Steel is advantageous to other building materials, as it is cost-effective for construction projects, doesn’t bend easily, and 100% recyclable. Also, steel prices are not volatile, making it a safe choice for builders. Steel is often used to build airplane hangers, skyscrapers and storage buildings.
Nowadays, this technology may be used to construct almost any type of building. This may be attributed to improved cost efficiency and better construction techniques in the industry.
However, a considerable number of people still do not know how steel building cost is determined. Many of the leading steel building manufacturers will give you a quote, including the cost per square foot (SQFT).
However, there are many variables that will determine the much you need to pay for your steel building. While there is no direct answer to this question, we’ll do our best to help you determine the cost of your next project.
Steel Building Cost Per Square Foot
The rates provided below are the basic standard you should expect to pay for your steel building. However, your actual expenditure may vary based on the region you intend to implement the project, materials, and preferred provider.
On average, you should expect to pay between $15 and $25 per square foot (SQFT) all-inclusive for a basic rigid frame steel building.
This is particularly the case for commercial steel buildings. If you would rather have the more refined or customized metal steel buildings for commercial applications, you should expect to pay between $20 and $40/SQFT.
DIY Metal Building Kits
For DIY projects, it is advisable to go for the best metal building kits. In such a case, you should expect to pay between $15 and $20/SQFT. Holding other cost factors constant, here are average steel building kit prices:
- 20 x 20 Feet Frame Commercial Kit – a rigid commercial steel building g kit of this size will cost you between $10,000 and $12,000. Arch frame commercial steel building kits, on the other hand, are priced between $6,000 and $8,000 per kit.
- 40 x 40 Feet Steel Building Kit – A commercial steel building kit of this size with a rigid frame will cost you between $16,000 and $20,000 apiece. If you would rather have an arch frame commercial kit of the same size, you will spend between $14,000 and $16,000.
- 100 x 100 Feet Metal Commercial Building Kit – The rigid frame version of this kit is priced between $70,000 and $80,000. The arch frame versions come in an 80 x 80 feet standard size. In this case, you should expect to pay between $40,000 and $50,000.
- 200 x 200 Feet Metal Building Kit – commercial rigid frame metal building kits of this size cost between $275,000 and $325,000. Arch steel metal building kits are only available in 80 x 200 feet size option and cost between $80,000 and $100,000.
Regardless of your preferred steel building option, you will still need a poured concrete foundation for the project. This will cost you between $5 and $10 per SQFT. Again, you will also need to factor in insulation costs.
For example, 10,000 SQFT of steel building may cost you between $250,000 and $400,000, depending on if you require basic rigid frame steel building or refined metal steel building.
What Exactly Influences the Cost of Steel Buildings?
As you may be aware, the cost of constructing a prefabricated steel building varies significantly from one provider and region to another. You must be wondering what causes such variation and how exactly each factor affects the pricing, right?
Discussed below are some of the main factors that affect prefabricated steel building costs:
Site Constraints and Building Location
The geographical location, as well as site constraints you will encounter while erecting the structure, will have a major impact on its overall cost.
The commonly used guide to cost indices for different locations in the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS). To ensure that different local market conditions are taken into account, you will need to adjust this rate to cater for your location.
The site itself also has a direct impact on the proposed building’s design and cost in many ways. For example, it may affect the floor plate configuration, building height and the regularity of the structural grid.
Repeating Grid Will Save You Money
If you are looking for a cost-efficient option, you should go for the repeating grid. If non-standard sections or a wide range of different sections and connections are needed, the project will be more complex and therefore more expensive as a result of the higher fabrication costs.
Other steel buildings are known to have special requirements, such as retaining a historic façade, close neighbors or even poor ground conditions to overcome.
If such scenarios require complex structural solutions, such as the transfer of structures and heavy fabricated beams, the fabrication costs will increase the overall cost. It may as well increase installation time and cost.
Logistics and Building Height
The site footprint and building height will also cause variations in costs. For instance, a multi-story building with small floor plates will have a heavier steel frame per M2 GIFA, as compared to a low rise building with larger floor plates of the same overall area.
