Tag Archives: wood framed buildings

Steel Frame Buildings vs. Wood

Manufacturers and resellers of all steel frame buildings are quick to tout the fire resistance of steel as a reason to not turn to pole (post frame) buildings as a design solution.

Dr. Michael N. is a lecturer in two subject areas at his local university, civil engineering and structural steel design. This is what he had to say in this debate:

Steel Building Columns“Basically, steel doesn’t “melt” until the temperature gets to around 1500 degrees Celsius (or, 2730 degrees F, for my US friends). What does happen though, is that at around 720 degrees Celsius (or, 1320 degrees F), the “Young’s Modulus (E)” of structural-steel can drop away fast. “So-What?” I hear you say… Well, with smaller values of E, for given stresses within the steel (where these internal stresses come from the Loads applied), the amount of displacement (or movement) of your steel increases, often dramatically. So, whilst your steel will certainly not melt, it becomes way more “plastic” when heated above 720 degrees Celsius; which is a really easy temperature to reach in a “standard” fire. Whereas large cross-sections of structural timber – so long as they’re not burnt through – will not lose elasticity (anywhere near as near as much) when heated to the same relative temperature as their steel cousins. Of course, with enough heat over enough time, all timber will burn, but, experience and experiments have shown that charring on the surface of timbers can actually provide some insulation (for a little while). The upshot is that, in many situations, a steel structure can be far more dangerous (in terms of instability) after a fire, than a timber structure (under the same loads); hence, why fireman are always very interested in the materials used in the structure. Which is why fire protection of structural steel is a big part of engineering design & construction.”

As a teenager, I worked my 16th summer for my Dad and Uncles, who were framing contractors. The first project I participated with them on was a commercial medical office building complex – two three story buildings centered on a courtyard. Each level had a walkway around the courtyard to allow access to each of the units on the particular floor. The walkways were supported by steel columns. All of the steel columns had to be wrapped with several layers of fire resistant gypsum board, and then the resulting assembly covered with cedar boards for aesthetics. I remember thinking how creative my Dad was in finding a way to hold the gypsum in place – we used wire around the outside!

A simpler design solution would probably have been to utilize solid sawn heavy timers for the columns.

Considering investing in a steel framed building due to the supposed advantages of fire resistance? You might think twice!

All Steel Buildings are Better Than Wood Pole Buildings: Really?

When considering a new building, end users often debate whether to use an all steel or wood framed pole building. Steel has the perception of strength and endurance. Research and independent studies show pole buildings have several advantages over all steel.

Wood is unquestionably the most environmentally friendly building material on earth. It has better insulation, better fire resistance and better strength.

Wood is constantly growing and is sustainable. Trees in forests absorb carbon dioxide, making a growing forest an efficient carbon sink.  As older trees are harvested, younger trees can grow more rapidly, allowing for a healthy and everlasting wooded area. Statistically, for every tree harvested, five are planted.

Other building types do not use renewable materials; they use materials such as cement and plastic, which severely impact the environment. Lumber does not need to be mined. Forestry practices adhere to rigid codes which have been instituted to not only balance, but improve our forests. Foresters are conscious of maintaining the ecosystem by replanting the trees, utilizing the whole tree and by leaving virtually no solid waste behind. The forests available for timber harvest are large enough to grow enough wood products to build millions of buildings each year, endlessly into the future. Wood is the greenest construction material on the market.

Wood is more workable than steel, so it’s easier for a building owner to construct it themselves. With all steel buildings, many components are far too heavy to be moved and placed without expensive material handling equipment, like forklifts and cranes. All steel buildings require hiring expensive engineers to design foundation plans.  With pole buildings, the foundation plans are part of the drawings. The foundations of all steel buildings must be absolutely, perfectly square and level and anchor bolts precisely placed, otherwise the bolt holes of the steel frame components will not align.

Wood buildings have longer life spans than steel buildings. Steel “sweats,” causing moisture to get into insulation and steel connections. This provides conditions for mold to grow, which leads to corrosion and rust, shortening the longevity of the entire building. Once installed in a building, dry lumber will rarely warp or twist, it remains dimensionally stable. The steel building wall girts and roof purlins provide excellent nesting places for birds.

