Guest Column - May 2007
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Safe, Strong Systems

Metal building systems for recreation design

By Charles Praeger

Another metal building facility, the Benedictine School Natatorium in Ridgely, Md., has a metal roof and walls made out of both metal and brick. Because of the obvious need for clearspans, natatoriums are often composed of metal building systems. This particular one combines the benefits of metal buildings with a distinct exterior look, showing off how to combine alternate materials with metal.

A commercial facility, the Choo Choo Dive and Aquatic Center also has a masonry exterior.

In addition to the different types of material available for use with metal buildings, the roof and walls can be made to look quite distinctive. The Rose Lane Aquatic Center, in Glendale, Ariz., uses curved and pitched metal roofing panels to create an appearance like waves. The TransAlta Tri Leisure Center in Spruce Grove, Alberta, has multi-colored metal panels that help provide a unique visual context. This facility, in a place of long winters, has a significant number of windows to let the sunlight in. The ability to install windows just about anywhere is another benefit with metal building systems.

Cost has always been a reason to use metal building systems. Life-cycle costs are quite low, in large part because they are relatively maintenance-free, durable and long-lasting. The buildings are also constructed more quickly than traditional construction, which allows owners faster occupancy and quicker revenue production.

Metal roofs are also particularly cost-effective. A typical metal roof has a life cycle of over 35 years, compared to 15 to 20 years for many other roof types.

Cool metal roofing is a family of sustainable, energy-efficient roofing products comprised of unpainted metallic-coated steel or pre-painted coatings that help keep heating costs down. Highly reflective pre-painted cool metal roofs contain high IR-reflective pigments that reflect the sun's rays away from the building, instead of allowing them to be absorbed into the building. These painted coating systems come in many colors to accommodate design parameters and still get all the benefits of energy-efficient roofing.

Proper insulation can also reap energy-cost reductions. By increasing the R value of insulation in both metal walls and roofs, an owner can better manage energy consumption. R value is a measurement of thermal resistance and gauges the effectiveness of a building material to resist heat flow.

Metal is, of course, 100 percent recyclable, and for those looking for renewable material, metal is a sustainable choice. A building can be constructed with recycled metal, and the metal components are fully recyclable when they've reached the end of their useful life. For those looking for LEED points through the U.S. Green Building Council rating system, steel's recycled content and the ability to insulate and use cool metal roofs can all earn points.

When considering any kind of construction for a recreational facility, be it a new building, an addition or a renovation, metal is often the option of choice. Aesthetically and economically, the versatile metal building components provide a strong and safe building system for recreation facilities.


Charles Praeger is the assistant general manager of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association and the chairman of the Cool Metal Roofing Coalition. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, MBMA serves the metal building systems manufacturers and associate member suppliers. MBMA provides engineering leadership through research programs used to improve the performance, efficiency and quality of metal building systems. For more information, visit