One of the most common questions from people looking to buy a prefabricated steel building is, “How much does a metal building cost per square foot?” Unfortunately for the person requesting the information, it’s often a disservice for a steel building company to provide a range such as $16-$20 as an all-encompassing per square foot price.
In fact, if they do, that may indicate bigger problems ahead. There’s simply too many factors at play such as location, time of year, design, size, accessories, labor, unions and even the global economy, but we’ll dive into all of that shortly.
These 8 factors that affect the cost per square foot of metal buildings are often hidden in the details.
Factors Resulting in Lower Cost per SQFT
- Larger buildings, typically above 5,000 sqft
- Low snow load, wind speeds and seismic activity
- .5 to 1:12 roof pitch
- Quality of the steel
Factors Resulting in Higher Cost per SQFT
- High snow, wind and seismic conditions
- Unique roof elevations including pitch and hips
- The number and types of customizations added
- Rising steel prices domestically or globally
Factor #1: Know What You Want Up Front
We spoke with Vice President of General Steel and building expert, Lauren McCain, to get a better understanding of just how buildings are priced. “Many customers assume size is the only factor in steel building cost per square foot, but there are numerous other variables at play,” McCain said. Here are a few pieces of the metal building cost puzzle you need to consider.
Factor #2: Fluctuating Steel Prices
Steel is a global commodity, and its value is subject to the always-changing landscape of the world economy, the status of the American dollar and unpredictable natural disasters. That lack of stability means the price of steel can fluctuate quickly.
Steel has seen its value dip in the past few years, but industry experts are expecting a solid rebound this year. So while a metal building might be in your price range now, that can change in a matter of days.
That’s why we recommend you to lock in a price for a set amount of time with just a small deposit, avoiding any drastic changes in the market.
Factor #3: The Building System You Choose
If you’re completely new to steel building pricing, here are a few comparisons to other popular construction methods. Follow the links for more information on each building system.
|Quonset Hut||$13–$15/SQFT||I-Beam Metal Building||$8-$17/SQFT|
|Pole Barn||$25–$30/SQFT||C-Channel Building||$15-$18/SQFT|
Factor #4: The Size of Your Building
As you can see below, economies of scale play a big role in pricing a building system. Below are average costs per square foot for small, medium and large I-beam metal building systems.
|16′ x 21′||$17 per SQFT||50′ x 100′||$10 per SQFT|
|40′ x 60′||$12 per SQFT||100′ x 200′||$8 per SQFT|
Factor #5: The Customizations You Add
The metal building components are what really makes an aircraft hangar distinctive from a garage or workshop and an office building different than an Ace Hardware store. Below are some of the most commonly selected components that can add functionality to a steel building.
I-Beam Standard Features
- Primary and Secondary Framing
- 1:12 Roof Pitch
- 26 Gauge Roof and Wall Sheeting
- Sealants and Flashing
- Deluxe Trim Package
- Ridge Cap
- Plans and Drawings
- 3070 Man Door
- Sectional Door
- Roll Up Door
- Horizontal or Vertical Slide Windows
- Insulated Stucco Panels
- Light Transmitting Panels
- Gutters and Downspouts
Pitfalls to Avoid
It’s important that you choose a reliable steel building supplier. Some suppliers are eager to give potential customers the lowest quote possible. That quote, while seemingly an unbeatable deal, is low because it isn’t accurate.
It fails to take into account all of the variables that go into pricing, such as seismic activity, snow loads and customization options that result in the best metal buildings. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. As McCain notes, another issue in immediately jumping on the lowest quote is the quality of work you receive.
So how do you know the quote you receive is accurate? McCain says to give the supplier a call. “Call a sales associate, and they’d be glad to help you. It’s difficult to know if it’s accurate on your own. Our staff will review any quotes you get and make sure you’re getting what you need, with the correct loads and codes.”
Taking the time to do your research will ultimately lead to lower costs and a higher quality product.
Factor #6: Location
Metal buildings are engineered with your location in mind. Local codes and loads must be met or exceeded, so it’s important to communicate exactly where you plan to erect your building.
For example, if you’re in the northern United States, wind and snow loads must be considered, while if you’re planning on building on the West Coast, seismic conditions will be factored into pricing.
Technically speaking, these engineering factors are called atmospheric conditions and as you can see there are even some areas that must account for multiple factors
Factor #7: Construction Costs
The necessary costs you will encounter in order to compete your building can fluctuate even more drastically than the price of steel. Other articles we’ve read on this topic claim you can count on $10-$20 per square foot for the necessities like concrete, erection and insulation, but that range is hardly accurate.
Union labor, demand, time of year, economies of scale and your proximity to suppliers are just a few of the many factors that may influence the price per square foot in your local market. To demonstrate this fact, we asked our construction services department give us a more accurate price range by region.
It’s easy to see that the Northeast typically has higher construction costs than other areas, but that doesn’t mean every state in the Northeast is a cost leader. That’s why it’s important to not rely on general cost per square foot figures when it comes to planning a construction project.
Factor #8: Building Complexity
Metal buildings are no longer confined to industrial developments. Today, steel building kits are used for everything from personal garages and workshops to elaborate casino buildings and whiskey distilleries. Each building project requires its own custom designed building system and depending on the intended use, the design could be more simple or complex.
For example, a simple 40×60 auto shop design would feature a 1:12 roof pitch and one x-braced bay, resulting in a lower cost per square foot building than the same 40×60 space that needs to accommodate an interior crane system.
Source: General Steel Corporation