It takes nine times more energy to produce a steel stud compared to a wood stud. Wood, a naturally more efficient insulator than steel, can cut costs on heating and cooling by 30 to 50 percent. Steel is an excellent thermal conductor, creating a pathway for the transmission of heat and cold.

Comparing rack load capacities on different wall panels, the shear walls of a Hansen Pole Building outperform the tie-rod braced and cable-braced walls of typical all steel buildings.

All steel buildings, due to having roof purlins spaced generally every five feet and wall girts every seven feet, require steel sheathing which is thicker than on a typical pole building (the difference in thickness being approximately equal to a sheet of notebook paper). This minimal difference in thickness does not provide for more strength or durability of the building. The quality and warranties on the steel and paint systems vary widely, from none to “lifetime”. However what is available on one, is available on the other.  They are not exclusive.

Wood is Safer in a Fire. While it sounds hard to believe, it’s absolutely true. Wood retains its structural strength at temperatures higher than 2000°F, while steel loses 80 percent of its strength at 1000°F. As it’s melting during a fire, steel bends and twists. According to many firefighters, it is extremely difficult and dangerous for them to stop a fire in a steel building and for people to escape. After a fire, while structural steel may appear intact, there is no way to effectively determine the remaining strength of the frame. The all steel building needs to be knocked to the ground, rather than being able to repair a wood framed pole building.

Over the years I’ve been offered opportunities to sell all steel buildings, either in combination or separate from wood framed pole buildings.  Each time I’ve gone back and done the research to compare the two.  People who know me…..know I do “due diligence” when faced with a decision.  I want to know not just the facts, but the whole story. Each time what convinces me to say “no” are the stories from past clients of all-steel buildings.  I just can’t endorse what I don’t believe in.

Green Buildings: The Economics of Building with Wood

Green Buildings: The Economics of Building with Wood

Pole Buildings are a great green building solution

Anyone can equip a building with a few energy efficient features and call their product “green”, but a true move to sustainability in low rise buildings means improving the building process itself. In an industry as fragmented as construction, doing so demands a major investment in time, energy and capital. Every facet of the design and materials delivery process must be integrated, considered and evolved in order to truly “go green”. It is not like you can just have a builder pick up his cell phone and order up a fully integrated maintainable building system.

Or can they? For nearly ten years Hansen Buildings has been earning a reputation for sustainable construction solutions.

Speed is a huge factor, as for building owners time is money. The time and energy it takes for an individual or builder to design a building, source the materials and get them delivered to site is tremendous.

The process all begins in source code. Literally hundreds of thousands of lines of computer programming allow every last component in a Hansen Pole Building to be checked for structural accuracy as well as cost efficiency. Over twenty years of development have gone into a system which is being constantly upgraded and refined to produce the most efficient design solutions, with the least amount of waste.

Each structure is completely and accurately modeled using Computer Aided Drafting (CAD). Hansen Building’s Designers and engineers analyze all of the structural components and systems – from the architectural concept through the structural designs.

Materials are selected from the most trusted sources and suppliers, using Sustainable Forest Initiative Certified Sources when available. Modern pole building design is an environmentally sensitive alternative to traditional construction methods.

Hansen Buildings is not just a solution for single story structures. We’ve designed and delivered materials for buildings as tall as 44 feet and with three stories, and have the technology available for even taller!

Few can deny the ecological benefits of building with wood structural components. Wood outperforms steel and concrete because it requires less energy in production, produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, releases fewer pollutants into the air and water and generates less solid waste.

Analysis indicates constructing a wood framed pole building with equal structural features costs considerably less than a concrete or steel framed building. Those savings, combined with the significant materials management and times savings of the Hansen Buildings process yields a winning combination for building owners seeking an economical alternative to other construction options.  Green buildings are definitely the wave of the future!

Even something as “big” as a pole building, you can definitely…”go green”!

To receive more pole building tips and advice subscribe to the pole barn guru blog!