Cold, hard steel. Those aren’t exactly words that make you feel warm and fuzzy. But steel buildings can be quite warm. It all depends on how you go about designing, building, and finishing out your steel structure. Here are a few considerations that can help you keep steel buildings warm in winter.
There’s no need to get carried away with a full-scale heating system for a tiny metal building that will only see occasional use. For example, a small workshop might be well served by a space heater. The advantage of using a portable heater is that it can warm the area around the occupant quickly and effectively. It is only turned on when needed. (Even though steel is fire resistant, it might be wise to use an oil-filled radiant heater rather than one with exposed heating elements).
A commercial steel building will likely need a full HVAC system and must also comply with fire codes. Hanging components such as ductwork from the steel framing in the ceiling or putting a unit on the roof adds to the load those beams will carry and impacts the building design. That’s why it is critical to determine the heating strategy for a building during the design phase. Don’t leave heating as an afterthought. With residential steel buildings, comfort is usually at the top of the priorities list and should be taken into account.
Design and Layout
A metal building in a very cold climate may prove easiest to heat if it doesn’t have a high ceiling. Since heat rises, a vaulted ceiling is accumulating the warm, comfortable air up where no one can even enjoy it. With a lower ceiling, the volume of space that needs to be heated decreases, which can help save energy. In addition, it may be simpler to heat one large area than many different enclosed spaces within the same building. However, there are all kinds of ways to improve energy efficiency while still using your preferred design. Get an expert opinion before making a final decision on the building shape and layout.
The dimensions of your building will have the most significant impact on the cost of the steel building. The good news is the bigger the building design, the less it will cost per square foot.
Like all building materials, metal can conduct heat and cold. The colder the climate, the more insulation you will need to make the steel building energy-efficient and keep in the heat during the winter. The insulation used should match the requirements of your climate zone and local building codes. During design, our engineers can help determine the correct metal building insulation R-value. This is the type of continuous insulation (spray foam, board, structural sheathing, etc.) and how it should be installed.
Sun and Surrounding Structures
Even in the winter, the sun can help keep a metal building warm—because steel conducts heat. Aligning the broad side of a building along with large windows or skylights with the winter sun could help capture the benefit of more sunlight. But if a steel structure is built where it is shaded by tall pine trees, for example, it would get less winter sun. The overall impact might be slight, but it’s something to think about—especially since sunlight can also improve the aesthetics of the interior as well.
As you can see, there are many considerations when it comes to making a steel building a warm and inviting space. For a consultation on your upcoming project, contact our experts. They can help ensure you are creating a structure that is properly insulated, energy-efficient, and easy to heat to your desired comfort level.