Pre-Engineered Metal Building (PEMB) – What to know

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PEMB Vendor by GC after Bid & Award of the project…a few things to consider:

If a pre-engineered metal building (PEMB) structure is able to be used for a new building approach, certain implications to the project stakeholders and design team must be understood as the project gets underway.

Smith LaRock Architecture P.C. specializes in the design of facilities for the Process Control Industry. We integrate architectural design requirements with key human factors to create designs that support the control mission, protect the Users, and promote better safety and deeper HSE benefits.

No two PEMB systems

…offered by different manufacturers but having essentially the same size or footprint will exhibit the same reactions at foundation or roof-wall connections. Given this reality where a project starts with no specific PEMB structural system being known, or put another way, without a specific PEMB Mfr/Vendor on the design team up front, the structural engineer of record must estimate the dynamics a building shell will experience in the design phase through the calculated loads.

design-build versus design-bid-build

Gravity loads pull the weight of the structure downward; reactions at column and anchorage points are due to the resistance the building exerts on the dynamic aspects of the building as it just stands there, and the lateral loads imposed due to any wind or other horizontal forces acting on the structure, like a ladder leaning against a wall.

The design evolves,

…and the architect’s structural engineer designs the building foundation based on the loading and reactions the superstructure / frame imparts to the anchorage points at footings, and the superstructure size that spans over the architectural rooms and spaces.

The fact that a specific PEMB system with its unique reactions/loads is not involved at this stage means there will be some adjustments to the structural design once that PEMB system is selected via the Bid stage.

A General Contractor (Bidder) selected

…by the Owner will submit a bid that includes a PEMB system manufacturer to supply that structural frame system.  Once the project is awarded to a Bidder, that Bidder’s PEMB vendor can provide the specific reactions and loads for their structural frame that the structural engineer can then use to adapt the foundation design defined by the IFC documents so both the design documents and the PEMB supplier submittals concur without affecting the architectural or MEP design documents.

PEMB Metal Building

In terms of managing expectations,

…the Owner must expect this second design effort. It takes additional time and design fee to make the changes.  We know how this approach unfolds.  SLA has already accommodated these changes in the project fees and schedule.  To avoid this immediate change to the project as construction starts, the Owner must have the PEMB vendor preselected and on-board with the project so the final design reactions and loads may be transmitted to the structural engineer during the design phase, not the construction phase.

If an Owner is interested in avoiding

…this flurry of redesign activity as a project ramps up, they can consider two alternate delivery approaches: engage the PEMB vendor and provide that to the selected Bidder as noted above, or follow a Design-Build approach.

For more information on this, see SLA’s Design-Bid-Build versus Design-Build Process whitepaper.


Written by:  Michael Smith – Smith LaRock Architecture Owner & Principal Architect


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