Commercial Steel Buildings: The Cost-Effective Choice

Published October 20, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

commercial steel buildings

The changes in steel buildings over the decades are nothing less than astounding. While wood-frame continues to be everyone’s idea of cost-effective construction material, you need to consider the broader picture of total cost of ownership along with several other cost benefits a steel building provides.

When you consider how difficult it can be to source wood after a disaster, steel is an obvious choice, not only for rebuilding but for preventing the same level of destruction in the future.

Let’s take a look at some of the cost benefits of steel buildings in commercial projects.

Lower total cost of ownership

It’s true that the initial cost of steel is higher than some other building materials such as wood and brick. However, steel returns the investment through its low maintenance requirement, durability, ease of repair and renovation, and lower insurance premiums.

Maintenance needs for steel buildings are low because they are resistant to so many environmental problems that plague traditional building materials. Typically, repairs and replacement are only required around fasteners and other non-metal materials. Otherwise, you merely need to keep the metal clean for it to continue to appear brand-new.

You can contact the original manufacturer of a prefabricated metal building for new panels and members that will fit perfectly upon placement. If you need to change the configuration of the interior of the structure, it’s easy to move walls around to form new rooms in a variety of sizes, or you can remove all walls for a wide span open area without fear of the ceiling falling.

As businesses come and go, and trends in consumer and business needs change, the ability to renovate and reconfigure commercial buildings for new uses is an important selling point.

Metal buildings are durable

Steel’s low maintenance requirements are a direct result of its long-standing durability.

  • Steel is resistant to fire, heat, and cold.
  • There are no insects or other pests capable of chewing through steel.
  • Properly coated steel does not rust.
  • Recycled steel retains all of its strength.
  • Steel does not grow mold in wet environments.

Steel doesn’t warp, crack, twist, or rot. A steel building will stand for decades without replacement.

A specific example of the cost effectiveness of steel buildings is the larger span of years you can wait before replacing the steel roof. Traditional asphalt and wood roofs need replacing every five to fifteen years. A steel roof can be warrantied for as much as 40 years before replacement is even considered. There are many metal roofs that are 50 years old in service today! The steel roof also sustains less damage in extreme weather, lowering both insurance and repair costs.

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Choose an experienced designer

Choose a designer who is familiar with the benefits of a steel building. There are many architects and engineers that design exclusively around metal buildings. These professionals have relationships with steel building manufacturers to design your commercial building.

Also available are design build contractors who have architects and engineers on staff to assist with the design. Once the building is designed the builder group can estimate and build the buildings turnkey.

commercial metal building

No field fabrication

A pre-manufactured steel building arrives on site, ready to be assembled. All members and panels are cut to size. All bolt holes are pre-drilled. You don’t need to provide steel cutting equipment or hire specialty contractors to handle the cutting work.

No cutting also means no waste for haul-off, saving time and money.

Compare a steel building against building with wood. Wood does not arrive in the exact lengths, widths, and shapes you need. Once a wood frame is constructed, there is all the leftover wood from cutting boards and posts to length, plus you are forced to scrap any low-quality wood that cannot be used for building.

Improved technology and design

Steel can be formed and finished to create any appearance. A steel building is not required to retain a boxy shape; you can create designs that would be impossible to render in wood or stone safely. The exterior of a steel building can be finished to appear as any material to match the surroundings or to stand out.

  • Roof panels can be finished to appear as traditional asphalt or shake shingles.
  • You can elect to leave the roof smooth and flat in any color you desire.
  • Metal roofs are excellent foundations for solar energy panels, which are more in demand as energy prices increase and the trend of green building continues to rise.

The improved technology and design provided by steel mean you can select a clear span design to provide wide open floor spaces. Less material means less money spent. Paired with the sustainability of steel and the ability to increase energy efficiency through colored coating and easily installed insulation, constructing a steel building becomes more attractive.

Reduced construction timelines

A pre-manufactured metal building is erected much more quickly than its counterpart made of traditional building materials. With no need for cutting or drilling you can shave days, if not weeks, off construction time.

As a bonus, metal buildings are enclosed quickly, allowing subcontractors to begin work earlier inside the structure and even speeding up the work by sheltering subs from the external environment.

Faster construction results in lower labor costs and faster time to occupancy.

Sustainable steel

Modern steel is made up of about 88% recycled steel and is 100% recyclable. There is no loss of strength and steel has the highest strength to weight ratio of any material. Can you say that about anything else?

Wood scrap and demolition remains are taken to a landfill. Even if wood is recycled, either as a whole piece or as a molded component, it will not have the same strength as steel. To reach the same strength, you would require more wood, concrete, or brick, resulting in a heavier structure, which in turn requires a bigger foundation and longer erection time, all of which results in a higher cost per square foot.


In a head-to-head comparison with wood, stone, and other traditional construction materials, steel wins the cost-effectiveness prize. A longer-live building that requires fewer repairs, has lower insurance premiums, and is invulnerable to many of the hazards that befall wood and stone, will return its higher investment many times over during its lifetime.

You can assemble a steel building and occupy it more quickly, increasing your opportunity for revenues. Lower repair and maintenance costs along with reduced insurance premiums all add up to significant savings over time.

When you construct a steel building for your commercial project, you are creating something that will last a lifetime and more.

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