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Construction Building Wall Systems: Styles & Considerations

Different types of end-uses for buildings have different requirements for the exterior treatment of each building. The wall system used for an office isn’t going to be the same as the one used for a food packing facility and you wouldn't use the same for a warehouse as you would for a school or a church. The framework of buildings can all be very similar, however, the exterior cladding or the wall systems can vary and can change the functionality, the appearance, and the cost of the building itself.

This article will explain the different types of construction wall systems, each consideration and the needs for your building to help you choose which one is right for you, and a full inside scoop into Butler Manufacturing’s pre-engineered metal wall systems.

Let’s dive in!

Building Wall Systems

Whether it’s a tilt-up, stud frame, or pre-engineered metal, they all have their own reasons for being used in each construction project. Can you use one wall system for multiple end-uses? Can a specific end-use have multiple wall system options? These questions are answered below as well as more information on how these wall systems are built and debunking common misconceptions.

Concrete Wall Systems: Tilt-Up & Precast vs. Block

The first type of construction wall system is concrete walls. They go by many names and have just a few variances. “Tilt-up” is a construction technique that uses precast concrete panels. After the concrete panels have been cast and cured at an offsite manufacturing facility, the slabs are shipped to the jobsite and are "tilted" vertically upwards with a crane and propped into position until the remaining building components - such as the roof, floors, and walls - are secured.

concrete-tilt-up-construction-wall-system

Then the panels are welded at the top and bottom and that piece of concrete is now the exterior wall. The panels can be cast in a variety of different finishes including smooth, exposed aggregate, and with patterns such as brick or stone for architectural enhancements.

With tilt-up or precast, you will still need a steel structure on the inside because the concrete cannot support itself on its own. This is the same for block concrete wall systems (concrete masonry units (CMU)).

Common Uses For Structural Concrete

Many food production facilities, like cheese factories, meatpacking plants, or any new food processing facility are commonly constructed from tilt-up concrete wall systems. This type of building construction is also used in areas with strict architectural protective covenants and can also be used in areas that have wet conditions.

Stud Frame & Exterior Siding Wall Systems

Stud frames and exterior siding is what most people would classify as conventional construction and is what most houses or multi-family structures are constructed out of as well as small commercial buildings such as fast-food restaurants, small professional offices, and smaller commercial service structures. You can put any common exterior finishings over wood as well as pre-engineered buildings, which you will learn more about below.

Common Uses For Stud Frame & Exterior Siding

Two of the biggest reasons why someone might choose the traditional stud frame and exterior siding option is because of cost efficiency and endless exterior finish options. Oftentimes national companies that have small buildings (think fast-food restaurants, professional offices, wireless service providers, etc.) use the exterior design of their building as part of their branding and marketing. Just about any exterior finish can be used with this construction system. From masonry to vinyl, composite panels to fiber cement, and even wood siding, there are many options to choose from.

Many national retail or commercial chains are turning to EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finish System) for their exterior cladding of choice although most people refer to it as stucco. The reason so many people turn to this is because of the capabilities that the siding allows for such as helping color pop and being receptive to paint as well as other exterior features that some restaurants may use, for example, to make their building stand out and have their structures become part of their brand.

Pre-Engineered Metal vs. Conventional Metal Wall Systems

Pre-engineered steel systems actually started around the era of World War II. Have you ever heard of something called a Quonset hut? You've probably seen one before driving through the countryside. They usually look like a metal half-dome or barrel roof building who’s curved walls extend all the way to the ground. Kits for these metal huts were used in the military for offices and MASH units because you could build them very quickly. Companies, such as Butler Manufacturing, realized how the military could set up new barracks or a new office in a matter of a couple of days and thought, “We could probably do this for other structures just as fast and easy.”

So what’s the difference between pre-engineered metal buildings and conventional metal buildings? There are a few differences but it boils down to time and cost.

When you go to a home improvement store, you can find wood in two by sixes, two by eights, two by tens, two by twelves, etc. You can't go to the store and get a two by five and a half; you’ll only be able to find the two by four or two by six. The same thing goes for regular steel. There are certain widths, depths, and heights.

Building with conventional steel requires a ton of engineering that needs to be performed before the cost of the project is realized. The conventional process involves an engineer that takes the properties of each piece of steel and sees if it passes the engineering process for wind loads, seismic loads, and building code restrictions to ensure that the design is structurally sound. Typically these structures have more steel in them pound for pound than a pre-engineered building. This can directly equate to higher construction costs not to mention that you would be paying for the engineering upfront and a typical building’s engineering costs could be well over $20,000 - not chump change!

When working with a design-build contractor for a pre-engineered solution, they can tell you what the structure will cost before you buy it. Therefore, the engineering is done for you ahead of time and you pay for it on the back end when you realize the total cost of your project - not the front end before you know if you will even meet your budget.

Building Considerations & Needs

Different building projects have different goals and needs which create different wall system features that you may have to consider.

