Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings Average Cost – Per Sq. Ft. (2023 Guide)

Jamie Jacobs
Jamie Jacobs joined APX Construction Group in June of 2020 specializing in interior design, marketing, event planning, and business development.
  • You’re ready to hire a general contractor for your upcoming project, and you’re looking to get the biggest bang for your buck with a high-quality, affordable structure.

    Pre-engineered metal buildings (PEMB) are a popular choice for many business owners thanks to benefits such as:

    • Quick construction time
    • Low maintenance
    • Flexible expansions
    • Lower costs

    But how low is the low cost of PEMBs? Most PEMBs only cost between $10 and $25 per square foot, depending on specific factors.

    Are you ready to learn the pre-engineered metal buildings’ average cost? Let’s dive in and take a closer look.

    two construction workers standing under crane on job site determining pre-engineered metal buildings average cost

    What Is a Pre-Engineered Metal Building?

    When something is referred to as “pre-engineered,” that means its components (like wall or roof panels) are manufactured at a factory and then delivered to a construction site. The materials are then assembled on site. The pre-engineered process means everything gets built off-site before assembly.

    A pre-engineered metal building utilizes the pre-engineering process. It is a building that is typically constructed with a steel frame that supports metal wall panels and roof panels.

    They are pre-designed to meet exact dimensions based on:

    • The needs of the building owner
    • Local building codes
    • Potential load issues
    • Environmental considerations

    Steel buildings are typically made from “I-beams,” which get their name from— you guessed it! The shape of the letter “I.” I-beams are made by welding steel plates together. They are then built together to create the frame of the building.

    pre-engineered metal building average cost; inside of empty warehouse

    Common Uses for Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings

    Thanks to the cost-effective and time-efficient nature of PEMBs, they are a popular solution for many buildings. Metal buildings are common for small retail and commercial office buildings, storage unit, industrial buildings and warehouses, and more.

    Commercial: A steel structure is a fantastic, affordable investment for commercial buildings of any size. PEMB frames are versatile, so you can design attractive steel buildings to be big-box retailers, small storage units, and everything in between.

    Agricultural: A metal building is an economical option for housing your agricultural equipment and even keeping your livestock protected.

    pre-engineered metal buildings average cost; skeleton of a new warehouse

    Warehouses: The sheer durability of a steel building makes it a sound choice for warehouses. Owners can store their goods in a metal building and feel confident that their goods will be protected from inclement weather and pests.

    Government: When it comes to publicly-funded buildings, budgets can often be tight. Steel buildings offer a great solution for government buildings like fire stations and libraries because they keep costs down while still looking pleasing to the eye. Steel buildings are also environmentally friendly!

    Recreational Sports Facilities: PEMBs allow for maximum usage of a space, making them popular routes for recreational sports centers. Additionally, PEMBs are very flexible, so the space can be expanded in the future if needed.

    Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings Average Cost per Square Foot

    Okay, okay… we’ve covered what pre-engineered metal buildings are and why they’re great. But how much do they cost?

    Metal buildings base their costs on square footage. On average, you can expect to pay $10 to $25 per square foot for a PEMB. However, the range can extend as low as $6 to as high as $120 per square foot depending on certain considerations.

    Compare this price to the average cost of wood buildings at $36 per square foot, and you can see why PEMBs offer a great deal. Remember the I-beams we touched on earlier? On average, I-beam steel buildings cost up to $17 per square foot.

    • Example: If you wanted to build a 2,400 square foot warehouse (40 x 60 ft.) with I-beams, you could expect to pay around $40,000.
    two people looking at a large set of building plans; pre-engineered metal buildings average cost

    7 Factors That Impact Cost

    The cost of a pre-engineered metal building is never fixed in stone. There are many considerations that can impact the final cost of your project. The main seven factors that impact cost are:

    1) Building Size

    Even though large metal buildings may have a higher overall cost, they actually offer a lower cost of steel per square foot. Think of it as buying in bulk. Suppliers often offer higher discounts for larger building sizes.

    In comparison, smaller buildings will cost more per square foot but less overall based on their size. The more simple the build, the lower the costs.

    construction workers on job site looking at plans; pre-engineered metal buildings average cost

    2) Material

    There are many types of steel to choose from, and the type of material you choose will determine the cost per square foot of your PEMB.

