The antithesis of the expensive, custom, traditionally-constructed building is the metal building. Metal buildings have been evolving for decades, and they are designed to cover the maximum amount of space for a minimal investment. It is possible to build a prefabricated arena for between $40 and $75 per square foot, or potentially a third to half the cost of a custom building.
Metal buildings are built with prefabricated components that are pre-engineered to work together as a lightweight structural system. They are assembled of column and beam elements that are often bolted or welded together to create a strong frame. On the frame, girts and purlins are placed horizontally to hold the building skin. Girts are the members that are used on the walls, and purlins are used on the roof. Upon these framing members, metal skin is directly fastened. To this basic building system, you can add improvements, such as insulation, metal skin on the inside, and a variety of non-structural decorative elements such as roof cupolas.
The inexpensive advantage of a metal building is also its greatest disadvantage. An agricultural building such as an arena does not always have to be designed to meet commercial building codes, and so it is possible to construct these buildings with no extra design capacity to be able to withstand an unusual weather event such as a large snowstorm or windstorm. Whether or not it is required, we recommend choosing a heavier weight building system that would meet all of the structural building codes, to ensure that you have a safe and enduring arena.
Because of the materials that are used to build them, metal buildings can also be uncomfortable to ride in. They can be like a heated tin can in the summer and an ice box in the winter, and they can be very noisy when it rains and hails. If you want to avoid these problems, you’ll need to have the building insulated by the metal building manufacturer during construction, as it will be more difficult to insulate after the fact. Because these buildings get very hot and stuffy, they’re more likely to need forced mechanical ventilation via fans to maintain a reasonable indoor air quality.
When finishing your metal building, be careful with the selection of the exterior skin material. The least expensive skins are light gauge metal coated with a silicon polyester coating. While this may not mean much to you, you will recognize having seen a dented metal building, or one that has a chalky, faded coating. For a building such as an arena, choose the manufacturer’s nicer siding and roofing materials, and select one that has a Kynar or Hylar coating, which will hold its color a lot longer without fading or becoming chalky.
The bottom line is that a metal building is more practical than any building type for covering a large area at minimal cost, but you will need to know what you are buying ahead of time. Resist doing the cheapest thing just because it’s possible to do so and instead consider saving the value-engineered choice for a less important building such as an equipment shed.
Editor's note: You can find the other articles in this series by searching Articles>Barns & Grounds in our top dropdown menu.