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Brief History of Steel Buildings

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A “Metal Building System” is an industry term for buildings whose main components (walls, roof,framing, and bracing) are all made of metal. They are specially engineered to worktogether as a structural whole. It is important to note that when we say “metal buildings” we speak of the structural parts, not their exterior finish. The outsides of metal buildings (walls and roofs), may be composed of any combination of other materials, including stucco, wood paneling, masonry, shingles, etc.

The construction of buildings with metal framing dates all the way back to the late 1700’s, with British efforts to construct fireproof mill structures for the agricultural and textile industries.

By the late nineteenth century, hundreds of “portable iron houses” had been sold to gold rush pioneers, and the first steel-framed skyscraper had been built. Throughout the twentieth century, steel buildings were constructed for all sorts of applications.

In the decades prior to World War II, large steel buildings, shaped like oil drums cut in two and laid on their side, were used for storage in the oil industry. During WW II, an adaptation of this structure was used in large numbers as inexpensive, mobile shelter for our military. These were known as “Quonset Huts”, named for Quonset Point in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, where it was mass produced.

Today, metal building systems are being designed for nearly every imaginable building application. There are two main design-type categories for these pre-engineered steel buildings; arched and straight wall.

Arched Structures, have eaves that curve into a rounded, half-cylinder shaped roof, like the Quonset Hut. In recent years, a number of adaptations have been made to Arch Buildings. Nowadays, arched designs featuring semi-straight walls and peaked roofs are also available.
Straight Wall Structures have walls and roof that come together at an angle. This design looks more like those of traditional buildings. You may have noticed just how popular these structures actually are, in city, town, farmland, and countryside settings – they are all around us these days.


James Ware Construction, Inc. is an authorized Butler Builder® BUTLER