One of the most important considerations in any project is determining the building’s materials. Stucco, concrete and masonry have historically been among the most popular options for commercial exteriors, but that may be changing. Over the past few years, metal wall panels have become increasingly popular.
Metal siding is far from a new concept, but many commercial project managers are turning to it today. Amid this shift, construction and architectural firms should ask why and see if metal walls are right for them.
The Rise of Metal Siding
As construction accelerated across the board after COVID-related shutdowns in 2020, metal wall panels have emerged as an increasingly common option. Metal construction projects grew by 12.9 percent in 2021, with commercial buildings accounting for 86.7 percent of this growth. The number of firms involved with metal walls also increased from 40 percent in 2020 to 50 percent in 2021.
Experts predict these trends will continue, too. The steel siding market was worth $8.26 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow to $9.86 billion by 2028.
Firms should anticipate increasing demand for these projects as metal siding’s popularity grows. Becoming familiar with them and learning best practices for erecting metal walls will be an important part of preparing for future growth.
Why Metal Wall Panels Are Becoming so Popular
Metal siding’s growth stems from a combination of factors that have become increasingly advantageous amid today’s shifting construction market. Here are some of the most significant benefits driving this trend.
Metal wall panels’ durability is one of their biggest advantages. Most metal siding lasts at least 50 years and can stand for decades more under the right circumstances. That longevity is ideal for commercial occupants who want to lower lifetime costs as much as possible.
Steel and other metals are also remarkably resistant to environmental hazards, making them more appealing for commercial projects. Metal walls are nonflammable, don’t warp in changing humidity, don’t rot, and are resistant to mold and mildew. Similarly, rodents, insects and other infestations aren’t an issue.
As the threats of climate change have become increasingly prominent, this durability has become a more important advantage. Businesses concerned about resistance to extreme weather will want buildings that can withstand harsh conditions, and metal siding is among the most durable options available.
Another advantage of metal wall panels is that they can achieve this longevity with relatively little maintenance. Wood siding requires regular staining and treatment to protect it from pests and the elements. Similarly, stucco may need repainting and filling to fix cracks and holes. Metal’s maintenance needs are far less extensive.
The only regular maintenance a metal wall needs is cleaning and inspection. Because the material is so resistant to a wide range of dangers, these inspections often don’t find many issues, making them fast and easy. Cleaning metal is similarly easy, as its nonporous surface makes it easy to remove buildup.
These minimal maintenance requirements ensure commercial occupants can spend more time focusing on the core of their business. Consequently, construction firms can help clients meet their company goals by providing low-maintenance structures.
Today’s clients also want sustainability, which has historically been a struggling point for the construction industry. While virgin metal carries a significant carbon footprint, metal wall panels are recyclable.
Metal consumes a lot of energy to create initially, but it’s easily recyclable. Consequently, firms can reuse the hundreds of thousands of tons of construction waste generated annually to source these structures. Recycled metal walls will reduce the project’s carbon footprint, prevent waste and cut production costs by lowering the demand for new metal production.
Metal siding also makes buildings more energy-efficient. Metal reflects heat from the interior instead of letting it seep through, making it easier to cool. As a result, occupants will expend less energy maintaining a comfortable interior temperature, producing fewer carbon emissions.
Ease of Installation
Some firms have turned to metal siding for its short lead times and ease of installation. Unlike wood or masonry, steel siding is easy to prefabricate and is relatively light for its strength. The possibility of prefabrication and lower weight mean it takes less time and effort to install, which has become increasingly important amid today’s high demands.
Many firms face substantial backlogs after the demand for new buildings skyrocketed amid the height of COVID restrictions. Simultaneously, the industry faces an ongoing labor shortage as fewer people enter the sector to replace its aging workforce. Consequently, construction teams must improve efficiency as much as possible, making easy-to-install metal panels an ideal material.
Considerations for Building With Metal Siding
Firms that want to take advantage of these benefits should keep some best practices in mind. Like any material, metal wall panels have unique considerations that teams must consider to make the most of.
Because metal is conductive, electrical safety is a significant concern when working with this type of siding. Exposed wires or improper electrical insulation can cause arc flashes, exposing workers to temperatures as high as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit, so teams must take safety seriously. Inspect all electrical equipment before using it, and keep switchgear far away from metal surfaces.
Metal siding can also carry high upfront costs, despite its lower lifetime expenses. However, not all metal wall panels are equally expensive. Aluminum and steel are often more affordable than copper, so firms should compare their options — including looking at multiple vendors — to find the lowest prices while still meeting their needs.
Heat conductivity is another potential issue. Metal gets hot in direct sunlight, which can affect indoor temperatures and make the material dangerous to work with. The solution is to use heat-reflecting paint before installing this siding. Some can reflect up to 98.1 percent of sunlight, ensuring metal surfaces stay cool, protecting workers and keeping buildings energy-efficient.
Many Projects Can Benefit From Metal Wall Panels
Metal wall panels are becoming more popular for several reasons. Recognizing these benefits is the first step to capitalizing on metal siding’s potential.
Construction firms that know what metal walls can offer and how to implement them effectively can determine if they’re right for their projects. They can then ensure they use the best materials for each building. Project efficiency, costs and long-term results will all improve as a result.