Building Options

Building Branding
How the Right Building Can Work for You

By Charles Praeger

How do you get consumers into your recreation facility? Probably you tell them about your top assets that offer advantages over your competition: a convenient location, a wide range of up-to-date equipment, experienced staff, locker and change facilities, and other amenities. When you think about what to tell users about your brand, do you consider your building? Your structure and space tell a lot about your brand, especially when your facility is constructed with a metal building system.

What It Is, What It Does

As the name implies, there are many significant metal elements in every system, and the structural steel frame is vital. The steel members of a metal building are engineered specifically for each building and then shipped to the construction site. This offers each building owner customization, which saves money because there are no wasted materials. Metal building systems provide a quick construction period and the capability to erect a building year-round. This can happen because a metal building is fabricated in a plant for a bolt-type construction at the site. Therefore, weather doesn't affect the construction process.

"Building owners also should note that a metal building can be erected one-third faster than conventional construction," said Chuck Haslebacher, chairman of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association. "That aids in saving money with less contractor payroll and other related expenses."

The structural steel frame is what bears the load in most metal buildings. Therefore, the options for exterior finishes can be brick, glass, masonry, EIFS, insulated steel wall panels or other materials.

Case in Point

Exterior aesthetics was a priority for the Charneski Recreation Center at Saint Martin's University in Lacey, Wash. A wing of the facility faces the interior of campus, and school officials wanted this section to blend with other structures. A variety of exterior finish materials, including masonry walls, steel wall panels and a standing-seam roof accomplished this task.

As your facility users are running laps, doing sit-ups, climbing walls or shooting goals, they might notice the steel spans in a ceiling (if they are exposed). A benefit of metal building systems is these steel spans allow for economical, creative and open interior designs. "Many recreation facilities need these clear spans to accommodate pools, tracks or other gym equipment," Haslebacher said. "Metal buildings easily provide this open space."

The Enclosure Indoor Rock Climbing gym in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is proof of this. High, open spaces were definitely a necessity for climbing, as well as for workout equipment on a balcony.

The steel spans have an added benefit of making spaces interchangeable. Metal buildings become a great selling point for a building owner because when one tenant moves out and the new one wants a different layout, the wide span configurations of a metal building allow spaces to be reshaped and reconfigured. There is flexibility for mechanical additions and interior electrical layout, as well.

Saving Green and Going Green

When comparing prices of metal building systems to conventional buildings, consider more than material costs. You have already learned that metal buildings are constructed faster than traditional construction, so you save there. The fast pace also means occupancy occurs more quickly, and, therefore, so does revenue production. In addition, the specifications are so exact that you don't waste material, saving money yet again.

The Urban Plains Center and Tournament Facility in Fargo, N.D., is a lesson in how to save money when building large on a smaller-than-usual budget. "Anyone can spend $100 million on a sports arena," said Fargo-based ICON Architectural Group co-founder and executive director Mike Kuntz, "but trying to do it for $25 million is another story."

This impressive facility has five arenas with ice sheets; 37 locker rooms; 40 luxury suites; 300 club seats; main arena capacities of 6,000 for basketball/volleyball and 5,000 for hockey; a tournament facility that seats about 2,000 for basketball or volleyball and 1,600 for hockey; and three other tournament facilities that seat approximately 800 each. This monstrous job was done in phases. The first phase was a 211-foot, single-slope clear-span frame with a maximum eave height of about 55 feet—plus a unique "warped" roof. The four-skating-rink building is 280-feet wide with one interior column.

Another concept to talk about is life-cycle costs. This takes into consideration the longevity, durability and maintenance of the products. For metal building systems, life-cycle costs are low because the steel structures are long-lasting and relatively maintenance-free. The longevity of a metal building increases when the structure is paired with durable cladding materials, such as metal roofs and walls. The life of a metal roof is typically 40 years or more compared to 15 to 20 years for other materials. "A building owner should look at the lifespan of roofing materials," Haslebacher said. "Upfront costs may be higher for a metal roof, but think about what you are going to spend on maintenance and replacement fees. Over the long run, metal saves you money."

Metal roofs lead into the next cost-saving concept—sustainability. Going green isn't just good for the environment, it also is easy on the wallet over the long-term because of energy savings. A metal building's sustainability is tied to the fact that steel is a recycled material. Because of this, metal building systems can earn LEED points or credits toward other green incentive programs. Technological advances have brought more cool features to metal. Coatings, for instance, give metal roofs high reflective values, meaning the sun's rays are reflected away from the building instead of absorbed into the building. This technology helps keep a building cooler and uses less energy for air-conditioning. Again, this saves the building owner money on utility bills. The coatings are available in many colors so design isn't compromised.

Insulation also plays a role in a metal building's sustainability. Many manufacturers offer varying R-values for insulation. By increasing the R-value in roofs and walls, energy consumption is reduced. And by now you know what this means—more cost savings.

"People shouldn't think of going green as a fad or something to do because it is trendy," Haslebacher said. "Adding sustainable assemblies into a metal building system may cost more up front, but these items will save money over the long-term. That is something every building owner should want. Also, sustainable materials create an occupant-friendly environment in terms of health and comfort—another benefit for your members."

Add It Up

If you add up cost savings, sustainability and an architecturally aesthetic image with additional benefits of metal buildings systems, your branding just became as simple as highlighting your facility.

Haslebacher added: "We are in a difficult economy. But this doesn't mean construction, expansion or improvements can't happen at your facility; you just have to be smart about it.

A metal building is an economical choice that can become one of your greatest assets."


Charles Praeger is the assistant general manager of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, Cleveland, Ohio, and past chairman of the Cool Metal Roofing Coalition. Visit for details.

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