray insulation in areas with pipes and wiring that expands to fill empty spaces.

Adequate insulation plays a prominent role in reducing heating and cooling costs. To lower the cost of cooling further, your steel school building can be designed with a cool roof. A cool roof is a white roof with special pigments to reflect a high percentage of solar radiation before it can heat the building as well as re-emit any heat absorbed. A radiant barrier system keeps heat in during the winter, reducing heating costs.

Steel buildings with natural lighting reduce the need for electrical lighting without raising the electrical costs in high temperatures. Also, natural lighting improves the environment for students and teachers.

Proper ventilation and the selection of energy efficient HVAC equipment and other appliances decrease utility costs even further.


We teach our children about environmental awareness. A steel building shows your commitment to sustainability and the school itself can be featured in lessons about the green movement.

  • Steel is 100% recyclable; it is the number one recycled material in the U.S. Any scrap created during manufacturing or construction is not sent to a landfill but a recycling center. If you must demolish a steel structure, the frame and panels can be dismantled and used elsewhere, or the steel can be recycled.
  • Most steel is made of a significant percentage of recycled materials. Steel mills have reduced their water consumption to nearly zero, reclaiming, cleaning and recycling all water used in their operations. Energy use is decreased with newer steel-forming techniques and equipment.
  • Building with steel contributes to points for LEED and green building designations.
  • The energy savings available with a steel structure leads to reduced emissions from power plants.

The sustainability of steel reaches all the way to saving trees. Building a wood-frame structure requires harvesting trees that take 20 years or more to replace. Much scrap is produced building the structure which must be transported to a landfill. Labor costs are higher and the construction schedule longer with wood frame construction.

All the benefits of a metal school building outweigh any extra expense of the material. In every other area, you save money - on construction, during operation, for maintenance and repair and in energy costs. The savings pass to taxpayers who receive a building that will survive when others do not.

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