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What is a Pre-Engineered Metal Building?

March 25, 2020

When we talk about pre-engineered steel buildings, what we’re talking about are structures which have been custom designed using software and then manufactured in a plant to be shipped to the customer as a completely pre-engineered kit. Everything is included and arrives at the job site on a flat-bed truck as a neatly wrapped package. The entire package – frame, roofing, components – is made from steel, one of the strongest and most durable materials on the planet.

Simply Put, Anything Goes…

The beauty of the pre-engineered steel building is that it can provide clear-span interior space, which can be used to satisfy virtually any customer requirement. Applications are endless. We will go through this more in detail later, but suffice it to say that our buildings are suitable for industrialcommercial, residential, agricultural and recreational uses.

As odd as it may sound, I’m more than a little passionate about the topic, so here’s a little history that I’ve picked-up over the years.

A History of Pre-Engineered Steel Buildings

The official-sounding term pre-engineered building came into use in the 1940s as a way to refer to all metal building systems that used a rigid frame design. These buildings were called “pre-engineered” because like their (distant) ancestors – the Quonset Hut – they relied on standard engineering designs for a limited number of standardized configurations.

Here is a quick overview of how steel building design and construction has evolved over the years: 

1940s: First, improvements in technology were constantly expanding the maximum clear-span capabilities of metal buildings. The first rigid-frame steel buildings introduced in the late 1940s could span only 40’ in width. Within a few years though, progressive widths of 50-, 60-, and then 70-ft buildings became possible; and by the late 1950s, rigid frames with 100-ft spans were made. That meant 100 feet of clear span width – no posts and no beams inside to obstruct the usable interior.

1950s: Along with the expansion of building size during the 1950s, this era also saw the introduction of a new manufacturing process which produced ribbed metal panels. Before this time, all metal buildings looked the same – they had the old, tired, corrugated panels like the Quonset Huts that looked industrial. The ribbed panel was flatter and more aesthetically pleasing.

history of pre-engineered steel buildings
In the early days, steel was strictly functional and lacked any aesthetic appeal.
colourful pre-engineered steel buildings
Advances in the 60s and 70s made it possible to create colourful, functional and aesthetically pleasing buildings like the one seen here.

1960s: What made these panels even more wonderful is that by the 1960’s, they were produced in colour. And at about the same time, continuous span cold-formed Z purlins were invented, the first factory-insulated panels were developed, and the first UL-approved metal roof appeared on the market.

But here’s the best part…during the 1960’s the first computer-designed metal buildings made their debut. Up until this time, all designs were done manually by engineers and design teams, so with the advent of computerization, as long as the purchaser could be restricted to standard designs, the buildings could be pre-engineered in limitless widths.

This marked the beginning of the metal Building BOOM….

1970s: As time passed and software became increasingly advanced, the original pre-engineered buildings were no longer restricted to standard designs. Metal building manufacturers could easily design and engineer buildings in different shapes and limitless sizes, with limitless openings for doors and windows. The number of potential applications exploded, as there were no longer required standardized size restrictions because each building was customized and designed taking into consideration each customers’ specific unique requirements and location.

Building Applications

Norsteel Buildings can be designed to suit unlimited applications. This is the most incredible thing about pre-engineered metal buildings – versatility. Our structures can be the solution for virtually every structural requirement.

Commercial pre-engineered steel buildings

Commercial Buildings

  • Mini-Storage Facilities
  • Restaurants
  • Car Dealerships
  • Convenience Stores
  • Car Washes
  • Mechanic Garage
  • Trades/Fabricator Shops
  • Retail Outlets
  • Office Space
  • Boat Storage
  • Aircraft Hangars
community facilities pre-engineered steel buildings

Community Facilities

  • Community Centre
  • Town Hall Meeting Facilities
  • Village Government Offices
  • Youth Centres
  • Tourist Information Centres
  • Cultural Centres
  • Health Centres
  • Search & Rescue Service Centres
  • Town Fire Halls
  • Pre-school/Day-care
  • Camp Bunkers
  • Elementary Schools
  • Churches
Agricultural pre-engineered steel buildings

Agricultural Buildings

  • Livestock Housing
  • Barns- Horse Barn; Dairy Farm
  • Dog Kennel
  • Produce (Tobacco, Grains) Storage
  • Tractor and Equipment Storage
  • Hydroponics Farming
  • Community Farmers’ Market
  • Fishery Service Centres
  • Marijuana Grow-op Facilities
Industrial pre-engineered steel buildings

Industrial Buildings

  • Warehousing
  • Manufacturing Plants
  • Truck Storage
  • Mining
  • Oil and Gas
  • Cement & Construction
  • Facilities
  • Forestry Equipment and
  • Logging Storage
  • Recycling/Garbage Storage
Garage pre-engineered steel buildings

Backyard Shops/Garages

  • Snowmobile Storage
  • Automobile Garage
  • Self- Storage
  • Mechanic Garage
  • Small Equipment Storage
  • Artist Studios
  • RV Storage
Recreational pre-engineered steel buildings

Recreational Facilities

  • Golf Course
  • Hockey Arenas
  • Sport Complexes
  • Bingo & Pool Halls
  • Swimming Pool Facilities
  • Riding Arenas

Learn More About Building Applications

The reliability of steel, coupled with the advances in technology over the years has led to a virtually limitless number of steel building applications, far more than what are listed here. Click here to learn more about potential building applications, and how steel is the perfect building material for your next project.

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  1. I want to get a metal barn made on my property, but I don't want to have to design it. It's nice that you can get pre-engineered steel buildings put up! It's nice that they can be so durable and easy to construct.

  2. Thanks for pointing out that pe-engineered steel buildings would be able to give clear-span interior space. I can imagine how it would be beneficial fr those who plan to use the building for commercial purposes. It would definitely get them more clients since space could mean that there could be lots of people entering the facility in the future.

  3. My uncle has been thinking about getting another shed on his farm because he has a lot of equipment that he wants to have a place for. Having a building built by a professional could allow him to have the right kind of storage. I'll be sure to tell him how he can use a steel building as a barn, housing for livestock, fishery, hydroponics, and storage for equipment.

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