Conversation with an Architect
On many occasions design-build metal building
contractors receive phone calls from architectural firms looking
for information and early budgets. Often it sounds like this:
"XYZ Construction, how can we help you?"
"I am with the High Falutin' Architect Group and I need
assistance with specifications on a metal building."
"No problem, I'll transfer you to Bob Know-It-All."
"Good Morning, Bob. My name is Dave Over Design from High
Falutin' Architects and I need help right away to specify a metal
building and get a budget figure."
"No problem, Dave. What is the end use of the building?"
"Bob, I can't tell you that because we don't want it out on the
street that we are planning this project at this time."
"OK, Dave. Do you have any preliminary plans we can look
"Sorry Bob, we are not that far along."
"Dave, can you give me a basic size?"
"Sure Bob. It will be 20,000 square feet."
"Excellent, where will it be located?"
"I can't tell you that at this time as we don't know yet …"
Pause … Bob is getting aggravated.
"Look Dave, we will be glad to help you but you need to come up
with more information to go on. We can go around and around forever
about this project on the phone. I suggest you visit our offices,
which are located in an engineered metal building. That way you can
see firsthand how we put a project together."
"That sounds like a great idea. How about this coming
I can't tell you enough about inviting designers, owners and to
specifiers to meet with you to view systems construction firsthand
while assembling a new project.
Personally, I feel we all say "It's on my website" or "I'll send
you a link" way too often.
These days, preliminary drawings go out and then the emails
start to fly. Within three days, there are so many facts flying
around it is difficult to keep track
. Back to the visit:
Bob greets Dave in the lobby of his office.As Bob gives the tour
he explains how they integrated a two-story building section in the
front to accommodate the offices while maintaining clear open space
in the rear section for equipment access and rack storage.
They settle down at a large conference table in a room with
strip glass at one end and high ceilings.
"Nice," Dave comments.
"Thanks," says Bob, pointing out that they set up the space to
show what they typically build for their customers.
The two start out by reviewing a preliminary plan Dave brought
Bob sets up his laptop and begins to input information as they
look over the layout explaining that, "Our sophisticated systems
require input to produce the proper frame sizes, bay spacing and
interior clearances you require.
"Our computer systems produce the documents needed to design the
supporting foundations, window and door systems, as well as energy
code compliant assemblies to meet the requirements of today's code
no matter where they are located." Dave notes, "You guys in the
'engineered building systems' business have come a long way!"
"You are right, Dave. Systems construction allows us to custom
fit a structure to today's needs no matter how high or large."
Bob sets up the project in the program and runs the design. He
hooks up his projector and flashes a 3-D model of the building up
on the wall.
Dave is taken back by the accuracy and speed of the computer
model. Bob manipulates the model, peeling away the roof and wall
panels to reveal the main frames and secondary framing that support
the metal envelope.
"I'll tell you what Bob. My owner needs to see this."
You know where the conversation is headed now. Dave asks about
the history of metal buildings. Bob directs his computer to
www.mbma.com. He explains if you visit the Metal Building
Manufacturers Association website you will find a wealth of
information on engineered building systems design.
They view a piece by W. Lee Shoemaker, P.E., Ph.D., director of
research and engineering at the MBMA:
"Metal buildings have evolved over the years from utilitarian
tin sheds to highly attractive, multi-use structures that are not
even recognizable as metal buildings. Many factors have contributed
to the wider application and market growth of metal buildings over
the decades. One significant reason that metal buildings have
rapidly evolved is MBMA's focus on technical issues that confront
the metal building industry. This includes sponsoring research to
learn more about the structural behavior of metal buildings with an
eye on optimizing material utilization and the appropriate loads
that should be specified in the building codes. In fact, all
low-rise construction has experienced improvements that are a
direct result of research and building code changes that have been
sponsored and promoted by MBMA."
Dave inquires about other metal products that they might
incorporate into their building construction. Bob introduces some
photographs of a recently completed project where they worked
hand-in-hand with a high-end architect and a reputable design-build
contracting firm to complete a LEED certified corporate
headquarters office building in Stratham, N.H., last year for Lindt
and Sprüngli (USA) Inc. Four 4-inch insulated metal panels crafted
into some curved walls combined with glass and sunscreen systems
made the project really shine.
They close by making an appointment for Dave's client to visit
As Dave drives out of the property, he looks back and says to
himself, "This all started with a simple conversation and now I
have a new relationship."
Steven R. Webster is the current president of
the Metal Building Institute and a past president of the Metal
Building Contractors and Erectors Association. Webster owns Dutton
& Garfield Inc., a 43-year-old design-build metal building
construction firm located in southern New Hampshire. For more
information, visit www.metal-building-institute.org.