We thought last year was full of uncertainties, but we didn’t fully foresee the ripple effect it would bring to this year.  Steel pricing has been steadily rising since the end of 2020.  It consistently raises every week, and our suppliers only hold their pricing for one day.  (We are now holding pricing for 7 days, and requiring more deposits to hold pricing.)  Raw material pricing is between double and triple the cost now for most commodities.  Some are worse than others.  Pricing is one problem, but availability is the bigger issue.  Structural steel is still fairly available to us.  Steel plate and some structural angles are becoming scarcer and therefore more expensive.  Sheet metal has been the main story of the year so far.  Our suppliers have been rationing it since January, and that has greatly affected lead times.  We have been holding about a 28-week lead time, and that is entirely dependent on those sheet metal orders to keep trickling in.  We are only allowed to order it so often, and each time it costs much more than the last.  Interruptions of the supply of decking and fascia material are expected in between orders for the remainder of the year.  It’s crazy to think, but new orders are now not expected until 2022.

A month ago, we had 3 sheet metal orders in and no confirmation of what price we’ll pay for the raw material to source fall orders, not including quotes for new orders to be ordered 2 months into future at a further unknown price.  It’s made quoting a challenge.  There have been several big increases throughout the year.  Most recently:

  • 17.6% on materials 5/25/21
  • 3.5% on materials 6/22/21
  • 22.5% on materials 6/29/21 (as effects of rationing being felt)
  • Included 2022 installation rates and increase on freight 7/27/21
  • 5.4% on materials 8/4/21

We are hoping the market will calm down soon, but at this time there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the price increases and availability issues.  Of course, we will continue to monitor it.  Not surprisingly, the inflation rate graphs seem to mirror the steel price increase charts.  Below are some graphs of what that raw material pricing has looked like so far.  (First graph is outdated since stops at May: Tubing is now $144, and plate pushing $120-$155 if you can find it.)

WI Plan Review Changes and a new Building Code for Iowa

Wisconsin state plan review moved Commercial Buildings to eSLA, which was one of the final types of review to make that move.  There were quite a few interruptions and confusion as the switch was being made in January through about April, but now that it is fully implemented it is running smoothly.

  • Turn submittal in First: In the past, we used to be able to apply for the appointment, and then have weeks to work on the details of getting the design finalized, gather site plans, lighting plans, and have all reviewed and sealed as we awaited the appointment, only needing to turn it in 2 days before the appointment.  A big change is that now all sealed design drawings and signatures need to be turned in before the state will log it in or assign an appointment.
  • May not receive appointment date: At first, DSPS didn’t even give an appointment, but after a few months they’ve changed it to give some sort of date and seem to follow that. Lead times at DSPS after all is turned in is about 7-8 weeks (not including the weeks to put together the submittal).
  • No more priority reviews: Before eSLA, there was such a thing as a priority review, where a client could choose to pay double the plan review fee to get a spot closer to the front of the line should overtime for plan reviewers open up.  This option is no longer available under the new system.
  • Permission to Start on Footings: More clients are taking advantage of the permission to start option due to tank delays disrupting schedules.  A permission to start on excavating and pouring the footings can be purchased for an additional $75.  With a permission to start letter in hand, footings can be poured prior to plan review at the risk of the owner, but nothing can be built on it until the conditional approval arrives.

How to get a permission to start in WI:

  • Costs $75 more
  • Need signature of owner on application
  • All sealed submittal documents must be uploaded in the possession of the state as usual (signature from owner on application, site plan, engineer-sealed drawings & calculations)
  • State issues an official Permission to Start Letter
  • Roughly a 3-week total process

Iowa first to adopt the latest 2021 building code, which has some changes to rain load design and more clear snow load maps for states with lots of case study regions.   We have a copy of the new code, and will be going thru it all this late summer and early fall.

Retirement and New Faces

For years, King Manufacturing has been proud of our low turnover rate.  We have a number of employees that have been with us for decades.  Just like the last newsletter, and not unlike others in the industry, the time has come when some old faces are entering new exciting stages of their lives.  Brian Rechek, who had 41 years of service with King, entered retirement.  We wish him all the best in his new endeavors, and value all of what he’s contributed and taught us.  Some new faces joined us last year as well.  We have a few new structural steel and sheet metal fabricators (Quinn, Aaron, Gabby, Cody, Matt), as well as a new CAD technician Trent.

Notably, we celebrated the work anniversaries of some of our “newer” employees, the future generations of leaders.

New Guides to Keep Smooth Operations

We aren’t the only company seeing more retirements!  We’ve observed long-time project managers and salespeople retiring, and new faces entering the petroleum scene.  We’ve developed a few new tools to assist them in their quotes and their plans for scheduling.  Everyone wins when a project goes smoothly, and we want us all to leave good impressions.  It also has been helpful this year, when disruptions in supply chain have changed the order of scheduling for what were supposed to be standard installations.  We will keep building on and updating these documents.

Canopy Warranty and Maintenance:  There is a more in-depth document to keep on hand and to pass along to the owners, including maintenance for the canopy’s future as it ages.

Terms and Conditions on Quotes:  We’ve added a section in Terms and Conditions that can work similar to a checklist.  It’s more clear about inclusions and exclusions.  We intend it to keep communication clear/open, is a nice reference, and eliminates surprises.

