Prefab Metal Buildings – Assembly Required
With U.S.-Sourced Steel, Company Simplifies Assembly of Prefab Buildings
June 2012 – A step up from the simple snap of Legos but short of any complicated instructions, Erector sets have let children (or enterprising adults) build miniature hot rods and handheld cranes for about a century. On a much larger scale, one company takes the toy’s philosophy and applies it to prefab metal buildings.
Universal Steel of America designs, manufactures and delivers prefab metal buildings made for any use. They range from small storage and general contractor shops to spacious airplane hangars, equestrian arenas and industrial and agricultural operations.
“All your assembly drawings and components are individually marked, so everything is cross-referenced between assembly drawings,” says Stephen Tanco, CEO at Universal Steel. “The components being individually marked makes it very easy for someone that doesn’t have a background in construction.”
The skeletons supporting each of Universal Steel’s prefab metal buildings are based on steel I-beam construction made from both cold-rolled and hot-rolled steel. The company sources all its steel domestically—both about 65,000 yield strength hot-rolled material and about 80,000 psi tensile strength cold-rolled material. Tanco says a lot of the steel that comes from outside of the United States is not rated, with little way of knowing the quality and strength of it.
“We’re very conscientious of the fact that we’re not bringing in steel from outside the United States,” he says. Customers can choose from several steel panel profiles with different finishes and thicknesses. They range from 22 gauge to 26 gauge. A more energy-efficient insulated composite sandwich panel also is available. The steel is manufactured in regional plants around the country.
Customers either submit specific plans, such as when a building must meet existing criteria or fit into an existing space. One project called for extensive engineering to fit an administrative building between two hangars at a Florida airport, Tanco says. Smaller customers may have latitude in project design or general contractors will give general guidelines, such as square footage.
Basic I-beam construction increases the structural resilience of Universal Steel’s designs. For example, building requirements in the hurricane-prone Caribbean and Gulf Coast specify prefab metal buildings that can withstand 160 mile per hour winds. Similarly, they must handle seismic activity on the West Coast. Tanco says the roofs can handle heavy snow loads in wintry regions that other structures, such as pole barns, cannot.
Once the prefab metal buildings components are completed, they’re shipped to the worksite. However, you won’t see a massive trailer with flags and lights on the freeway accompanied by pickup trucks bearing “oversize load” signs. The pieces simply lie on a flatbed truck.
Depending on prevailing architecture where local zoning and design ordinances come into play, the steel facades can be paired with brick, stucco or glass. For masonry, Universal Steel will install spandrel beams to support the wall system being attached.
In recent years, customers have ordered steel buildings for homes. The steel I-beam construction lets them build out their home without worrying about load-bearing walls.