By Shawn Zuver, editorial/content director
So, you’re interested in a metal building—or think you might be—but first you’d like some information about pricing. How much does a metal building cost?
When my partners and I started DesignandBuildwithMetal.com, one of our primary goals was to provide information that could be used by anyone who was interested in metal construction products. Specifically, we wanted to offer answers to practically any question that might be asked.
Having all been involved in this industry since the mid-1980s, we felt that we had a pretty good idea of the type of information that the marketplace needed and wanted. The result is that we’ve put together a site with thousands of pages of information—including hundreds of case studies, more than 1,400 supplier listings and technical articles that cover just about every aspect of our industry.
Here we are more than a year after launching this website and I’m finally getting around to answering one of the most fundamental questions, the pricing of steel-framed buildings. I’ll admit that I’ve been putting this off because it’s a difficult issue to address.
In another column, I tackled a similar question about the price of metal roofing. After laying out some ground rules, I threw out a price square foot for a metal roofing job—including a very low-level panel and installation—and added a big disclaimer that there are many variables involved that affect the final price of each individual project. As we start this discussion of metal building cost, I’ll say that arriving at a cost for a metal building system may be even more complex.
As is the case with metal roofing, putting together a price quote for a metal building is dependent on a number of variables. Each project is unique and there are many choices to be made, and each choice has an effect of your metal building price. Here are some of the many things to consider.
Method Of Pricing
In my previous discussion of metal roofing, I talked a lot about square footage pricing. In metal buildings, you’ll sometimes see numbers quoted by square footage and other times you’ll see them quoted as an overall project cost. In those cases where the overall cost is provided, it’s a simple calculation to arrive at the price per square foot if that’s what you prefer to work with.
Who Is Involved?
As is true with all types of construction, the cost of a metal building depends on what services are needed.
A building owner or developer may be looking for all the services that are needed to allow them to simply walk into their new building—often referred to as a turn-key project because the building owner needs only to turn the key to open the front door. Another owner may want to be actively involved in the design of the building, working with an architect who is an AIA member, and then bring in a general contractor to coordinate the construction. Others may prefer to work with a metal building contractor—possibly one that is an authorized builder for a particular metal building supplier—who also offers design services needed to provide a complete design-build package. Still other owners may like to work as their own general contractor, employing an outside architect, purchasing a metal building from a supplier and having it erected by a qualified metal building erector.
There are many different ways that the design and construction processes can be handled, and each method will have an impact on price.
Depending on the building’s function, commonly referred to as “end use”, there are many types of metal building framing systems that can be utilized. It couldn’t hurt for building owners to know the difference between a rigid frame or continuous beam system—and architects, as well as general contractors, will surely want to be familiar with the framing type. What’s most important, though, is that you should work with a metal building contractor and/or erector who understands your project and can provide you with the guidance to make the proper selection.
Width, length, eave height, ridge height, irregular shapes…all of these dimensions and others play a direct role in your project’s complexity. A bigger building will certainly cost more overall than a small facility, due to the amount of steel framing and other materials involved—but it may likely be completed at a lower cost per square foot. Likewise, a structure that requires more design and engineering work, as well as labor to erect and finish, will also carry a larger price tag.
As mentioned earlier, a facility’s function has a bearing on cost. While two buildings could look similar from the outside, their uses can dramatically affect the way the building is constructed. For example, Building A could be a single-story office with a 14’ eave height to create an open feel for the workers inside. Building B might house manufacturing operations that utilizes the 14’ eave height for storage mezzanines that run along three of the interior walls, while three or four overhead cranes are used to move products throughout the facility. From the outside they appear identical, but inside the manufacturing facility calls for much heavier—and costlier—framing, crane beams and mezzanines.
A metal roof is often times a logical choice for a metal building (though not always) but there are many metal roof types to choose from, as described in my previous column on metal roof pricing. Regarding the walls, there are also many metal options to choose from—as well as other non-metal material alternatives. These can be tailored to the owner’s needs and desires, but will have an impact on the final price. In some areas, zoning restrictions may even dictate what exterior finishes can be used.
And That’s Not All
There are also many other factors that come into play—such as insulation, interior finish, concrete or other flooring options, land costs, lot setbacks and land use fees—though most of them would affect the cost of any framing method that was used, whether a metal building or not. In many cases, some of the other factors can make the versatility of metal buildings a more attractive option.
How About That Price?
If you’re looking for the most basic shade-and-shelter solution, with absolutely no frills—say a simple, 40’ x 60’ rectangular structure with an overhead door, walk door and a couple windows—in some regions of the U.S. you may be able to have a simple metal building supplied and erected for $20 - $25 per square foot, not including land cost. Beyond that, it just depends on your wants and needs.
While my answer is admittedly a bit vague, I would like to offer some advice. For building owners/developers, general contractors or architects, I suggest that you align yourself with a qualified metal building contractor or erector. Experience tells me that you’ll be pleased with the cost, quality and speed of a metal building’s construction schedule when compared to alternative building methods.
For contractors who are interested in becoming metal builders, there are many excellent suppliers to choose from. You can find a list of them in our Supplier Directory.
If you’d like to read my column on metal roof pricing, click here. To see my thoughts on metal wall panel costs, click here.