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Choosing a Site for Your Metal Building

choosing a site

Metal buildings are a popular type of construction for everything from hangars, storage units, and manufacturing facilities to shopping centers and entertainment venues. In the US, over 28,000 metal building are constructed each year.

If you’re building a new metal building, the first consideration is site selection. Countless personal and legal considerations exist when selecting a site, and, if you are unfamiliar with the issues, consider hiring a professional to help. To get you oriented, let’s take a look at a few big issues.

What’s in this guide?

Location

An ideal location is a highly individual choice, but it’s a critical choice. To make your project a success, it’s important to develop a clear idea of what you want and need before you start. Depending on your buildings use you may want to consider the following:

Building positioning Utilities access
Zoning requirements Soil and water issues
Deed restrictions Customers and markets
Views Suppliers and supply chain
Rail and highways access Future expansion requirements
Site development costs Purchase and development costs
Setbacks, Well & Septic Building on a slope
Wind and sun exposure Abutting properties

Any of these factors can make or break a location’s suitability. Site location is a complicated endeavor. So, involving professionals before you buy or finalize a location is worthwhile.

Zoning

Your potential site’s first consideration  is zoning. Zoning laws stipulate the allowed use(s) within defined sectors, the types of structures that can be built, e.g., residential or commercial, a building’s size, density of structures, e.g., number of buildings per acre, floor-area to land-area ratio, and minimum open space. Usually, a zoning permit is required before any other progress can be made on your project.

A zoning permit is not the same as a building permit. A zoning permit only applies to the land use and type of structure you want to build. A building permit focuses solely on the building itself. It ensures the details of the building you intend to construct meet legal requirements for safety and accessibility. Usually, both a zoning and a building permit are required. See our article on Building Codes and Permits for Metal Buildings for more information.

Soil

Soils vary widely in strength and stability. Ideally, the soil at your chosen location will have a mixture of particle sizes, good chemistry, and be able to absorb water. Soil that is too loose let’s buildings sink, too hard and water won’t absorb, too acidic and building materials corrode, and too much clay will cause excessive shrinking and swelling creating problems with your foundation.

Soil Maps

However, few sites have perfect soil, and much can be done to fix or manage any problems that may exist. Your engineer can help you find solutions for your specific issues by using soil maps that show the slope of the land surface, its biological, chemical, and physical properties, and the potential for water runoff, drainage, or storage. In the US, soil maps are available from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service at the Web Soil Survey site.

Soil Testing

If no soil maps exist for your area, the soil can be tested, and even if a map is available, testing may still be required. You need soil borings (drilling deep into the soil and removing a plug for analysis) at the building’s foundation, and for any roads, parking lots, sidewalks or other load-bearing structures. Inspectors might perform another “open-hole” inspection once digging for the foundation has started. Professionals use these tests to determine how much weight your soil can support and if any remediation is required. They may also determine the type and size of foundation that your building needs.

Soil tests also look for groundwater on the site. The tester will look for water in the bore hole at the time of the boring and again 24 hours later. The presence or absence of water may dictate whether or not there can be sub-surface levels in the buildings. Additionally, some areas have regulations for minimum distances between a foundation and the water table. Too close and chances are you can’t build there.

Septic and Wells

If you will not be able to tap into the municipal water and/or sewer system at your location, you will need a well and/or a septic system on your land. For hea