Exterior wall decisions are driven by the building’s purpose or function as well as the desired aesthetic appeal. Which of the following fit your project’s considerations and needs and which wall system would work best for you? Read below to learn more.

Expansion & Retrofit Wall Systems

Have you ever seen a building that looks like half of it was built in the 1970s and the other half was built yesterday? This tends to create visual dissonance and makes your new expansion or renovation look like an afterthought rather than a complete, thought-out project.

expansion-retrofit-wall-system

It’s very common to be in a situation where you'll have existing materials that are no longer made and finding the perfect match will be close to impossible.

For example, say a building is 20 years old and the exterior of the wall system is brick. You want to add on but that brick isn't made anymore…now what? When you have situations like this, it’s smart to bring in new wall materials or wall systems to incorporate into the design. This way you can make it look as if it wasn’t an afterthought but rather intentional. It's all about using materials to make it look intended and not forced!

Functional Wall Systems

Another consideration when deciding what type of wall system is best for your building project is the function.

  • Will your walls need to provide specific functions for your business?
  • Do your interior walls need to meet certain cleanliness standards or stand up to a desired level of strength?
  • Do your walls play a role in keeping your assets inside your building at exact temperatures?
  • Or on the flip side, is the only function you need out of your wall system is simply… walls?

All food production facilities have to comply with FDA, USDA, or other regulatory guidelines, and sanitation processes that ultimately keep people like you and me safe. When you have to sanitize facilities on a daily basis, or sometimes several times a day, the materials, such as the walls, have to be able to withstand wash downs and harsh cleaning agents. In cases like these, concrete wall systems using tilt-up panels are typically used. The reason people go with a wall system like a tilt-up or masonry is that it's very durable, long-lasting, and it's going to stand the test of time, even with an abundance of sanitation cycles. Metal wall systems are also suitable for these uses in many cases as well.Functional-wall-system-storage-manufacturing-facility

If you are building a warehouse or a storage unit, you might make wall system selections that are the most cost-effective solution to have a higher return on investment. Warehousing and storage are competitive businesses, therefore, it’s smart to build these facilities as cost-effectively as you can to generate a swift return on investment.

In these cases, a metal wall system panel will almost always be the best option. It's inexpensive, readily available, easy to adapt for future expansions, durable, and a very low maintenance material.

Design-Focussed Wall Systems

When it comes to projects that have a larger focus on the design aspect of the building, you may think of churches, schools, credit unions (no, just me?), or art museums, but really, whenever you’re not choosing to have a metal or wooden box as your building, you’re choosing some sort of specific design.

design-focussed-metal-building

You may also think that just because your building is for manufacturing or warehousing you don’t get to have an aesthetically pleasing exterior wall system, but that isn’t true.

As mentioned previously, manufacturing and warehouse buildings usually want to use the most profitable building solution. However, sometimes people want to enhance the office portion of their building, add some architectural design elements to the outside, or local zoning codes say they need to have a certain percentage of their building to be architecturally enhanced. And the good news is that there are ways that you can take a metal building that has a very cost-effective means of construction and still make it look visually interesting without sacrificing cost!

Butler® Steel Building Wall Systems

Designed to complement Butler® structural systems, Butler wall systems include a variety of styles and finishes. Superior engineering delivers both greater energy efficiency, and fast, accurate installation. The benefits and uses for each Butler wall system are very diverse which makes the chance of there being a solution for your goals and project needs even better.

Style 1: Butlerib® II Wall System

The Butlerib® II wall system provides both the look and performance you desire with incredible affordability. It offers unlimited design freedom and is the fundamental wall system for any Butler building. It can be incorporated with other materials such as brick, EIFS, and other Butler metal wall systems.

Butlerib II-wall-system-A.C.E.-building-service-butler-manufacturing

The Butlerib is the lowest cost system that easily integrates with the profile of other metal panels that may have been used 20 or 30 years ago and is a very common panel.

Benefits & Considerations

The insulation of the Buterib wall system can accommodate up to four inches of insulation and has a variety of options for fasteners that will meet your aesthetic and security requirements.

Ideal uses for this type of wall system include:

  • Large-Scale Warehouses
  • Small Retail Centers
  • Industrial Facilities

Style 2: Butler Thermawall™ Fluted, Fineline And Flat Wall Systems

The Butler Thermawall™ wall system creates an attractive, uniform appearance. It’s a factory-insulated wall system with concealed and hidden fasteners with R-values ranging from R-16 to R-32. Its appealing interior metal panel provides a finished look without the need for additional materials.

ThermaWall-Butler-Manufacturing-Wall-System-panel-to-structure

Benefits & Considerations

The Thermawall panel has metal skin on each side with insulation in the middle. Just like the tilt-up construction from above and how it doubles as not only the wall panel but the finished surface; this is the same concept. It installs quickly and has a clean appearance inside and out of the structure.

