Steel is one of the most versatile building materials on the planet and when it comes to creating structures with it, you have many options. If you are in the market for a new steel building, whether it’s for agricultural, industrial, residential, or commercial use, you can choose from a few types of steel buildings. Each type fits best with the particular needs of the building owner.
There are many, many choices when it comes to steel framing and interior and exterior finishes of a building. However, steel buildings usually fall into one of three main categories: Arch type, I-Beam, and multiple span.
Also called a Quonset hut, this type of steel building originated in Rhode Island at Quonset Point Military Base. An arch type steel building is a self-supporting structure that has no interior columns, beams, or trusses. Instead, the exterior sheeting is curved into an arch shape and it makes up the walls, ceiling, outer walls, and roof. It’s like a huge tin can, cut in half and placed on its side. This is known as the original Quonset hut design. It has also been modified so that there are straight walls going up the sides and then an arched roof at the top, which appears like a giant mailbox.
Arch type steel buildings are often used in agricultural capacities. The modified design is best for applications in which you need the extra space to store large objects or machinery against the wall. However, the original design is best for storing grain, as the modified design will burst if pressure is put against the walls. Many home designers have even taken advantage of the arch type steel building and have built some spectacular, unique homes this way.
Arch type buildings have their pros and cons. First, they are usually the cheapest of all structures, they are extremely easy to erect (all parts are prefabricated), there are no columns inside, it is easy to modify the building and make it longer, and they are very strong and can handle heavy winds. Now for the cons. Arch type buildings are difficult to insulate, interior finishing is nearly impossible (plumbing, electrical), you lose space where the arch meets the floor, they aren’t considered attractive, and they can only be about 60 feet wide at the maximum.
This type of steel building has become more popular than arch buildings in popularity, probably because of its versatility. These buildings have straight walls that rise to meet the roof. The supports that span across the ceiling look like the capital letter “I” if you looked at them from the side. The I-beam trusses are assembled on the ground and then hoisted up into place. They are placed 20-30 feet apart until you have the desired length of the building. Then, steel purlins run perpendicular to the trusses up the wall and ceiling. They are placed every 3-6 feet. After that, insulation can be put in place and finally interior finishes and doors and windows can be added.
I-beam steel buildings can be built extremely wide, making them a popular choice for airplane hangars, warehouses, and for those that need to store large machinery. They are also known as “clear span” buildings because they have no need for extra support through obstructing columns. The steel trusses are able to support their own weight. I-beam buildings have also been used in other commercial capacities such as office buildings. It is very easy to modify and section off the interior of the building into different spaces.
The advantages to choosing an I-beam steel building are: They are common, readily available, and familiar to many in the construction industry. They can be built quite fast, they are available in many color options, they can have huge widths, they do not require a slab concrete foundation, and they can have an attractive, business-like appearance. Also, these types of buildings are extremely cost effective. However, they have their disadvantages as well. You are limited to a building with a box-like appearance with little roof pitch. These buildings can have issues with condensation if not insulated correctly. Sometimes there are issues with zoning requirements due to the building’s commercial appearance.
This type of building takes a professional. You usually can’t do-it-yourself - I-beam buildings often have to be built using cranes and other heavy equipment, along with on site welding. There are many sellers of prefabricated steel buildings online but we highly encourage you to hire a professional steel building company to create your building.
Multiple span metal buildings are also known as column and beam, post and beam, and modular frame. They are just like an I-beam building except they can be built much larger because they utilize interior support columns for additional strength. This is ideal for uses in which you need an extremely large space, but interior columns won’t get in the way. The interior columns can be placed wherever they are needed or they can be hidden in the walls. This makes multiple span buildings ideal for churches and offices.
A multiple span building’s biggest advantage is in its ability to be very long and very wide. The design possibilities are endless. They share many of the same advantages as an I-beam building (listed above). The main disadvantage of a multiple span building is that there could be uneven building movement over time as the ground settles. Also, columns are difficult to move and change in the future if you wish to remodel.