Metal Building Designs

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You can see that there are quite a few reasons to consider a metal building. They are cost-effective, eco-friendly, customizable, versatile, low maintenance, and long-lasting.

But what are the different types of metal building design options available to you?

Rigid Frame

One of the most common types of metal buildings is a rigid frame structure. Rigid frames are used for both residential and commercial buildings, especially those which need wide-open spaces inside.

The rigid frame design takes its name from the rigid framework of vertical columns and horizontal beams (all metal) which comprises it. The building’s vertical load is channeled through the walls and into the ground, negating the need for vertical columns in the middle of the building.

This makes it a suitable design option for what is known as a “clear span” building. This can be contrasted with a “multi-span” building which contains one or more columns obstructing the space.

Because the rigid frame allows for so much open space, this design is ideal for warehouses, factories and other commercial structures which must remain unobstructed.

Open Truss

For any metal structure which is going to have trusses, you will need to decide between open and closed trusses. The simplest way to define a closed truss is as any truss which has a tie beam (that’s the horizontal beam that goes along the bottom) and which is hidden from view by the ceiling.

By contrast, an open truss does not have a horizontal tie beam across the bottom. It may have an interrupted tie beam, a scissor shape, or an arch shape. This type of truss is left exposed, providing a decorative effect and a vaulted ceiling with more headroom.

Since an open truss provides for more vertical space, it too is a good option for large commercial structures such as warehouses or churches. But it also is a great choice for a residential home with a vaulted ceiling.


Another popular type of metal building for residential or commercial use is a type of post-frame metal pole barn. The vertical load on a metal pole barn is distributed to the ground with a series of poles (usually constructed from lumber) around the perimeter and sometimes also in the middle (a multi-span design).

Because the lumber poles cost less than steel, this design reduces materials costs in the short run. In the long run, however, it may cost the building’s owner more in terms of required maintenance and repairs.

Quonset Hut

While exploring metal building options, you may have spotted structures with a distinctive arch design. Named for the location in Rhode Island where they were originally manufactured, these buildings are known as Quonset huts.

Although their history dates back to World War II, Quonset huts have progressed considerably since those days and are now coming into their own. Instead of featuring a rigid frame, they are made out of arch panels that are joined with a series of bolts.

Quonset huts are great for commercial and residential projects, especially for DIYers.

Here are some of their standout benefits:

  • Because you simply need to connect the arch panels, constructing a Quonset hut out of a metal building kit is fast, easy, and approachable even without advanced construction skills and knowledge. You also do not need heavy machinery to build a Quonset hut.
  • The arch shape is both appealing to the eye and functional. It is sturdy enough to withstand harsh weather conditions, and rain and snow are unlikely to accumulate on top. This reduces vertical stress during the wintertime.
  • Quonset huts are the least expensive metal buildings you can construct. This is true whether you do so yourself or hire labor. You should be able to build one for around $5 per square foot compared to around $7 per square foot for a rigid frame design.
  • As with other types of metal buildings, a wide range of finishing options means that you can personalize the appearance of your home or commercial structure to match your ideal aesthetic.

Unless you particularly prefer the shape and added vertical storage space of a rigid frame structure, a Quonset hut generally makes the most sense when it comes to cost and convenience.

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