Site Readiness for Installation Types:  We developed a new document full of pictures and explanations for matching sitework to the installation type chosen.  This can be used at the time of quoting, or to assist when fine-tuning schedule.  Default for quotes is to choose “Standard” type installation, as that is most cost-effective and least time at the site.  There are definitely scenarios where a client may not want to choose that type of installation.  In times when nothing seems typical, we thank you for your time and attention to the detail on following this.  It will help immensely on having a quality installation completed in a timely and safe manner.

Responsible and Code-Abiding Re-Imaging

Along with repairs, rebranding and re-imaging is an ongoing process.  We look at everything from a structural standpoint first.  Our advice is to have the existing canopy inspected first before investing money in new signage.  It is better to identify and address any underlying structural issues (such as needing column sleeves over corrosion at the concrete line) before putting the new fascia on.  Second, keep the same fascia height as the canopy is originally designed for.  Third, remove the old layer(s) of fascia before adding new fascia so it is not overstressing old canopy decking.

Have Canopy Inspected First:  This can be done by a canopy installation contractor.  They would measure it all up, gather structural measurements, gather sheet metal measurements, and note any structural or cosmetic issues.  Their findings can be sent to an engineer for further review if structural concerns arise.  Some old canopies are reaching the end of their lifetime, while others have many years to go.  It is best to be armed with all of the information, including if the canopy is in good structural shape, when making big decisions on the future of the site.

Keep the Same Fascia Height From Original Design: We are noticing that as major oil brands change their images, some accommodate for older canopies designed with shorter fascia, and some oil brands do not yet.  It used to be common practice to extend framing to support taller fascia and not think too much about it, however this doesn’t fly anymore.  It cannot continue, as it doesn’t follow code on altering existing buildings, nor is it safe to the public.

The original design of a building stays with it forever and should be referenced when doing repairs and alterations.  There are a number of canopies out there from the 1980’s built by a variety of canopy suppliers that were originally designed for 30” tall fascia, but over the years have been refaced to have for example 36” tall Mobil or 38” tall Cenex on it now.  The best rule of thumb is: if it was first built with 30” tall fascia, keep it 30” tall during each reface to avoid problems following the 2012 and 2015 International Existing Building Code (IEBC) that most of the country has now adopted.

Level 1 alteration is best:  Keeping 30” tall fascia of a similar self-weight is considered a Level 1 alteration “like-for-like” and it all stays grandfathered into the old code.  As long as it isn’t increasing loads by more than 5%, it doesn’t need to be proven that anything checks in new IBC building code.

Level 2 alterations are nearly impossible to prove:  When you add height to the fascia, you are adding dead load, wind surface area, and a taller place for snow to drift.  Because it is adding gravity loads, it is considered a Level 2 alteration and the design would need to be analyzed for new IBC codes.  This becomes an uphill battle that doesn’t typically end well.  This will almost certainly fail decking, beams, columns, footings in an engineering analysis.  One big problem is that increases of snow drifting must be analyzed, but no canopy designer of any supplier that we are aware of began designing for the effects of snow drifting caused by the fascia height until IBC codes went into effect in the 2000’s.  Canopies have always been in a competitive market and aren’t over-designed to the point that they can jump 30-35 years of building code and increase loads simultaneously.

Remove Old Fascia before Adding New:  A canopy inspection will also take a look at the existing framing.  Sometimes in reimaging, companies are tempted to layer overtop of the last fascia style due to its ease.  Some think of it as being similar to shingling over another layer of shingles.  It is worse because with shingling it is uniform weight distributed evenly on a roof, whereas with a canopy it is more like adding a heavy layer at the edge of a teeter totter.  We do not recommend “layering over”, as it adds gravity loads from a code/structural standpoint (see Level 2 alteration above) and can add up to be a lot of weight.  Old foam core fascia is often soaked heavy with water, and backlit signage is naturally heavy on its own.  We sometimes encounter canopies with 3 layers of fascia each weighing hundreds or thousands of pounds on it, amounting to well over what the canopies were ever designed for.

Removing a Bay

With more sites that have piping being redone, tanks moving, and sometimes DOT buying land to widen a road, we’ve had a couple clients ask this year about wanting to take down and remove a portion of a canopy.  We investigated what codes apply.  The International Existing Building Code (IEBC) is the code book that deals with existing structures, and this is where we look for many structural repair or alteration scenarios.  This would be classified as a Level 2 or Level 3 alteration, depending on what percentage of the total building is affected.  Level 3 is greater than 50%.  This applies to all states.  We verified with a WI state plan reviewer that cubic footage shall be that as measured before the alteration to remove (bigger number) took place.

As far as WI plan review per Wisconsin’s SPS 361.30, if it is under 25,000 cf, no state plan review is needed.  From 25,000 cf and up, a state plan review is required.  At 50,000 cf, it must be sealed by an engineer and have a supervising professional.  There are many similarities as with adding a bay.  Level 2 alterations are not as strict on a structure, and can usually keep the same original code it was designed in.  To keep it a Level 2 alteration would be beneficial to keep the project alive.

For a Level 3 alteration, if it is affecting more than 30% of its structural framework, the remaining building must abide by new code IBC 2015 wind provisions and seismic.  It’s no longer “grandfathered in”.  This can spell trouble, as the IBC wind is greater than older code and is divided out among the columns of a frame.  Removing columns is going to put more wind on the remaining columns and footings, and can put an end to a proposed project.  Basically, it easier to remove a small bay.  The larger percentage of a building affected, the more scrutiny it will face.

Repairs can be a little tricky to navigate, but the golden rule of the IEBC is to never leave a building in worse shape than when you started.