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How Has the Meaning of ‘Pre-Engineered Buildings’ Changed Over Time?

Can you think of any words or sayings that mean something completely different now than they did when you were a kid? If you have kids, this realization might have happened for you as you heard your kid using slang words in an entirely different context as you would have.

Or inversely, if you’ve ever had to whisper to your parents, “That no longer means what you think it means,” then you might know where I’m going with this.

In the same way, the meaning for pre-engineered buildings have also evolved with the times. Was it for better or worse? Has the actual pre-engineered buildings changed or just the way people view what they are? Here’s what you need to know and why it’s important to learn about the new meaning it has today...

History of Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings

If you know the basic history of metal buildings, you’ll know that the idea originated way before our own definitions for them began. However, before we get into how the meaning has changed, we should start at the beginning.

Stretching all the way back to the late 1700s, metal structures were created by British builders for agriculture and clothing production industries. Metal buildings proved to be a cheaper alternative than brick factories and less flammable than mills made from timber. With British cotton mills infamously known for their flammability, businesses recognized the benefits of using flame-resistant building materials, and not to mention the cost-effectiveness.

It didn’t take long for metal engineered buildings to reach New York in the early nineteenth century. This is where architects perfected rolled iron beams and its popularity took off from there.

Ask most people about the real birth of pre-engineered metal buildings and the answer will always be, “World War II.” And there’s a reason for it. To start, airplane hangers and Quonset hut housings were being quickly erected during the war using prefabricated metal. This new way of building for temporary solutions or the need for fast construction was brilliant and here to stay.

Before WWII, steel wasn’t as accessible to civilians, architects, and builders. However, after the war, access to steel and the capability to build quickly and cost-effectively, established new commercial building norms throughout the world.

The New Meaning of 'Pre-Engineered Buildings'

And the rest is history. Well, not really, the rest is the present— the previous was history. Presently, when we think about “pre-engineered buildings” we have a whole new definition and a reformed regard for the building process.

Gone are the days of single-story, warehouse metal buildings that seriously lacked personality. Say hello to using metal buildings for just about any end use! What you may not know about these buildings, is that almost any end use and any wall or exterior appearance can be applied.

Pre-engineered metal buildings are not just for agricultural or industrial purposes; today, you can use steel buildings for just about anything. Whether the project is for a commercial, religious, healthcare, or even an educational establishment, a metal building just might be the perfect solution.

If you’re still not sure how metal buildings can be more than just a tin box, give us a call and we’ll show you a few examples that might change your mind! Or check out some of our pre-engineered metal building project profiles below.







The Growing Popularity of Prefab Metal Buildings

When and how did prefab or pre-engineered buildings become the cool kid? With the help of innovative and progressive building material manufacturers, such as Butler Manufacturing, the status quo was challenged, typical building designs were questioned, and the ability to have fast and quality construction with flexible design was born.

In 1901, Butler began providing high-quality commercial and industrial metal building systems that continue to transform the way we build our buildings to this day.

Butler gained the popular vote by listening to its customers and developed products and programs for its builders, such as A.C.E. Building Service. By listening and caring about the customer and builder’s needs and concerns, innovations and inspiration emerged quite natural and elegantly.

Office or manufacturing building constructed from pre-engineered metal from Butler manufacturing Pre-engineered-metal-buuilding-structure-custom-industrial-construction Exterior of manufacturing building constructed by A.C.E. Building Service with the help of Butler Manufacturing pre-engineered metal building systems

These needs and concerns included design capabilities, reduced construction timelines, energy efficiency, lower maintenance costs, and over the years, be more environmentally friendly. Not to forget the cost-effectiveness which was mentioned earlier in the history lesson above.

Don’t be fooled though, the cost-effectiveness doesn’t mean low quality - at least not for Butler Manufacturing’s materials and systems or A.C.E.’s design-build services. Pre-engineered metal buildings, when designed and built right, are reliable and have the endurance to last decades free from maintenance and ultimately protect and prove value to the customer’s investment.

Who wouldn’t vote for a system like that? This is why architects and building managers choose to work with prefab metal construction when they can.

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Commercial Metal Buildings with Butler Manufacturing

From early on, innovation has been key to the success of Butler’s new roof systems, new insulations, day lighting, pricing systems, and even down to the training methods. The Butler team even started training videos back before VHS tapes were available. They introduced the BBTV, or Butler Builder TV, using beta testing video tapes. Now, that’s what we call ahead of the game.

Butler has and always will be ahead of the game and as a building solutions provider, its building materials and designs can adapt to nearly any end use. Additionally, Butler can be a single-source provider for everything needed to complete a building project including steel, insulation, doors, windows, skylights, and much more building envelope accessories.

What you need for your commercial metal building construction project, Butler has the perfect system for your unique building. This is why we sometimes call what Butler and A.C.E. do, Systems construction.

What Is Systems Construction?

Using systems construction, custom engineering and prefabricated metal, A.C.E. Building Service constructs an expansion onto another building using incredible skill and designSystems construction is the best description for what Butler provides because today, every building is a completely different or new building for Butler and A.C.E. There is no such thing as a duplicate building. Every building is like a fingerprint. Each building we design and source from Butler is a custom process tailored to the end users’ specific requirements.

“Pre-engineered” may be the umbrella term, but when it comes down to it, with our processes, we use systems, equations, and problem solving to design a unique and the best option for you.

So if it’s not “prefabricated,” how does the construction timeline and design-build process work so fast?

One of the greatest advantages of our partnership with Butler is the ability to reduce your construction schedule. In fact, using a Butler Building System has been shown to reduce construction times by up to 30% versus conventional building methods.

  • All Butler structural steel is precision engineered using state- of-the-art computer modeling to facilitate faster assembly in the field.
  • A.C.E. Building Service’s design- build delivery system streamlines construction and further condense construction schedules.
  • Regionally located manufacturing plants allow for shorter shipping distances and faster delivery times.

Find Your Systems Construction Builder, Today!

A.C.E. Building Service offers commercial and industrial construction services to Wisconsin-based owners and facility managers in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, and the Lakeshore area. Our reputation is our foundation—a reputation that started in Wisconsin in 1963 and has continued to flourish throughout the years.

Our customers will attest to the fact that our ability to listen carefully to their needs has kept them coming back to A.C.E. as their preferred general contractor. Integrity, trust, fairness, honesty, reliability, responsiveness, and respect—these are the qualities to which we remain true.

Interested in learning more about our services or our partnership with Butler Manufacturing? Call us today or complete the project consultation form! We look forward to hearing from you!

Written by Chris Herzog

Chris is a graduate of The University of Wisconsin - Platteville where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management. In addition, he is a LEED accredited professional (LEED-AP). He began his career with A.C.E. in 2005 as an estimator/project manager and later held the responsibilities of business development and marketing before assuming the role of President in 2021. In addition to the overall management and leadership of the company, he continues to build relationships with clients, serves at the board level in several community organizations, and ensures that the company's core values are upheld and at the center of every project.