Hangars: Keep it simple

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Talking about hangar design fires Dave Stermer’s imagination. As director of engineering for Metal Sales

Manufacturing for the past five years, he’s designed quite a few hangars as well as many other kinds of projects.
Metal Sales supplies roof and wall panel systems and components to the architectural, commercial, industrial  and metal building industries.

The cool thing about hangars, Stermer says, is “the sheer size of the project — the amount of materials that goes in the project.” Airplane hangars are typically large, with lots of squares (of metal panels) on the roof and lots of squares on the walls. He says he likes dealing with the largeness of the structure itself.

From an engineering and design standpoint, Stermer says, it’s all about scope. The main framing becomes an order of magnitude larger because of the building’s height and size, adding to the challenges. He’s worked with clearspans as large as 200 feet, although 100 is more common.

It’s Stermer’s and Metal Sales’ job to enclose and panel the clearspan steel buildings erected by others. In working with pilots and hangar owners, he advises builders and contractors to be extra careful with the overall framing.

“Large spans can have buckling issues if you don’t keep them braced as you install,” he says.

His advice to contractors? “Talk to someone who has made mistakes or who is lucky enough to have been protected from mistakes. Get advice on how to handle large structural projects.”

He mentions avoiding nightmares that come from failing to address thermal expansion and contraction in metal roofs on hangars. That means keeping leaks and damage out of the picture.

“One thing I can say, in buildings I’ve visited, the ones that perform best are very clean, simple and well maintained,” says Stermer. He personally favors an  uncomplicated design.

Stermer is also adamant that builders should talk to the architects and the structural design company and be on good terms with code officials, too.  That makes it easier to get questions answered and obtain guidance as it’s needed along the way.

“Network with people who have done large structures,” he says. “Take advantage of others’ insights.”

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