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Thread: Metal panel buildings

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Friend of Flavel's avatar
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    South Minneapolis
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    Metal panel buildings

    Help! A large church in our city is proposing the construction of a 16,000 sq. ft. accessory building (for youth ministry). The church wants to use a Butler system called "TextureWall", which is basically the siding, insulation, and interior wall materials "glued" together in one big panel. The panel then clips into a series of metal grids. It's the same system used for large industrial buildings, barns, etc. The building is flat, though the architect does try to throw in some other materials (decorative block & brick veneer). Our city code does not allow this type of building system to be used in either commercial or industrial districts, but the code does not address materials that can be used in institutional districts. A shortcoming, I know, but one that we've managed to deal with in the past by appealing to other churches desire to do the right thing. Staff is telling the church no, and I think we'll get support from our Planning Commission and City Council, but the church seems like it will play the "we're too poor, and shucks, we do so much good for the city, etc.". To me, a church is no different from big box or any other use, and should comply with our codes. But I'm nervous the elected officials will feel sorry for the church and tell staff to work out some deal so that they can have a some variance or update the code to accommodate them or some other catastrophe.

    So my question, does anyone have any horror stories or any good stories about these types of systems? Are they durable, or do they just look like crap in 5 years?

    Here's a link to Butler's website :

    http://www.butlermfg.com/building_systems/wall.asp

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Member
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    Capital District, Albany, New York
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    I am familiar with the building system and they can be rather unsightly, especially in an urban context. I’ve researched these types of buildings but happily clients have always been persuaded to go another route. (Admittedly, it isn’t so odd that buildings should sometimes be mass-produced prototypical objects - not unlike cars - rather than always being a one-off creation.)

    Technically, I do not think they are terrible in terms of performance (set against a similar metal panel building which is custom designed and then stick-built). Major concerns would be maintenance of panel seals and the gauge of the outer skin (particularly on flat/non-ribbed panels) in order to prevent oil-canning.

    Obviously the main attraction is that they are affordable, something that is made possible by their prototypicality (which, however, limits flexibility in design and therefore limits the building’s site-fit).

    Your question is a bit contradictory in the sense that you say the code does not address institutional districts (in which, I assume, the church is located) and you hope the church makes a good decision based on good faith…but later you say that you feel a church ought to comply with the codes – which it would be with a Butler building, unless I am confused.

    The architect is throwing in decorative block and brick veneer where? I doubt the Butler building accommodates a masonry veneer wall, which defeats the whole idea. Are you saying accent banding or something? I suppose it would have to be a surface material of some sort with limited relief, possibly a spray-on or built up with EIFS or fascias?

    I don’t know that I’ve helped but I would say it is going to be difficult to make an argument based on mysterious technical shortcomings of a Butler Building and with apparently no code forbidding it you may indeed have to appeal to good faith. And the possible counter-argument by the church concerning crying poor and doing social good is a hard one to flat out ignore if they are not doing anything technically wrong.

    Is there some middle solution like a decorative screen wall or some site feature on the street-facing side (if there is one)?

  3. #3
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    A 16,000 sf accessory building?!

    Have you checked to see if your code defines this further in any way? While the use may be ancillary, the size seems awfully big. Do you have a site plan review process? I'd also think anything of that size would require some review, and it may be there you could work out some reasonable solution. How about parking? Adding that much space could require more parking area... again, a possible avenue to resolve the problem.

    Just some ideas.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mastiff View post
    A 16,000 sf accessory building?!
    Based upon the use, in our codes, this would be a second principal structure.

  5. #5
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet View post
    Based upon the use, in our codes, this would be a second principal structure.
    Same here... and it would have to go through major site review. That would mean they'd have to pass the "does not detract from the character of the neighborhood" test, among others.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian chasqui's avatar
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    Feb 2003
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    Accessory building size

    Piggy-backing on what Chet and Mastiff said, all the codes I have seen all have limits on accessory buildings for all districts. Do you regulate the size / characteristics of accessory structures in each district? (such that the size is not an issue in the institutional district) The only reason I see for not having those limitations in the institutional district is so that government facilities are afforded more freedoms - but since when do schools or you have to follow the zoning code anyway?!
    This is only going to keep comming up. Might as well start the ordinance amendment process after this case

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    Most ordinances that I am familiar with will allow only one primary structure and any accessory structure cannot be larger than the primary. Also lot coverage can come into play. May want to look at additional parking requirements for the "new building" and traffic lanes. As a side note, church buildings can beome vacant and adaptave reuse for these buidlings is worse than big boxes. You are right, there will probably be pressure to get "creative" "wink'" wink" But we all know that if you get to creative, you are not going to have a zoning ordinance once you are challenged on another project, because as we all know if serious money is at stake, the attorneys for the other side are going to look at what took place in the past,
    If there is a pattern here, you probably want to tighten the ordinance up once this is over so that you don't have to go through it again.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Would the cry of poverty work for a neighbor wanting to put up a new garage, a retailer wanting to build a new store, or a welder looking for a new shop? Why, then, should it work for a church. Your plan commission and city council should be educated to be consistent in their decisions. The facade material restrictions are not there for the sake of the person building the structure, but for the community as a whole and the immediate neighbors in particular. You are attempting to preserve the value and desirability of their property as well as to ensure that the building will not begin looking bad within a few years. That would seem to be the message you should convey.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Is this stuff cheaper than timber frame and clapboard cladding? THAT looks nice in US churches. Why do they have to go so industrial?
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