Metal panels for walls and roofing got their start in agriculture, only recently entering the mainstream market for residential and commercial uses. For decades, farmers have recognized the durability and cost-effective construction of metal panel buildings for housing livestock and farm equipment.
And now that more people are focusing on sustainability, the popularity of metal panels as a building material continues to grow. Here’s why metal panels still make sense for your farm.
Popular Uses of Metal Panels for Agricultural Buildings
If you take a drive through rural America, the chances are that you’ll find plenty of metal pole barns erected. In many areas, these buildings have outpaced traditional wood barns for everything from equestrian facilities and dairy farms to corn and soybean farmers.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, farming in all of its varieties is a 1.1 trillion dollar business. It’s responsible for food security around the world, making it possible for our population to grow and thrive. And metal panel barns are playing a big role in keeping pace with market demand for agriculture.
Metal panels can provide spacious riding arenas for equestrian facilities that feature wide-open interior spaces. Since metal is a relatively lightweight building material, center structural supports are uncommon, even when these buildings span over one-hundred feet. They are also commonly used to provide shelter for livestock, facilities to milk goats or cows, and to provide general storage for machinery, crops, and much more.
Farmers tend to choose metal panel buildings for several reasons. First, they’re made from non-combustible materials, which can allow farmers more time to rescue valuable livestock before fire consumes the facility.
Second, these buildings are much quicker and cheaper to build than traditional stick-built barns.
And third, they’re flexible. Metal buildings can easily be used for a variety of purposes with almost any interior configuration you can imagine. With structural support limited to the outer walls, there are no load-bearing walls inside the facility to work around.
Benefits of Using Metal Panels for Agricultural Buildings
It’s easy to see why there are so many metal panel buildings on American farms. The list of benefits is long and side-by-side; they easily beat out the competition in most categories. Let’s take a look at how they measure up to traditional wood barns.
Metal panels, especially when coated with anti-corrosive finishes, are not prone to rotting or deteriorating. Natural materials like wood break down over time due to environmental exposure. Even treated wood will eventually decay.
While both materials can last decades, wood barns require much more maintenance over their lifetime. Metal panels are relatively low maintenance and tend to last at least 50 years. Plus, using fire-retardant materials can also lower your insurance premiums.
Wood barns require frequent painting every few years to keep the wood protected from the weather. And as the paint starts to chip and peel, your barn becomes an eyesore. Wood often needs to be reinforced or replaced due to damage, especially if you are housing animals that chew on the wood. And wood holds on to moisture, creating damp environments that can lead to an increased chance of respiratory disease in animals.
By comparison, metal panels treated with colorfast technology may never need a paint job. And while you may use wood to finish the interior of a metal barn, your animals won’t chew on steel.
The number one reason that most farmers cite for choosing metal buildings over traditional wood barns is cost. The materials and labor to build a metal panel barn are significantly less than a traditional wood barn. For one, metal panels are often made from recycled materials, whereas wood barns are built from freshly milled and treated lumber. Metal panel barns can also be prefabricated and generally require much less manpower to build, making the cost of labor noticeably less.
And because metal panel barns require little maintenance, the cost to own them over time is also comparatively less.
For example, building a wood barn can cost between $20 and $100 per square foot, depending on the quality of materials and construction. The same barn built from steel panels is between $10 and $25 per square foot.
Even a relatively small barn that is 30-feet by 40-feet (1200 square feet) will cost between $24,000 and $120,000 to build from wood and between $12,000 and $30,000 to build from steel.
In our modern world, the construction and eventual demolition of buildings account for up to 40% of all waste. Choosing eco-friendly building materials is becoming more important than ever before. And while some people may find ways to justify the sustainability of using wood as a building material, the truth is that metal panels are often made from recycled material and are one-hundred percent recyclable after serving their purpose, making metal panels a greener choice.
Other ways that metals panels for agricultural buildings can improve sustainability include:
- Reflecting sunlight to lower energy costs when heating and cooling climate-controlled buildings.
- Built from recycled materials instead of cutting down trees.
- Lightweight construction supports fewer building materials.
- Pairs well with solar panel clean energy systems for heating and electrical needs.
- Provides an ideal surface for collecting rainwater runoff.
- Long-lasting durability means that these barns need to be replaced less frequently.
- Low-maintenance materials reduce the use of chemicals that can pollute the environment.
- Metal panels are fully recyclable when buildings are taken down.
The Bottom Line on Metal Panels for Agricultural Buildings
Farms are a business, always focused on finding efficient and practical ways to make money and cut costs. So, from cost-savings to sustainability, it’s easy to see why metal panels for agricultural buildings are popular. While most residential homes are self-contained in a single structure, farmers need to have plenty of shelter and storage for equipment, crops, and animals. And the more activities that a farm engages in, the more buildings they need.
That’s why you’ll always find plenty of acreage and plenty of outbuildings on a farm. And by using metal panels for agricultural buildings, modern farmers are maximizing their income by lowering costs across the board.
-by BRIAN HARAF | Brian Haraf is the VP of Sales and Marketing at Metal Sales Manufacturing Corporation. With 21 facilities nationwide, Metal Sales manufactures metal roof and wall panels for the agricultural, commercial, architectural, and residential markets since 1963.