We’ve used Thermawall many times for clean areas and various end uses in the food industry.
Ideal uses for this type of wall system include:

  • Commercial Facilities
  • Industrial Facilities
  • Architectural Applications
  • Cold Storage Facilities

Style 3: eShadowall™ Wall System

When energy efficiency is at the forefront of your project’s goals, the eShadowall™ wall system adds life cycle cost savings to its building projects. Energy efficiency is gained through its unique assembly design, combining thermal spacer blocks and fiberglass blanket insulation. It requires as much as 33% fewer fasteners than most wall panel systems, reducing installation costs and preventing heat loss.

Benefits & Considerations

Besides the benefits that have already been mentioned, an additional benefit is that this wall system provides a much higher R-value, or thermal value, than standard rib panels. The eShadow wall has inch and a half foam blocks that are fastened between the panel and the metal building itself and you won’t have a thermal short circuit.

In areas where you have higher energy code compliant situations, this panel will almost always meet code requirements without having to install additional insulation between the girt wall insulation.

eShadowall-A.C.E.-building-service-wall-system-butler-manufacturing

Let’s break this down in terms of condensation:

So, say it's a 95-degree summer day and you go reach into the cooler to get a really nice, ice-cold beverage. The aluminum can will start to sweat immediately, right? It condensates because there's nothing stopping the hot air from reaching the cold surface.

However, if you put it inside of a can koozie, then the hot air can’t get to the cold surface as easily or at all. Therefore, you've stopped that thermal short circuit between the can and the air; the same sort of principles are applied with this wall system.

The steel on the inside of the building is separated from the steel wall panel on the outside of the building with the eShadowall thermal block. This way, the thermal short circuit is minimized, you meet your energy code requirements, and you can do it without additional insulation in the wall.

Ideal uses for this type of wall system include:

  • Manufacturing Plants
  • Office Complexes
  • Warehouse And Distribution Facilities

Style 4: eStylWall™ II Flat & Fluted Wall System

This system creates an impressive visual exterior while elevating the energy efficiency of a building’s interior.

It features a patented design using both thermal spacer blocks and fiberglass insulation with a vapor barrier that can attain R-values up to R-19.6.

estylwall-system-butler-flat-fluted

Benefits & Considerations

The eStylWall™ II Flat & Fluted Wall System panel is comparable to the Thermawall™ where the fasteners are hidden. This gives it a flat appearance on the front of the building instead of having corrugations making it more architecturally appealing.

Ideal uses for this type of wall system include:

  • Community Facilities
  • Industrial Facilities
  • Commercial Facilities

Style 5: TextureWall™ Panel Wall System

The Butler TextureWall™ panel system is a factory-insulated metal wall system with interlocking panels that resist the effects of impact, abrasion, and weather.

Benefits & Considerations

The interior panel face is finished in a fine line configuration with a polyester white color that can stand alone or be used to apply other conventional wall materials.

The TextureWall is similar to the Thermawall up above that has insulation between two pieces of metal. The difference here is that the TextureWall has a stucco building street appearance to it. A lot of times cities will say, “We won't allow metal buildings, you have to use masonry or EIFS, etc.” but you can actually still use TextureWall and in many cases, it will be an acceptable finish.

Texturewall-wall-system-A.C.E.-butler-manufacturing

The reason for cities to have, what is called protective covenants in certain areas, is because they want an area to look a certain way. These requirements can include ordinances saying 25% of the main building face needs to be glass, stone, masonry, or architectural panel. In these cases, the goal is to move away from having plain old “metal boxes” to enhance the appearance of the area. Luckily, Butler provides several suitable solutions for these types of situations.

Ideal uses for this type of wall system include:

  • Churches
  • Community Centers
  • Recreational Facilities

A.C.E. Is Your Butler Builder for Pre-Engineered Metal Wall Systems

There are different reasons to use each style of wall systems, but when a metal building is the best option for our customers, A.C.E. Building Service chooses Butler’s pre-engineered metal wall systems. Throughout every stage of construction and over the entire lifetime of the building, our clients enjoy the time- and money-saving solutions by using our design-build services paired with the Butler Building System.

The benefits of using Butler’s systems are numerous and so are the advantages of working with A.C.E. Building Service as your turnkey provider of building construction.

Read about the 5 Benefits of A.C.E and Butler Metal Building Systems or give us a call to learn more about our services or our partnership with Butler Manufacturing. Or complete our project consultation form! We look forward to hearing from you!

Written by Chris Herzog

Project Development & Marketing
Chris is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin - Platteville where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management. A LEED accredited professional (AP), he began his career as an estimator for a local construction company and worked in field operations for a road construction company prior to joining A.C.E. in 2005 as an estimator/project manager. Chris works with owners to develop construction projects from the idea to design phase to construction. Much of his work is in pre-construction services where he assists owners in land selection, performs feasibility studies and works with government officials to obtain permits and approvals. He helps align owner’s goals with finished building projects and serves as the owner’s representative to A.C.E. construction personnel.

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