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By Fred Koetting B


Surviving in a Tough Economy: Research Helps Metal Buildings Build Market Share

Cutting-edge research is allowing metal building systems to gain market share, even through the long economic downturn. In spite of economic circumstances, the Metal Build- ing Manufacturers Association (MBMA) fi rmly commits to maintain its signifi cant investment in spearheading and funding industry research. MBMA has long been known as the associa-

tion that focuses on industry research. Through this effort over the past 50 years, MBMA has gained a well-recognized and respected reputation among the leading research institutions, research- ers, and code and standard authorities. This consistent and continuing research com-

mitment is designed to do three things for the metal building systems industry: • Increase our ability to design more effi ciently and creatively, incorporating more material options while streamlining the structures and adding strength and fl exibility.

• Increase our knowledge in sustainable building trends.

• Advance the state of the art for metal buildings within local and national building and energy codes and standards. But what rewards do these efforts reap? Con- sider the value of the following recent initiatives:

Full-scale wind load testing was performed on overhead doors to better understand the interac- tion of rolling sheet doors with jambs of varying stiffness. The goal of this project is to provide new design methods that take into account the complex relationship between the stiffness of the door and the stiffness of the jamb and to provide cost effec- tive solutions that stand up to severe hurricanes and other wind events.

Research on the fl exural strength of Cs and Zs with rigid insulation has given the industry tools to calculate the load-carrying capacity of roof and wall systems where rigid insulation is placed between metal panels and girts or purlins. This method of in- sulating a metal building may become more common as codes require even greater energy effi ciency.

Testers evaluate the framing after the test.

Shear strength of tapered members research has shown that the actual shear capacity is great- er than the predicted capacity that is currently specifi ed in the codes. This should result in the adoption of a new method that better predicts the strength, thereby permitting more effi cient design where shear governs.

Flange brace research led to the development of a tool that provides metal building manufacturers a path to generate design rules for the strength and stiffness requirements of fl ange braces. This is particularly signifi cant since strength and stiff- ness requirements for fl ange braces used in metal building systems are different and are affected by more variables than those developed for conven- tional steel construction.

A base plate software tool has been developed to help determine the rotational stiffness of col- umn bases in metal building system frames. This

Seismic behavior of metal building frames is tested using a shake table.

tool allows manufacturers to design frames with greater accuracy, especially when determining the lateral drift.

Seismic behavior of metal building frames is being evaluated using full-scale shake table tests, cyclic tests of column and rafter assemblies, and advanced computational tools. This intense research is leading to seismic design methodol- ogy that will recognize the energy dissipation that is inherent in typical metal building steel moment frames, and remove or relax some of the current building height restrictions. Research has confi rmed that a steel roof or

deck that acts as a fl exible diaphragm reduces seismic demand on a building and has the potential to reduce the demand on a building's longitudinal bracing. This results in savings due to the use of fewer struts and supports, and the possibility of using roof diaphragms in higher seismic areas. All of this research is costly and time-inten-

sive, yet it is the essence of what has made metal building systems advance from simplifi ed struc- tures to some of the most adaptable, innovative and energy-effi cient types of construction in the one- and two-story, low-rise commercial build- ing market. Today, metal building systems have achieved a reputation for superior quality, effi cien- cy, strength and durability. While the marketplace remains sluggish, the ongoing efforts to improve the quality and integrity of metal building systems will help the industry be ahead of the curve when the economy improves. This research also rein- forces the industry’s potential for true leadership in the years to come. I see MBMA board members—manufacturers

and associate member suppliers—pull together to support each other like never before. In particular, they are volunteering time and expertise to help us move this technical research forward.

Fred Koetting is chairman of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, Cleveland. To learn more, visit

www.metalconst ruct

July 2012


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