    The main types of steel include:

    • Galvanized
    • Stainless
    • Structural
    • Rebar
    • Alloy
    • Mild
    • Tool
    • Light Gauge

    Galvanized and stainless steel are popular choices because of their high-quality nature. So, while they may cost more upfront, they also offer cost-saving benefits down the line since the building will have a more reliable structural integrity.

    vertical metal beams of a wall; pre-engineered metal buildings average cost

    3) Location and Climate

    Local building codes vary greatly from region to region. Depending on the regional codes you have to adhere to, you may be required to add more components that can add to the final cost. 

    Most codes are based on seismic risk— the risk of an earthquake causing damage to your building. Buildings in Southern California have a high seismic risk and therefore stricter design requirements.

    Regional climate also affects the cost of a pre-engineered metal building. Buildings in Wisconsin or Minnesota must be able to accommodate snow accumulation and be insulated to protect against extremely low temperatures in winter. On the Florida coast, PEMBs must be designed to withstand heavy winds and rain during hurricane season.

    Climate considerations impact the design of metal buildings. More specific design features usually equate to higher costs.

    large red crane carrying metal beams; pre-engineered metal buildings average cost

    4) Steel Prices

    The steel market is a commodity market. A commodity is an economic good or resource that can be bought and sold with no regard to who produced the product.

    Since steel is a commodity, the price often fluctuates based on weather, current events, or changes in the global economy. If supply can’t keep up with demand, prices will increase.

    Recently, a tariff, or tax, was placed on the steel and aluminum trade in the United States, but as of 2021, the federal government lifted barriers to steel trade which should help lower costs.

    5) Labor Costs

    While labor costs don’t have anything to do with the price of steel per square foot, it is still a large consideration when estimating your final price. The materials you buy and the design you choose will heavily impact the amount of skilled labor required. Simple, small structures will result in lower labor costs, while complicated larger buildings will have higher labor costs.

    aerial view of workers installing rebar; pre-engineered metal buildings average cost

    6) Customizations

    While four-walled “box buildings” like simple garages are easy to build, custom-designed multi-story learning centers are a different story. Expect your building to be more expensive if you want a complex design with strict requirements.

    Customizations that can impact cost include:

    • Second floors
    • Basements
    • Hangar doors
    • Windows
    • Insulation packages

    You shouldn’t be deterred from customizing your building the way you want it. Your PEMB is a long-term investment, so you should feel empowered to include all the features you want.

    7) Structure Options

    The frame of your building can be built in numerous ways. Some suppliers offer multiple options for various building structures, while others only provide one. The structure option you choose will likely affect the overall price, but the exact price increase or decrease depends on the steel manufacturer.

    Structure options include:

    • Arch: The frame arches and provides more support with less metal. This affordable option results in a sloped roof.
    • Open Web: V-cross sections support the center beams. They are more affordable than I-beams but support less weight.
    • Tube Steel: Ideal for covers and carports because this simple tube structure supports light roofs.
    • Hybrid Open Web Truss: A combination of an I-beam and V-cross section combines value and support.
    • Rigid Frame: The most popular option that uses I-beams to provide maximum support.
    • C-Channel: Flanged beams bow slightly upward and create a “C” shape. C-Channel frames are popular for garages and warehouses because they offer a mix of space, support, and durability.
    bare metal frame of a new warehouse; pre-engineered metal buildings average cost

    Hire the Best Team for Your New Construction Project

    It’s hard not to get excited about all the great benefits of pre-engineered metal buildings. With their affordable nature, flexibility, and eco-consciousness, you probably can’t wait to get started with your new project. But before you hire just anyone for the project, think about how you want your new building to be a life-long investment you can be proud of.

    You deserve the best of the best in construction. When you hire APX Construction Group for your project, you can trust that our team will go above and beyond your expectations from the first phone call to the ribbon cutting.

    Bring your vision to life with the help of APX. Contact us today to get started!


    What are pre-engineered metal buildings used for?

    Pre-Engineered Metal Buildings are typically used for warehouses, factories, hangars, and sports facilities. Because of their flexibility in design they can be leveraged for a variety of residential and commercial uses.

    What are the advantages of pre-engineered buildings?

    – Cost Effective
    – Sustainable
    – Easy To Clean
    – Low Maintenance
    – High-quality and durable
    – Versatile and offer Architectural options

    How much is a 20,000 sq ft warehouse?

    a 20,000 st. ft. metal building typically costs anywhere from $240,000 – $380,000 depending on factors such as location, steel prices, building design, and inventory type.

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