Why Steel Buildings Are Ideal for Universities Trying to Reduce Construction and Maintenance Costs

Published April 19, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

steel university buildings

Competition for students, donors, and federal money means universities must find a way to provide new facilities on a smaller budget and with fewer maintenance costs. Steel buildings fit the bill perfectly.

The flexibility of steel building design meshes well with the need for a wide variety of building conformations and uses. A broad selection of colors and finishes provides the pallet for customizing each building to the campus on which it will sit.

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Benefits of building with steel for educational facilities

  • Metal buildings no longer look like big boxes. They can be designed into any shape you need and customized into an array of colors, textures, and sizes.
  • You can easily control acoustics and vibration, an important consideration for sports or musical venues and research labs.
  • Steel building frames are lightweight in comparison to concrete and wood. This means the foundation can be thinner and lighter as well.
  • Steel buildings save on utility costs through proper insulation, ventilation, air conditioning, window positioning, and roof color.
  • Metal school buildings are fire resistant, decreasing your insurance costs.
  • Steel buildings are durable with little required maintenance. You will not need to tear down and rebuild anytime soon, and your maintenance costs will shrink.
  • Metal construction is not susceptible to pests, mold, rot, or rust when properly maintained.
  • Steel university buildings can be prefabricated and delivered as a system to the campus for quick construction during class breaks and with minimal disruptions to educational activity.

Advantages of prefabrication

Once you have determined the design of your facility, an engineer can create a 3D blueprint with all the specifications for utility placement, openings, and spatial requirements visible for a virtual walk-through before the frame is manufactured. Problems are found and resolved without the need to rework materials onsite.

After the specifications are finalized, the steel building manufacturer fabricates frame members and panels with pre-drilled holes, pre-welded joints, and the appropriate fasteners. For quality assurance, your building frame can be constructed at the manufacturer to check for fit and integrity then taken apart for shipping.

The building system is then transported to the jobsite with all required parts ready to be put together quickly and with no cutting, shaping, drilling, or other pre-work required. With the appropriately skilled workers, the frame is quickly constructed, decreasing labor costs and eliminating waste material haul-off.

Flexibility of design

Universities require facilities with widely varying uses:

  • Sports arenas and physical education facilities
  • Classrooms and lecture halls
  • Laboratories and observatories
  • Music and theater spaces
  • Dormitories and student residences
  • Office space

Steel can be designed into any type of facility you would ever need. Clear-span design is only available with steel framing. If you require large, uninterrupted space, steel is the only material that can provide it. The strength of steel in ratio to its weight allows building design without interior columns.

Material strength

The strength and durability of steel not only lends itself to clear-span construction, but it also confers an increased safety factor during seismic events, high wind loads, and the weight of snow and ice. Steel is naturally fire resistant; with the addition of fire-resistant insulation and finishing materials, flames will not spread and create additional damage.

Steel frames can be designed to bend without buckling, reducing the danger of complete structural failure during an earthquake. Survival rates increase, and the likelihood of severe injury and catastrophic loss is less than that for wood or concrete structures.

Insurance premiums are lower with the decreased chance of loss, providing another area of savings for cash-strapped institutions.

The green movement

Colleges and universities are centers of progressive policies, including the movement for more environmentally friendly construction and resource use.

Steel is the ultimate in green building materials.

  • 100% recyclable; nothing goes to a landfill
  • Most existing steel contains recycled steel
  • Durable and long lasting
  • Energy-efficient

The energy-efficiency of steel extends to construction itself. A steel building can be constructed in less time than structures made of other materials. Delivery and construction vehicles spend less time at the site giving off exhaust. Less waste must be hauled away. Tool use is decreased, and noise levels are disturbed for less time.

Affordability

Everything that you see above contributes to the affordability of steel buildings.

Your upfront costs may be higher, but total cost of ownership for steel buildings outstrips other materials in the lower need for maintenance and cost savings on insurance, utilities, and even the labor required to build your facility.

The foundation for your steel building is less extensive than one required for concrete or wood because the frame is lighter. A lighter foundation is completed more quickly than the heavier one required for traditionally constructed facilities.

With a prefabricated building system, the building is ready to be put up from the moment it is delivered to your jobsite. The frame and panel installation can be completed in less time than traditional construction creating an enclosed space for subcontractors and trades to begin their work much earlier than before.

While specialized skills and experience are required to construct a steel frame, the reduced time of construction makes up for the increase in labor cost.

Energy savings

Once the building is complete, you will save on insurance premiums because a steel facility has a lower risk of loss due to fire or seismic and extreme weather events. Energy savings come from a variety of areas, including:

  • Selecting white or light colored roof panels with high emissivity and reflectivity ratings. Your cooling costs in the summer will plummet with less need for cooling.
  • Designing effective ventilation increases the health of the building and its occupants while keeping the ambient temperature comfortable and steady.
  • Heating bills are lower when adequate and appropriate insulation is installed in the easily accessible steel frame during construction.
  • Careful window placement allows natural light without overheating the building’s interior or allowing heat to escape during the colder months.
  • A metal building has low maintenance needs, which translate into lower costs for repairs and upkeep.

Constructing A Metal building on your campus

If your campus needs a refreshed look, additional facilities, or if you need to replace a few buildings, consider using steel for any facility you’re planning, now and in the future.

Your university or college will be more cost-efficient and cost-competitive, so you can attract the students, staff, and educators you need to build a world-class school.

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