Metal Buildings: Tips to Help Facility Managers Fast-Track Their Projects
The directive "do more with less" is one most facility managers have gotten used to by now — so much so that the directive has seemingly evolved into "do more with less, and do it a much shorter amount of time." That seems especially true when it comes to new construction. On one hand, organizations want a building they're sure will meet their needs for the long-term. On the other, they want it right now. The seeming conflict between fast-track construction and construction done right has long been a hindrance to many a building owners' wish for an efficient, cost-effective construction process.
When a project is on a fast track, facility managers may want to consider metal buildings. No longer just airplane hangers and giant warehouses, metal buildings can be used for just about any type of one- or two-story facility, including offices, retail space and schools.
"They really have the flexibility to match your needs," says Chuck Praeger, assistant general manager of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA). "Work with the manufacturers to determine the best fast-track process and type of building for what you want."
But before you even begin thinking of selecting a manufacturer, make sure you develop a clear vision for the project. Indeed, when it comes to the actual estimating and programming, nothing can make a project go more smoothly than when the organization has clear and specific views of what exactly it envisions for the new building, and who will be in charge of helming the process once a contract is signed and the project is underway.
Working with the manufacturer for estimating, programming and design can be done in a few different ways. One possibility is the traditional process of hiring an architect, who then recommends a metal building and works with the manufacturer on the building's programming and design. This may be the preferred delivery method for more complicated buildings. Another is to hire a consultant to help select a manufacturer that is the best fit for the organization's needs. Finally, the facility manager or building owner can simply contract with a metal building manufacturer. "The facility manager really has to decide the best delivery method, based on the type of building," says Praeger. An office building may require a little more front-end effort, expertise, and a bigger team than, say, a storage facility.
Selection of a metal building manufacturer should be based on a few criteria. One simple way to tell whether a manufacturer is committed to quality products is if it holds International Accreditation Services (IAS) AC472 accreditation. The four-year-old IAS AC472 standard is basically a quality control standard that covers three areas: fabrication of structural weldments and cold-formed products requiring welding; fabrication of structural cold-formed products; and design of metal buildings. According to IAS, the accreditation is necessary because "while the erection of the building can be monitored on site for building code requirements, most elements of a metal building (built up structural steel members, secondary members such as cold-formed steel or steel joists, and welding and bolting processes) must be inspected during fabrication and verified as being in compliance with the code." Essentially, the accreditation is evidence of a repeatable, third-party-verified design and manufacturing process.
"The accreditation shows that manufacturers are really working hard for a quality product and service," says Praeger. Plus, he says, the accreditation is now a requirement for membership in MBMA.
Another criterion facility managers should consider is whether the manufacturer is a one-stop shop. In other words, try to find a full-system manufacturer that can do all parts of a project at once. The reason, according to Praeger, is that you can be sure that the manufacturer has complete control over the entire process — with estimators and engineers on the same team.