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Going Outside of Standard Sizing for Building Materials Can Be Costly

It’s no secret in the building industry that the cost of materials has soared over the past several years and current inflation rates continue to put upward pressure on overall construction costs.

Building Operating Management magazine reported earlier this year that construction material prices were rising 20 percent year over year, including the price of steel rising a whopping 112.7 percent.

Architecture firm KGA said it was not only rising inflation that played a role in these price spikes but that “Labor shortages and supply chain disruptions have caused building material costs to soar.”

When it Comes to Building Materials: Size Matters!

This naturally has led commercial and residential builders looking for ways to keep costs in line as they start new projects.

KGA says that when it comes to cost-effectiveness, building materials size matters! Utilizing standard sizing of building materials can help prevent cost overruns before they get started.

“Optimize product procurement with volume purchasing and pricing,” says KGA. “Standard sizing requires fewer shipments and reduces transportation costs. It also requires less cutting and creates less waste.”

While it's impossible to complete any project with 100 percent standard sizing, most builders understand that when you go outside of standard sizing for building materials it can be costly.

One of the many advantages of insulated metal panels (IMPs) is that they come in standard widths. (Green Span Profiles standard panels come in 42 widths with 45-inch width partition panels also available) which makes installation a snap.

"If you have a client that's looking for a good-looking façade but not wanting to exert the time, money, and effort on a customized project, IMPs are a great solution to get an insulated façade up rather quickly,” Cassie Robertson, preconstruction manager, DPR Construction, Phoenix, told the Metal Construction Association (MCA).

Standard Sizing Dates Back to 1920s Lumber Yards

Why do we even have standard sizing in building materials anyway?

It really dates to the lumber industry and a need during the Civil War era to standardize sizes as lumber was becoming increasingly shipped greater distances for projects.

“Lumber size standards came into being almost a century ago to meet the need for a common understanding between the mill and markets that were separated by increasing distances of rail or water transportation,” wrote L.W. Smith and L.W. Wood (yes, that was his last name!) in the Forest Service’s “History of Yard Lumber Size Standards” in 1964.

Their history timeline shows that:

  • Early concepts called for rough lumber to be of full nominal size, often in the dry condition

  • After World War I, the increasing demand for construction lumber led to the first national size standard in 1924

  • This was revised in 1926, 1928, 1939, 1953 and 1964

  • Demand for lumber in World War II led to the shipment of large quantities of lumber dressed green to standard sizes

To this day, the U.S. Department of Commerce via the American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC) has issued updates for both green and dry lumber standard sizing in its American Softwood Lumber Standard (last revised October 2021).

“The purpose of these standards is to establish nationally recognized requirements for products and provide all concerned interests with a basis for a common understanding of the characteristics of the products,” says the ALSC.

That same rationale is why you see standard sizing across all building materials from windows to doors to insulated metal panels.

Working With Standard Sizes Saves Time, Money

For all building materials, working with standard sizes will save the construction project both time and money.

This can especially be true with IMPs where one of the main benefits is how quickly they can be installed with fewer man hours required than other materials.

"[Insulated metal panels] are a holistic design solution, which drastically reduces install time in lieu of other materials that require multiple trades and multiple schedules," Bruce Beahm, AIA, principal, Populous, Kansas City, Missouri, told the MCA.

When IMPs do need to be a custom size, care must be taken.

“If we do have to cut on-site, it will undoubtedly be in a controlled environment,” Robertson said. “We would prefer to enlist a certified IMP contractor who would have the capacity to take the material back to their shop to wrap whatever cut was made with metal panel material to keep the finish cohesive to help address vapor and water barrier concerns.”

Architects keep standard material sizes in mind when designing today’s buildings so using the standard IMP dimensions is not a difficult task, and the big bonus will be staying within your budget during these challenging economic times.

Topics: Insulated Metal Panels, Green Span, Construction