Guest Column - May 2007
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Safe, Strong Systems

Metal building systems for recreation design

By Charles Praeger

etal building systems have long been a standard for the recreation industry, and today's metal buildings offer more options and benefits than ever before. Whether a new facility, renovation or addition, steel can offer a building owner a safe, structurally solid, energy-efficient facility at a reasonable price.

Metal buildings have been popular in the recreation industry for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they are versatile and relatively easy and fast to construct. The recreation industry's unique needs, such as large clearspans and the open spaces for gyms and swimming pools, are metal building specialties.

Some recent facilities showcase the ability of metal building systems to meet the multiple needs of recreation environments. Recently constructed structures include the University of Mississippi's indoor practice facility in Oxford, with 140,000 square feet of space; the Mohawk 4-Ice Center in Hamilton, Ontario, at 200 feet by 240 feet; and the Choo-Choo Diving and Aquatic Center in Chattanooga, Tenn.

While the ability to meet the space and structural needs of a recreation building is an important component, metal also provides more versatility than ever before. In addition to providing large, column-free indoor and covered areas, metal building systems are engineered to expand when more space is needed. And they don't have to be simple metal boxes. In fact, beautiful, award-winning structures with a variety of shapes and facades meet aesthetic goals and help build brand identity.

The Berkshire South Regional Community Center and Recreation Complex in Great Barrington, Mass., is a good example of how metal buildings can be creatively designed. In this case, three buildings are connected. The complex has a simple yet elegant look that fits in well with the Berkshire Mountains backdrop.

The Antelope Valley Fairground in Lincoln Valley, Calif., has four major buildings, the largest of which is a 30,000-square-foot metal building. These buildings also provide a distinctive and attractive appearance.

Versatility is also a consideration when looking at the materials and exterior appearance that metal buildings offer. Metal building systems can include almost any type of material as part of the structure. The building does not have to be all steel. Indeed, a metal building can have a steel frame, walls, roof or any combination of these. Often, metal buildings have one or more of their exterior walls made up of a contrasting material. This can be brick, glass, wood, precast wall systems or even concrete tilt walls.

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is another example of the versatility of materials and appearance a metal building can provide. It has a steel frame and roof, while the exterior is a combination of metal panels and masonry, giving the building a distinctive look.

The Mohawk 4-Ice Center in Ontario uses a number of different materials on its exterior. There are metal wall panels over the steel frame, and the walls feature masonry and decorative metal. In each case, the owner can benefit from the cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency of metal building systems and also achieve design objectives.