You will also need to consider the logistics and access as it affects the cost of erecting the steel frame. Even where two buildings have a similar frame design, costs will differ if one is in a congested city center.
The cost is erecting the same building in an easy-access business park will be as the logistics and access arrangements are somewhat different.
Working in built-up areas may also mean restrictions to working hours, noise, deliveries, access and use of cranes (also known as boom lifts). These will eventually influence installation costs and may even increase the construction schedule with the associated expense to the project.
While estimating the cost of a steel building, you should consider consulting with your supplier. This should be done with the aim of ensuring that your estimates reflect the supply chain’s detailed knowledge of order books and material prices. You also need to check whether this is the case both for the present time and the immediate future.
Building Purpose and Facilities
The proposed usage of a building will influence the design of the frame directly. The purpose and required facilities will influence such aspects as the design loadings, grid, floor-to-floor heights and whether or not spans are required.
This being the case, the overall weight of frame material varies from one building to another. For instance, a simple low-eaves industrial portal-framed building may have a steel frame weight of about 40kg/m2 GIFA. A-frame for a multi-story office that has long spans to minimize internal, on the other hand, may have twice this weight.
Using the same cost range for both buildings would be misleading and either significantly underestimate or overestimate the cost, depending on the steel intensity you choose. As such, you first need to understand what the building will be used for as well as what its floor-to-floor height will be.
While doing this, you need to understand that FIFA rates are only based on the floor area. As such, they do not factor in the significant variances in floor-to-floor heights from those used in standard cost models. Therefore, you need to use the most appropriate standard cost range as the base for the initial frame elemental target cost.
While standard cost ranges based on previous project data are useful tools, it is still important to find out as much about the facilities and function of the building as possible.
For example, an open-plan office will require fewer columns, requiring longer spanning beams and heavier steel sections. This will, in turn, increase the overall weight of the frame, its cost.
Another example is an out-of-town business park type of office. Such a steel building may feature a shorter and more regular grid.
This will lower the overall cost of establishing such a steel structure. Buildings that have a range of different spaces, such as atriums and boardrooms, tend to have different grid and loading requirements.
Steel Frame Types
Each building and site have individual requirements. Again, you will also have a vast array of structural products used to form the steel frame to choose from.
In order to get a clear picture, you should seek to understand the proposed structural products and systems along with any related considerations that could influence the choice, such as the strategy for integrating services.
The most widely used structural steel products are rolled I-sections, commonly referred to as universal beams, and universal columns. Other commonly used products are structural hollow sections, which may be square (SHS), circular (CHS) or rectangular (RHS) in shape.
Fabricated plate girders are used to support heavy loads or span long distances beyond the capability of the largest standard rolled I-sections, for example in bridges. They are usually I-sections made up of plates welded together to form the flanges and web.
For very long spans, built-up trusses comprising horizontal, vertical and diagonal members are often used to achieve the most economical solution. A good example of such an application is the roof structures of very large industrial buildings.
Other steel frame aspects you need to consider include:
Individual Member Types to Be Used
You need to enquire about which member types are proposed in your design. Different products have different erection and fabrication requirements. Similarly, the rates per ton will differ from one project to another.
The specific building configuration proposed can also affect the volume of steel used. The type of members may also determine the weight of steel required as well as its height.
This will ultimately determine whether you will be able to save some money on cladding. Heavier steel sections are known to have inherently greater fire resistance.
Using such components, will, in turn, lower your fire protection costs, as discussed below.
Connections and Fittings
When the primary and secondary members have been designed, quantified and their cost estimated, you will also need to consider the allowances for those items that cannot yet be quantified. Such allowances include connections and fittings.
A separate allowance – usually a percentage – is generally included for additional plates and fabrication at column bases, beam to beam and beam to column connections, bracing connections, column splices and haunches.
Lowering Your Material Costs
In a normal multi-story building, fittings and connections can make up 5-10 percent of the weight of the frame. However, the same components may account for a higher proportion of the total frame cost as the cost of connections is mainly related to their complexity and weight.
