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Steel Chemical Storage Buildings Buying Guide: Costs, Regulations, and Benefits

Chemical storage requires a facility with exemplary safety and protection advantages.

Pre-engineered, or "prefab," steel buildings offer numerous benefits compared to traditional construction, with manufacturers providing guarantees that their designs meet or exceed regulatory requirements.

One of the main benefits of a steel building for chemical storage is its low-maintenance nature. These facilities resist mold, mildew, warping, cracking, and even fire. This makes chemical storage even safer.

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Another benefit is the "green" factor. Specifically, steel is one of the most recycled materials in the world, with many sources placing it at the top of the list. This status may qualify your facility for financial incentives, depending on your location.

Finally, prefab steel buildings are substantially cheaper than traditional construction, both in terms of materials and labor. What's more, they generally cost less to insure, thanks to their noncombustible construction and damage resistance.

What are the Average Costs of a Steel Chemical Storage Building?

Costs for prefab steel buildings and construction vary widely based on the size of the building, whether it's a rigid or arch frame, and your location.

Including foundation, a rigid frame steel building runs between $15 and $25 per square foot, though customization may increase that estimate to $40 per square foot. Customization options include windows, doors, insulation, and design details such as trim and paint color. Subtract around 25 percent for arch frame buildings (also known as Quonset huts).

If you prefer to take the DIY route with your building, expect to pay between $15 and $20 per square foot, plus an additional $5 to $10 per square foot for a concrete foundation. When it comes to designing a building for chemical storage, expect to pay the higher end to ensure the building meets regulatory requirements. For example, one "extra" in a steel building is insulation. However, when designing a steel building to house chemicals, insulation is a requirement due to its role in temperature control.

What's the Difference between Rigid and Arch Frame Steel Buildings?

One of the biggest price differences comes down to style: rigid frame versus arch frame. Rigid frame construction comes at a substantially higher price compared to arch frame, though at a lower price than traditional construction, and offers more customization options. Both building styles work for a wide variety of facilities, including warehouses and other industrial facilities, agricultural buildings, and residences.

Following are common sizes for both styles, and the average costs of each:

Rigid Frame:

  • 20 x 20: $10,000-12,000
  • 40 x 40: $16,000-20,000
  • 100 x 100: $70,000-80,000
  • 200 x 200: $275,000-325,000

Arch Frame:

  • 20 x 20: $6,000-8,000
  • 40 x 40: $14,000-16,000
  • 80 x 80: $40,000-50,000
  • 80 x 200: $80,000-100,000

What are Regulatory Requirements to Store Chemicals?

When storing chemicals, especially hazardous materials, your building must meet standards from a number of entities. These include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Another consideration is electrical wiring, which must consist of UL-classified parts and comply with the National Electric Code.

You may also need a fire rating, depending on the types of materials you store and your building's location. OSHA's Material Safety Data Sheets identify which materials require this rating. Additionally, if your building rests within 75 feet of property lines or other buildings, it requires a fire rating. Your local fire marshal or the National Fire Protection Association can help you obtain a fire rating for your steel building.

For all of these standards, work with the manufacturer to ensure the structure's design is compliant with safety regulations.

What are Additional Safety Factors of Chemical Storage?

In addition to government regulations, standard safety precautions keep both chemicals and people safe. Start by ensuring the soundness of your building. This means the materials are free of visible damage. You should know the foundation's weight limit so you don't exceed it. Keep the building secure with strong locks, and clearly mark the contents and weights of each item. Marking the weight helps ensure you do not exceed the foundation's load capacity.

Create policies and procedures in the event of accidental spills. This helps ensure a quick response time to minimize danger. It also reduces hazardous chemical exposure. Your steel building must include some type of secondary containment, such as a sump, to allow drainage after a chemical spill. Proper sump maintenance includes a steel grate cover and plastic liner.

Finally, maintain optimum environmental temperatures in your storage facility. This requires an understanding of the appropriate temperature for chemical safety and employing adequate heating and cooling, as well as insulation, to maintain this temperature. In addition, you need ventilation to prevent buildup of gases and fumes, which lead to fire danger.

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