The trend in shopping center construction is pre-engineered metal — and with good reason.

Today, shopping centers constructed of metal buildings would be finalists in any beauty contest. Just ask visitors to the Fountain Park Village Shopping Center in Wichita Falls, Texas, or the Nifong Shopping Center in Columbia, Mo. Or ask the tenants. They'll all give the facilities' appearances an A-plus.

But, of course, it's not just about appearance. Pre-engineered metal construction offers important qualities that cannot be matched by conventional construction. Price, for example.

“One reason many of our customers choose pre-engineered metal when building a shopping center is cost,” says Kevin Darnell, president of M & F Litteken Company in Wichita Falls, Texas, the firm that built the award-winning Fountain Park Village Shopping Center. “Not only can we create any appearance a customer is after, as far as the exterior walls are concerned, but the price per foot is so good.

“Using pre-engineered metal also allows us to eliminate the interior columns, which in turn makes the floor space appealing to just about any tenant,” he adds.

Darnell's company is an affiliate of VP Buildings Inc., one of the nation's largest manufacturers of pre-engineered metal buildings. The Fountain Park Village project was named to the 2002 VP Buildings Hall of Fame, a distinction awarded to outstanding projects built by Authorized VP Builders.

Darnell says another quality that shopping center providers appreciate is the fact that metal buildings allow for greater flexibility later in the building's life.

“With this type of construction, openings in the roof can be added in different locations for HVAC,” Darnell says. So, it is easy to transform a clothing store, for example, into a restaurant.

“This flexibility also allows owners to wait until they see what type of business tenant they have before deciding on the size or type of HVAC system to use,” Darnell continues. “With many other types of construction, you don't have this option.”

VP Buildings is one of the nation's leading participants in the metal building systems industry. The company engineers and manufactures pre-engineered, non-residential, low-rise steel buildings for manufacturing, warehouse, school, and commercial applications. VP markets its products through a network of more than 1,000 Authorized Builders and operates seven manufacturing facilities in the United States and Mexico. The company has affiliations in Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, India, Korea, and Spain. VP Buildings is ISO 9001 registered.