Metal Builder: Zoning issues

For owners, builders, and developers, metal building systems are often a logical choice for new construction. Churches, schools, municipal buildings, businesses, and others continue to construct their new facilities with metal. Some of the benefits include cost, versatility, adaptability, and ease of construction.
Not all zoning boards and planning agencies understand the benefits of metal buildings. Because of this, it is often necessary to work with and educate those in positions of authority as to how metal can benefit their community and best serve its needs.

Perceptions of metal are often outdated
Some people equate modern metal buildings with those that were constructed decades ago — before advances that now make metal such an attractive and versatile building option. Today’s metal can look just about any way imaginable.
It is important to understand what a metal building is, or what it can be. A metal building doesn’t necessarily mean the whole structure must be made out of metal. Metal buildings can have metal frames, walls, and roofs, or any combination of these. The ability of a metal building manufacturer to work with a variety of building materials is one of the advantages of metal. A metal frame can be combined with EIFS, brick and masonry, and even concrete tilt walls to fit the style that is needed for a certain area. Additionally, metal roofs can be added onto just about any type of building, either as part of the initial construction or as a retrofit roof.

Exterior options offer class and beauty
Where builders most often have to work with and educate zoning boards concerns the exterior of a building. Metal buildings can accommodate restrictive zoning ordinances. Zoning in some communities prohibits the design of uniform exterior appearances, and some even ban metal clad buildings altogether. Luckily for owners and builders, metal wall panels today come in many styles and colors. As such, the first type of regulation can usually be worked with. It is easy to put in windows, change the coating color, or even change the design of a building to fit a community’s objectives. One of the attributes of metal is the ease with which the material is designed to fit the needs of the owner and the community.
When designing any building, it is important to ask key questions. What are the long-term needs of the owner and the community? How will the building fit into those needs? By thoughtfully considering these concepts, the building can be designed to fit both structurally and aesthetically. One benefit of metal is the ease with which space can be added. Future additions are relatively easy to add on to a metal building, so that is a consideration as well.

Metal roofs look great
and are long lasting

Metal roofs today, just like metal walls, come in various designs and colors. The most often used type of roof on a metal building is a standing seam roof. The fasteners are hidden underneath the seams so there are no visible screws or nails. The metal used for a roof can be coated with various colors and types of coatings that are durable and good looking. These roofs are also cost-effective, as a standing seam metal roof installed today can potentially last more than 35 years and incur nominal maintenance costs.
Both metal roofs and walls are very energy efficient and can enable a new building to meet local sustainability standards and energy needs. The metal panels on either walls or roofs can be combined with most thicknesses of insulation so that local energy codes are met. Many pre-constructed wall panels can have insulation built into them in a sandwich panel, making the final installation easier and faster.
Another energy efficient option is a cool metal roof. A cool metal roof has a special cool coating that reflects the sun, keeping the roof cool and energy costs down. This type of roofing is available in many colors so that, once again, the building can be designed to accommodate unique design ordinance criteria.

Durability shown through hurricane conditions
Another zoning issue is the durability of metal buildings. Metal roofs hold up under even the most extreme weather, and recent innovations in siding underscore its durability as well. After Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and Mississippi last year, a team of metal building industry experts inspected many of the damaged areas and found that metal buildings held up extremely well. They are designed to do so and meet local code restrictions relative to storm strength.
In addition to their ability to weather major storms, metal stands up well over time. The types of materials used today age gracefully and without rusting. The Metal Building Manufacturers Association has developed information on metal building systems that can be used to educate local boards when necessary. These are available at Metal building systems manufacturers are also a source of excellent research and knowledge. Be sure to choose a manufacturer that has an AISC-MB certification. This assures that the company has faced rigorous engineering and fabrication audits by third-party inspectors. The AISC-MB Certification is the metal building systems industry’s Seal of Approval. It is the most comprehensive quality certification program of its kind, confirming that manufacturers maintain sound processes to provide high-quality, reliable buildings.
Certified manufacturers also will have professional engineers on staff who design quality building systems that are custom-created for each specific use and to meet the local building codes.
Metal has proven a good option when constructing low rise buildings. By considering all the possibilities and working with zoning boards and local municipalities, any builder, owner, or developer should be able to get the right metal building to suit the project and the community.

Charles Praeger is the assistant general manager of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association and the chairman of the Cool Metal Roofing Coalition. For more information about metal buildings he can be reached at, or visit

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