A cost-effective approach would be a high level of standardization and repetition. This will allow you to take advantage of reduced material costs, quicker and cheaper fabrication and ready availability. For complex structures, standard connections cannot always be used and in these cases, cost allowances will need to be higher.
The key is to achieve the best balance between material cost and the cost of fabricating the connections. Initial designs may try to reduce costs by using the lightest columns, but this may mean extra welded stiffeners are needed, adding cost and weight to the design.
Small increases in the beam or column weights may mean the stiffeners can be omitted, reducing fabrication costs and therefore the total cost of the frame.
Section Sizes and Availability
Availability will also affect the potential cost of proposed products for a structural frame. A product that looks lighter or more cost-effective on paper may, in fact, be more expensive than a heavier alternative section if it has limited availability. In such a case, limited availability may also delay the schedule, if sufficient quantities cannot be sourced in time.
Popular sections may be manufactured three or four times more often than less common sections. This is often the more cost-effective option whenever the heavier options are readily available.
A cost consultant should talk to a steelwork contractor early in the process to identify any products or systems where availability may be an issue, so this can be fed back to the design team or incorporated in the cost estimates through adjusted allowances.
Frame Erection Costs
On average, writing the steel building frames on-site will account for between 10 and 15 percent of the total cost. In this regard, you need to consider whether the building or site will have features that could affect the erection cost.
The amount of repetition, piece count, type of connections and site access can all have a significant impact on the frame construction cost and the construction schedule. For instance, a long span layout may weigh more but maybe erected faster than a short span frame since it has fewer beams and columns.
Similarly, repetitive structures not only bring cost savings during fabrication – but a repetitive grid with standard components also reduces construction time.
Fire Protection Cost
Fire protection essentially accounts for around 10-15 percent of the steel frame cost in commercial multi-story buildings. Therefore, fire resistance of the structure and choice of fire protection materials will be key considerations.
As with all construction materials, when temperatures increase in a fire, the steel begins to lose its strength. Protection measures like fire alarm systems or commercial fire sprinkler systems will ensure that the structure meets the required fire resistance period. This will allow occupants to safely evacuate the building.
Fire resistance periods for buildings are expressed in terms of the length of time the structure must remain structurally sound in a fire and they depend on the type of building, its occupancy and the size of the steel members.
It may be more economical to use slightly heavier structural members, which require less fire protection than lighter sections because of the increased thickness of the steel. This way, you will be able to achieve a fire-resistance period with less fire protection material and at a reduced overall cost.
Choice of Fire Protection Materials
A mix of different fire protection methods may often be used on a project, so allowances for fire protection should be discussed with both the structural engineer and architect as the method adopted will depend on both performance and aesthetic requirements.
Some of the fire protection materials you should consider, include:
- Boards – often used where the structure will be visible, such as to exposed columns. They provide a clean, boxed appearance and can be pre-finished or suitable for decoration. They can be relatively expensive and slower to apply than alternatives.
- Intumescent Coatings – the predominant method for fire protection in the UK, these are thin-film coatings that swell when heated to insulate the steel. Less than 1mm thick provides 60 minutes of fire resistance, and up to 90 minutes resistance can be achieved at a competitive cost. Up to 120 minutes is available at a premium.
- Concrete – Concrete encasement was the most common form of fire protection for structural steelwork until the late 1970s, but the time, cost and impact on the usable space of the building means it is seldom used today. It may still be used where resistance to impact is important, such as in some car parks and industrial buildings. Using concrete to fill structural hollow sections is sometimes used to provide the necessary fire resistance and increase the sections load-carrying
Ready to Get Steel Building for Your Next Construction Project?
As compared to other construction materials, steel is stronger and longer-lasting.
However, the initial cost of erecting a steel structure can be a bit high. However, the cost of a steel building will vary from one project, locality, and provider to another.
As you have learned throughout this guide, this variation will depend on an attachment of aspects including location, availability, site constraints and building purpose.
Regardless of the structure, you wish to erect, this guide will help you estimate steel building cost more accurately.