Frames: The Biggest Value Engineering Tip With The Biggest Price Impact


Nuts & Bolts by Bryan Arlington

Is there a secret to competitive bidding?

Not a secret, but there are certainly ways to find a better price – and some ways work better than others. If there was a secret, a magic bullet, that one tool in your tool belt you just couldn’t live without, then value engineering would be it. Call it the duct tape of competitive bidding. When you need to cut the total price of your project, value engineering is most often your answer.

In every aspect of a metal building, you can tweak the cost – adjust the finish, the panel thickness, panel profile. These are all possible value engineering adjustments that will create pricing decreases. Typically these kind of panel adjustments might make just a few percentage points difference, if that. Primary framing, however, is more like the value engineering homerun. Frames usually represent 30 to 40 percent of the total metal building cost. Change the framing and you have the opportunity to affect 10 to 20 percent savings to the metal building portion of the project. And the crowd goes wild.

Is tweaking the framing possible? Absolutely.

One of the most effective framing solutions is increasing the roof slope in clear span buildings that are more than 80 feet wide. As the roof slope goes up, the pricing comes down. Here’s how it works:


Let’s say you are building a 200-foot soccer complex. With a 1 to 12 roof slope, any roof weight, such as snow, pushes down on the complex and creates a lot of kick out on the columns. There is a lot of outward force because the roof structure is almost flat. To counter this, you have larger rafters and columns.

Now, let’s change the roof slope to a 3 on 12.


The Roman Colosseum  is considered one of the most perfect architectural buildings ever built. Why? Because it’s based on the use of arches. The arch shape actually counteracts the weight you are putting on it. By making our soccer complex into a more arched structure with the roof slope increase you’ve created a structure that will use smaller rafters and columns.

A larger roof span increases your roof slope but saves you money.

Whenever I offer this solution, one of the first questions I get asked is: But won’t that mean more roof panels, more end wall panels and more end wall girts? Yes. It will. However, even with that extra material, you will be saving so much on the frames that you will still net savings.

Yes. It’s that big of a value. It’s the homerun, don’t forget.

If you only have the opportunity to do one value engineering change, this is it. In clear span buildings over 80 feet, this is you hitting one out of the park.

Do you have other value engineering questions? Send them my way by posting them below.


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Bryan Arlington

Bryan Arlington, P.E., started at Star in 1996 as a Design Engineer. In 1999, he moved to the Estimating Department as a Sales Engineer. After achieving Senior Sales Engineer, he was promoted to Chief Sales Engineer and then Manager of Estimating. Bryan has a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Oklahoma and is a registered professional engineer in multiple states. When not at work he enjoys spending time with his wife, Shalmarie and his two children, Jessica and Jacob.


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    Reply February 26, 2014

    Albert Janecka

    Bryan, can’t agree more about the potential savings in the framing of a pre-engineered metal building. So when are we going to see a more cost efficient cold formed endwall framing available from Star? I’m at an extreme competitive disadvantage when bidding because Star doesn’t have a cold formed endwall available like we used to have.

    • Star Building Systems
      Reply February 27, 2014

      Star Building Systems

      Thank you, Albert for your great insight into the post. The use of a cold formed endwall is very regional, mostly not as cost effective as other framing whenever significant wind or snow is present. Many of our builders also tell us the labor savings installing our current offerings are more significant than the material differences a cold formed endwall represent. Please continue to review the viability of such a product. We hope to continue to hear from you!

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