Metal Building Systems

What is a Metal Building System?


Metal building systems are professionally engineered structures that provide cost-effective and efficient low-rise buildings for a wide array of uses.


The process of designing a metal building system has changed considerably over the years. MBMA members now provide some of the most technically advanced low rise buildings anywhere, while still doing so in a cost-effective and efficient manner. One of the main reasons for this is the implementation of computer aided design and drafting (CADD), which has moved the industry forward significantly over the past several decades.


Many people still harbor the notion that a metal building system is selected from a catalog of standard designs, based on the size of the building. While it is still possible to purchase metal buildings in this manner from companies that are not IAS AC472 accredited, MBMA member companies have a much more advanced approach to the process.


All major metal building system manufacturers utilize computer tools to custom design each building system and all building components, depending on the customer’s needs and specifications. Based on the local and national building codes, each metal building system is engineered to the required dimensions and designed to meet the loading conditions with the material specified. 


Today’s metal building systems also look much different than their predecessors. Metal buildings are extremely versatile, and can incorporate many different architectural finishes to provide the look required for applications such as churches, schools, shopping centers, office buildings and so on. At the same time, metal building systems still have significant cost advantages over many other building types.


Metal building systems have evolved through the years into assemblages of structural elements that work together as a very efficient structural system. While there are many variations on the theme, the basic elements of the metal building system are constant: primary rigid frames, secondary members (wall girts and roof purlins), cladding and bracing. Through MBMA’s technical experience and research, we have proven that the complex interaction of these elements is a challenging engineering task. MBMA member companies demonstrate this expertise and are on the leading edge of systems design.


Post-disaster investigations, such as following earthquakes or hurricanes, have suggested that metal building system “look-a-likes” suffer more extensive damage than engineered systems subjected to the same extreme loading. These generic metal buildings are not easily distinguished from metal building systems. However, the look-a-like design does not take into account the interdependence of the structural elements. The individual components are usually purchased from one or more vendors and may be shipped out as a complete metal building. Additionally, it is unlikely that the supplier(s) of these look-a-like metal buildings have been scrutinized in the same manner as a metal building system manufacturer.


All MBMA member companies will be accredited through the IAS AC472 accreditation program by the end of 2010. This ensures a high degree of quality that is not guaranteed with other metal buildings.


To see a wide array of examples of high quality, custom-engineered metal buildings, click here to go to the photo gallery.


For more information on metal building systems, the MBMA and its members, this web site provides an extensive resource base. The history of the MBMA, FAQs, member listings, bookstore, technical library and more are all here.


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