Constructing Complex Metal Buildings: Putting the Puzzle Together

Published August 6, 2014 by Whirlwind Team

complex building projectsIn the construction world, architectural complexity and artistic design embellishments often translate to costly building practices that are a challenge to engineer, tricky to construct and require a lifetime of unreasonable maintenance. But don't let this information deplete your enthusiasm; steel and metal building construction opens a world of complex design and build possibility, none of which are feasible with traditional wood and masonry construction.

Here are some examples of complex metal buildings that defy traditional construction norms, inviting you to be as creative and forward-thinking as you want to be when designing your next residential or commercial project.

Complex Metal Building Construction: Bringing Architectural Visions to Reality

The following tips can help to bring your complex and artistic architectural visions into reality. With the malleability of steel, almost any idea you have can come to fruition.

Keep Simplicity at the Heart of Things - Yes, steel makes the seemingly impossible entirely possible, but simple is still best in certain regards. British architect Piers Taylor discusses this point in a piece featured on He writes, "A good house is often a simple house. The best housing stock in this country is made up of straightforward and robust buildings, with well-proportioned spaces and masses of natural light — often made from materials that are locally or widely available."

Taylor points out that the idea of narrow hallways, protected stairways, and multi-room houses were born of a time when heating was challenging. Rooms were heated individually, according to occupancy, to conserve wood, peat and coal resources. That is no longer an issue and, for many structures, a more simple, open and flowing floor plan makes the most sense.

Other things to consider in regards to maintaining a simple is best approach includes things like:

  • Maintaining More Consistent Materials Selection - Don't just choose a range of materials for the sake of it. Instead, find ways to be creative with the same materials to keep ordering and implementation streamlined while still yielding a versatile look.
  • How You Live/Work Should Determine the Design - Functionality equals efficiency. Keeping the functional aspects of your day to day movement and activity in a building at the forefront will lead to a more simple and effective design.
  • Maximize Natural Lighting Options - Natural light is literally transformative. It affects how a space reveals itself, the aesthetics and the frame of mind of a building's occupants. Focus on windows, skylights and solar tubes to make the most of your building's interior.

So, yes. Simplicity has its role, even in a more complex architectural design. Now, let's move onto the fun stuff using real life examples to demonstrate how steel and metal building components can allow you to produce complex, one-of-a-kind buildings while keeping them cost-effective and low maintenance.

The Ribbon - Rounded and fluid architecture has always been a challenge for a trade that typically relies on 90-degree angles for strength and durability. Designs involving "rounded" or "curved" features have always been more costly to build as well as to maintain.

The Ribbon, an integral part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame's aesthetics, is made from 5000 stainless steel panels form a sweeping, undulating "track" around the building, indicative of the spirit of NASCAR. Steel trusses, spanning 175-feet allow the large column-free ballroom to retain a completely open feel. 3-D design technology and the benefits of steel and metal pre-engineering and pre-fabrication allowed the project to be completed on time - a cost-effective rarity in the construction world.

The Building as Teacher - Next, we'll share this unique building designed for Clemson University’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. The campus wanted to design a building that would act as a passive teacher, exposing functional and structural systems as well as an energy efficient design. Using steel, the designers were able to leverage the material for both its functional as well as its sculpturally expressive abilities.

HL23 - A Wrinkle in Time - Here's a residential project that harnessed multiple aspects of complex metal building construction to build a 14-story, ultra-luxury condominium building right in the heart of Manhattan's West Chelsea District. Using structural steel allowed the builders to meet three important goals, based on the lot restrictions and a desire to maximize space and strength:

  • Provide a perimeter diagonal architectural expression.
  • Minimize the overall weight of the structure for the capacity of the raft foundation.
  • Minimize the amount of interior columns.

Builders faced a variety of challenges ranging from the unique geometry of the building's design, the underlying soil quality and the lateral load system on the perimeter of the building. Steel allowed them to meet each of these head on efficiently and economically.

Have you been visualizing a complex building design for your next project? Contact Whirlwind Steel so we can get started on a cost-effective and efficient design that will last for centuries.

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