Rigid Frame Versus Arch Style

There are two basic types of steel building designs: Rigid frame and arch style. Rigid framing uses fixed, or “rigid,” steel structural members to support the building. Arch buildings involve lengths of steel that are joined together in a self-supporting fashion, most often in a semi-circular shape, without an underlying framework to support the structure. Common types of arch buildings include Quonset huts, which are the original arch buildings, and modified versions that feature straight walls and a curved roof.

Steel buildings from Capital Steel Industries are an excellent value, and can be used for a variety of applications. If you’re in the market for a new church building, farm building, community center, or commercial office space, you’ve probably already discovered that steel buildings have several advantages over traditional construction, including energy efficiency, savings on labor, and shorter construction timeframes. As you make your purchase decision, it’s important to evaluate the different types of steel buildings to determine which best meets your requirements.

The areas to consider regarding the two building designs are value, durability, and versatility.


Steel buildings with rigid frame architecture are an excellent value. With rigid frame, you have the ability to utilize every square inch of your steel building effectively, without any wasted space. Arch buildings, due to their rounded construction, offer less usable square footage. The curvature of the building reduces head space and side areas are often good only for small amounts of storage. Even the modified straight wall versions are limited, as the side walls lack the strength to support substantial weight.

Arch buildings do offer construction prices that may be less than rigid frame, which is of great appeal to do-it-yourselfers. However, there are safety and liability issues that can arise, and any mistakes made might be irreversible. At Capital Steel, we feature a nationwide network of dealers who are knowledgeable and experienced, and can handle any construction issues with ease. They also benefit from our volume purchasing power. In the long run, a rigid frame steel building from Capital Steel offers the best overall value for your construction dollar.


Rigid frame architecture is quite popular, and is used to create the square or rectangular framing that supports many modern structures, including skyscrapers. It is widely viewed as an affordable, durable building system.

An important measurement of a building’s durability is its load ratings, which estimate its ability to withstand external stressors such as heavy snow or high winds. A rigid frame steel building generally has higher load ratings than an arch-style steel building of similar dimensions.


This is an area where rigid frame architecture truly shines. Rigid frame is an extremely versatile building system that accommodates a wide range of design applications and accessories. Rigid frame has been used to build warehouses, office buildings, churches, retail stores, and many other types of buildings with great success, while arch buildings have been limited mainly to basic agricultural and storage applications.

Dimensions are one limiting factor of arch buildings. While length is unlimited with either style, arch buildings are restricted on width. Their lack of structural support limits their width to approximately 80 feet or less, while rigid frame steel buildings can be built to any width desired.

While both types offer clear-span framing, which refers to the lack of interior support columns that may restrict movement within the building, the strength of rigid frame allows it to cover greater distances. Many rigid frame steel buildings offer clear spans up to 100 or 200 feet in width, as opposed to the 80 feet possible with an arch building. Steel buildings from Capital Steel offer superior clear-span capability. Our steel buildings can accommodate open areas up to 300 feet wide before interior supports are needed.

Roofing is another limitation. While both styles offer a variety of heights, arch buildings are limited to one story due to the curvature of the roof. Rigid frame steel buildings offer the option of adding a second story, which creates a variety of design possibilities. Also, HVAC units are generally attached to the sides of buildings, but some facilities require roof placement. With rigid frame, you have the flexibility of installing HVAC units in either location.

The curved roof of an arch building also makes it difficult to add insulation or electrical wiring, which is critical if the building is to be used for more than simple storage.

Doors and windows are another consideration. Due to the nature of their construction, arch buildings only allow placement of windows and doors on the end walls. Placement on side walls is not possible because of the lack of supporting framework. With rigid frame, doors and windows may be placed on side or end walls depending on your design.

The appearance of a steel building is also important. Many communities do not allow the presence of arch buildings within city limits due to their industrial connotations. Rigid frame buildings enjoy greater acceptance, and can even be made to resemble brick or stone structures through the application of custom exteriors.

At Capital Steel, we proudly offer GenStone custom exteriors. With GenStone, your premium-quality steel building can take on the polished appearance of rock, stone, or brick, at prices that are often much less than the cost for natural materials. With GenStone, your steel building blends in easily with any environment, whether urban or rural, and can readily satisfy building regulations and HOA covenants.

Overall, the benefits of rigid frame construction are clearly superior. All of Capital Steel’s buildings utilize rigid frame architecture, due to its exceptional strength, value, and durability. Among the different types of rigid frames, we have selected I-Beam construction, as we feel it provides the ultimate in stability, versatility, and reliability. Our buildings also feature a 50-year structural warranty and heavy-duty, commercial-grade 26-gauge steel.