A prudent business owner researches and evaluates the market prior to purchasing. Choosing a Design/Build Contractor is not any different. We have found that a majority of businesses who wish to build commercial property have some basic questions. Following are some questions and answers we hope will assist you in evaluating and selecting a builder.


Q. What is the difference between a Design/Build General Contractor and a General Contractor?

A. A Design/Build General Contractor orchestrates a team of professionals to design and then construct the facility. A traditional General Contractor receives a set of plans from an independent Architect or firm who is employed by the Owner and then constructs the facility from the plans issued.

Q. What are the advantages of using a Design/Build General Contractor?

A. It is a given that Architects are educated to design and Contractors are trained to build. However, Architects are usually employed by an owner to produce a set of plans and to solicit at least three competitive bids from Contractors who, typically, he has never worked with. Therefore, the Architect has a tendency to over design in order to limit liability and spend a tremendous amount of time on additional details. On the other hand, if it is left to a Contractor to design and build the facility, you have no assurances that you are getting a structurally sound facility because usually the Contractor has not been schooled in the various areas of design. A Contractor’s expertise is in the area of building so, typically, the Contractor knows the most efficient ways to construct your facility. By choosing a Design/Build General Contractor who works closely with his or her own team of Architects and Engineers, the client reaps the benefits of structurally sound and cost-efficient design and construction. It is a great system of checks and balances.

Q. In a Design/Build, the Contractor and Architect have a strong rapport and because I know very little about construction, how do I know that I will get a quality product?

A. Like any major purchase of a product or service, make sure you do your homework. Verify the Contractor’s credentials. Make sure you have the names of the design team and their references. A separate design price should be agreed upon up front in case you decide to use another contractor for the construction. As you progress through the design and pricing phases, you should be developing a positive relationship with the contractor and design team. Make sure you have the option to receive a least one competitive bid before signing a construction contract. If the contractor objects . . . buyer beware.


Q. Why pre-engineered steel rather than conventional steel?

A. Steel is bought and sold based on pounds. A pre-engineered system analyzes every piece of steel to eliminate every ounce not required in the structure. Therefore the owner is not paying for something he or she will never use. Because of this design process, a pre-engineered structure can span further than a conventional structure with fewer interior support columns. This is referred to as “Clear Spanning” and is very important. If you have fewer interior support columns, the owner can better utilize the open floor space. Additionally, a pre-engineered structure can adapt to just about any exterior design or type of materials at a lower cost.

Q. How about metal roofs vs. built-up or membrane roof systems?

A. The metal roof system offers a superior life cycle with low maintenance and a hard surface capable of withstanding impact, pounding rains, and high winds. Additionally, the metal roof system can be installed faster and costs less.

Q. Are there different types of metal roof systems?

A. Yes there are. The two basic systems used are “screwdown” and “standing seam.” The screwdown system is a ribbed panel system that overlaps and is attached to the structure with exposed fasteners. There are a number of different types of standing seam systems that use two types of seams - the “snap-lock” and the “mechanically-seamed” system.

Q. What types of warranties are offered with a metal building?

A. The contractor will typically offer a standard one-year labor and material warranty against failures and leaks. Most manufacturers offer a twenty-year fade warranty on their wall panels. Roof panels vary depending on the type of system used. A Galvalume screwdown panel offers a twenty-year rustproof warranty. A color screwdown or standing seam roof system carries a ten or twenty-year warranty, depending on the paint grade selected. Additionally, most manufacturers offer extended weathertight warranty programs for an additional fee.

Q. If I want to add on to my new building in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years . . . how do I know the manufacturer and system that I choose will be available?

A. Unfortunately, as in any other business, there are no guarantees. However, because of the huge increase in the popularity of metal building systems, the reputable and financially stable companies will only continue to prosper. As far as the roof panel and wall panel profiles and color selections, most manufacturers’ panels and color are relatively close or at least adaptable. Therefore, we would recommend that you choose a manufacturer that uses product lines that are standard in the industry and easily interchangeable. If the manufacturer uses unique panel profiles, sizes, and colors you are limiting your ability to choose a different type of building or contractor on down the road.

Q. If I can use metal building construction in part of my project but the remaining area has to be conventional, can this be done?

A. Absolutely, this is called a hybrid. In most cases, a pre-engineered structure can be used in any type of design; however, there are occasions when a conventional type structure is the only answer. In that case, there are many ways to design the facility to satisfy this restriction and still maintain a high level of cost efficiency.

Q. Although I have chosen a pre-engineered building and a Design/Build General Contractor I feel comfortable with, how can I be certain that the metal building will be erected correctly?

A. A very good point. The Systems Builders Association is in the process of developing a certification program that will ensure the proper erection of most pre-engineered systems. However, it is still in its infancy stage and has not yet been fully developed and implemented. Until then, it is recommended that either the General Contractor or owner secure the services of an independent Engineering firm to evaluate the structural system and submit a written report on their findings. The report should include an analysis of main frame connections and the bolt tightness of all connections and laps. It is recommended that you use an Engineering service that is familiar with the pre-engineered steel system. There is significant difference between testing of pre-engineered systems and conventional systems.

Q. Are all steel buildings the same?

A. No, they are not all the same. Most manufacturers’ product lines, wall and roof panel profiles, trim packages, and standard color selections vary to some degree. The largest variable is the structural steel. The single governing body for the design and engineering of pre-engineered structures is the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA). As of January 1, 2000, in order to become a new member or retain your current membership, you are required to meet their strict design criteria. Visit their web site at www.mbma.com for detailed information and a list of current members. When you choose the brand of metal building for your project, please make sure the manufacturer is an MBMA member.

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