How Long Does It Take to Design and Deliver a Steel Building?

Published November 15, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

design deliver metal building

The time it takes to design and deliver a steel building depends on a number of factors, some of which may be out of human control. From receiving your drawing and specifications to assembling and completing the building, the process is dependent on the complexity and size of building you require and the availability of materials and labor.

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Design variables

The accuracy of the plan or sketch you deliver to the sales consultant impacts the time it takes to create the engineered drawings required for approvals. The more details you can provide and the clearer the picture you have of your desired structure, the easier (and faster) the engineered drawings will come together.

If you and the vendor can reduce the number of times the drawings must be changed before being finalized, you can get through the approval process more quickly.

  • Include the geometry and layout of the building in your sketch.
  • Engineered drawings are required for approval of the metal building design and often for the issuance of a building permit.
  • Create a drawing as close to your vision as possible for the vendor to make an accurate quote.

As with any complex project, precise planning can make a huge difference in production and construction time.

Production and shipping variables

Once the drawings are approved, materials are gathered for production.

  • Materials in stock will reduce the time to fabrication.
  • Custom materials may require slightly more time to obtain.
  • Standard stock buildings are produced faster than complex or highly customized buildings.
  • Color selection may also impact time to production - panels are stocked in popular colors, but custom colors require pre-coating before production can begin.

Fabrication begins when the materials are available. The larger and more complex the building, the longer fabrication and packing will take. Anything that is not stock must be created or purchased from an outside vendor, which adds to the production time.

For example, if you are building a restaurant with trademarked colors, the coating and paint colors are created according to the trademarked requirements. Then all panels requiring the coating go through the coating and finishing process before being cut and packed for shipment.

Shipping time depends on the distance from the manufacturer to the building site, the weather, and the roadway to the site. Remote sites far from the main roadways may take longer than a site in a nearby suburb. Weather, particularly in northern winters, can create shipping delays due to ice and snow impacting the passages. Heavy rains and flooding are other elements that can create delays.

Construction variables

Construction schedules are, of course, affected by harsh weather and environments. Equipment delivery to remote locations may slow work down as can problems with equipment availability. Workers who must travel distances to reach the site are faced with the same weather and roadway issues as other transportation.

Special building codes and requirements can impact your timeline. For example, building in a seismically active area requires changes in design to meet safety controls. Such changes can add to the schedule by requiring additional work or changes to the original plans.

Building size and type also determine the length of time to completion.

  • Complex, specially designed steel buildings take longer to complete than simple, standard buildings. A rectangular building with a low gable roof and steel panel exterior is one of the fastest to erect.
  • Climate control requires additional materials such as insulation and ductwork.
  • Large clear span buildings or very wide structures require added construction time and equipment due to the weight of the rafter members.
  • More framed openings for doors and windows increases construction time as each must be placed according to design and framed. Also, door and window installation are required for each.
  • Installation of HVAC equipment will take more time than a simple building that does not require climate control equipment.
  • Gutters and downspouts are recommended to help channel water away from the structure although the additions take a bit more time.
  • The metal trim installation also adds to delivery and construction time. Custom trim work will require more time for fabrication.

Even with time added for installation of everything beyond the primary frame, secondary frame, and wall and roof panels, a prefabricated steel building is still faster to erect than one of concrete, rock, or wood. Everything required to assemble the building is delivered. Larger steel buildings are delivered in sections but once the materials reach the site, erection time is quick and easy.

design deliver metal building

Examples of timelines

Here are some examples of timelines for various parts of the process.

Quote stage

  • Modest, single-story building with little complexity takes about 48 hours.
  • Single, large complex building takes around 72 hours.
  • Multiple single-story buildings may take a week or longer.
  • A complex multi-story building may take two to three weeks to generate a quote.

Approval drawings and process

  • Plans for a simple facility can be ready in one week.
  • Larger and more complex facilities can take two to four weeks.
  • Minor plan changes that do not require plan updates have less impact than larger changes requiring an update to the plans and a second review.
  • All approvals must be final to schedule a project.

Detailing

Shop fabrication plans are created from the drawings and reviewed. If special parts are needed, they are ordered during detailing. A standard box-type building requires around one to two weeks for detailing while a larger project may take three to eight weeks.

Production and shipping

  • Most projects require around three weeks for fabrication.
  • Large projects may be shipped in phases.
  • The first week is for planning, week two for fabrication, and the kit is loaded and scheduled for delivery in week three.

Remember that the time to design and deliver a steel building kit is just a fraction of overall construction time. Before the kit arrives at the site, ground prep must be completed, and you must have a foundation designed and built. The construction timeline after the building delivery includes the estimated time for all subcontractors to complete their work. Time is also included for inspections, safety training, and to hire labor.


Construction is a complicated process with both expected and unexpected delays. One place where you can save time and cost is in building fabrication. Purchasing a pre-manufactured steel building, built to your specifications in the factory will save time for erection and eliminate rework because the tight quality control parameters ensure that all parts of your building kit fit together perfectly and you need not supply fasteners or develop an anchor bolt plan.

Create your initial drawing as accurately as possible and include all the dimensions and layouts to obtain the steel building you want and need.

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