By Walt Burns
“Some people still think of steel as nothing more than a durable product for shops and industrial buildings. In the past 50 years, architects have started using steel for its recyclability, flexibility in use, performance, and its visual aesthetic.”
–Steve Collins, National Sales & Marketing Director, Bridger Steel
Anyone looking to build a custom home in the Mountain West typically has a strong connection to the land. Throughout the process, this affinity for place can guide all the crucial decisions. Everything from views to prevailing winds to sun exposure are accounted for in the layout and design. And when it comes to turning that design into a physical living space, the choice of materials dictates the aesthetic and can further connect the structure to its environment. This is at the root of the ongoing trend of using local stone when available. But other considerations can enter the picture as well. Reclaimed woods have been utilized to not only lend texture and character, but also honor a concern for sustainability. As more considerations enter the discussion, it seems that steel has entered the conversation more and more often.
This does not come as a surprise to either Steve Collins, the National Sales and Marketing Director of Bridger Steel, or Roger Dryden, owner of Ridgeline Metal in Redmond, Oregon.
“Some people still think of steel as nothing more than a durable product for shops and industrial buildings. In the past 50 years, architects have started using steel for its recyclability, flexibility in use, performance, and its visual aesthetic,” explains Steve. “Along with improved panel designs, this evolution has led to metal being the preferred roofing material in high-end homes.”
Originating in the Gallatin Valley of Montana, Bridger Steel is at the forefront of pushing the customization of steel as a high-end architectural building material. With a dizzying array of paints and textural effects, it is quickly becoming a scenario where the only limits are the imaginations of designers and clients. “Bridger Steel offers a platform for homeowners and building owners to directly work with the manufacturer and get the products they want. We focus more energy into creating palettes to meet the latest designs, rather than relying on a few basic colors.”
“It’s popular these days to talk about your customer service on your website but it’s generally lip service. I’m old-school. I believe the Code of the West is something you live by. Part of that code is, ‘You do what you say you’re going to do.’ That’s important.”
–Roger Dryden, Owner, Ridgeline Metal
From rustic to modern, steel’s range of visual effects offers a definite advantage both for roofs and siding, even before you consider its advantages of maintenance, durability, and sustainability. But these are indeed very tangible advantages to consider. As Steve tells us, “The increased need for responsible building practices will continue to see increased metal panel installations. The material is often 75%+ recycled material, and is 100% recyclable at the end of its (long) life. The ability to choose high-performing paint finishes also allows owners of metal panel systems to lower energy costs by using cool roof colors. Cool roof colors also play a part in reducing the urban heat island effect in and around cities.”
As the market for high-end steel building products has grown, so has Bridger Steel. Today, they also have facilities in Kalama, Washington, Rapid City, South Dakota, and Casper, Wyoming. “Our Kalama facility is located next to the largest steel mill in the Pacific Northwest, and one that works tirelessly to create innovative products. Being located next to a supplier with this mentality allows us the flexibility to truly create unique solutions for our customers across the Pacific Northwest” says Steve.
The Kalama location is just one reason why Oregon is seeing more steel in custom residential applications. As much as the qualities of steel as a building material speak for themselves, its growing popularity—at least in Central Oregon—can also be attributed to the people involved.
When you speak to Roger Dryden, owner of Ridgeline Metal, you immediately understand that you are talking to someone bound by something far greater than a balance sheet. In a world constantly talking about relationships but often not following through on them, Ridgeline Metal goes against the grain and it is their genuine customer service that sets them apart. “It’s popular these days to talk about your customer service on your website but it’s generally lip service. I’m old-school. I believe the Code of the West is something you live by. Part of that code is, ‘You do what you say you’re going to do.’ That’s important. One of the reasons we were able to survive through the worst recession in our lifetime is that we stand behind what we say,” says Roger.
When Roger found Dennis Johnson, he found a true kindred soul. “About three years ago, I started noticing some of the interesting custom finishes they were doing at Bridger Steel and I got ahold of the owner, Dennis, and flew out to Bozeman to meet him. I spent a couple days with him in Bozeman and Belgrade, Montana, and forged an alliance in marketing their specialty products in the Northwest. They are good folks and that’s important.”
Roger continues, “With the Bridger products we’ve gone into what we call architectural design. The growing trend for the high-end residential market is interiors. Metal roofs and accent pieces are one thing. Interior treatments as well, but we have some people who choose all metal siding. One of the things that contributes to people’s comfort level with that is when there is a forest fire, something with metal is far more protected than just wood.”
Steel seems almost tailor-made for Northwest weather. Roger is quick to point out that snow and rain both clear from metal roofs faster than composite. “Also, a lot of people don’t realize that these products have a 30- to 40-year paint warranty and the steel itself can last beyond 50 years.” When you’re building a legacy home, these kinds of things matter.
Materials are a key piece of making a custom home truly custom. They allow an owner’s personal values and tastes to come to life and create a space that not only feels right, but feels special as well. With Bridger Steel and Ridgeline Metal, the use of steel will surely continue to grow as a valued choice both for exteriors and in interiors. It’s sustainable, durable, recyclable, and in the right hands, you can do almost anything with it. Thankfully, those of us in the Mountain West have capable hands right here.
“The growing trend for the high-end residential market is interiors. Metal roofs and accent pieces are one thing. Interior treatments as well, but we have some
people who choose all metal siding.”
–Roger Dryden, Owner, Ridgeline Metal