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While steel buildings have been the conventional choice of the past for industrial buildings, pre-engineered fabric structures are quickly becoming recognized as the ideal permanent, semi-permanent, or temporary structure solution of the twenty-first century. With so many potential uses, the versatility and functionality of fabric structures make them the most cost-effective, attractive building solution for a wide range of industry, including agriculture, military, aviation, municipalities, commercial manufacturing applications. And that’s not including its uses for storage, marine and environmental management, sporting events, church meetings, and other events.

Fabric structure building outside Mandalay Bay hotel casino in Las Vegas

The traditional steel building is built onsite, using construction methods similar to those used in any wood-framed, permanent structure. From permits to site excavation and cement foundations, a steel building can take several months to design and construct before it is ready to be put into use. They are designed for one purpose and one location, but not for longevity. While steel may be a sturdy building material, it is easily corroded by the elements. Steel buildings rust and leak at seams and fasteners and are nearly impossible to relocate or reconfigure for expansion, making an outdated or dilapidated steel structure only good for recycling. Because of this, steel buildings have virtually no resale value and no ability to conform or adapt to a growing business’ expanding needs.

Most steel buildings require interior columns for structural integrity, yet steel roofs are still prone to collapsing during harsh winter conditions or from rust and corrosion, often rendering the structure unsalvageable. If the property owner wants to reuse the site, they must first undertake the expensive process of removing the original concrete foundation before construction of a new structure can begin.

Technology Gives Tension Fabric Structures an Advantage

Environmentally friendly, pre-engineered tensioned fabric structures can be erected on nearly any terrain with minimal to no site preparation requirements. With fabric structures, building sites do not need excavation or leveling, and the need for concrete footings and foundations is eliminated. This advantage saves tens-of-thousands of dollars in pre-construction costs and several weeks of overall construction time. In fact, because of the unique modular design, structured fabric buildings can be shipped from Allsite’s extensive inventory to any jobsite and be ready for use in just a few short weeks. The structures are supported with a highly engineered, galvanized aluminum arched framing system to provide column-free interiors in widths up to 156′ and heights of 54′, rugged enough to support heavy equipment for operations ranging from recycling, loose material storage, and remediation to music festivals and high-traffic public events.

Fabric membranes are UV resistant and can be customized in many visually appealing colors or designs. Unlike with traditional building materials, however, routine maintenance, siding, or painting is not needed to keep it looking great year after year. If repairs are needed, they can be done quickly with minimal cost in a manner that does not jeopardize structural integrity or interfere with daily operations.

Aluminum frame for pre-engineered tension fabric structure on shipping truck

The aluminum frame and premium, flame-retardant, weatherproof fabric membrane will not rust, corrode, or break down in the elements, including the salt air of coastal regions. On the contrary, fabric structures can withstand even the most extreme temperatures and climates on Earth, including high wind, heavy snow, and seismic ground activity. Fabric structures stay standing strong and watertight, keeping operations running smoothly inside regardless of conditions outside.

Unbeatable Interior Space of Structured Fabric Buildings

The clear span, column-free interiors of structured fabric buildings are an undeniable advantage to any operation. Gone are the days of having to conform the interior layout around intrusive columns. This means being able to use every square foot of floor space for the intended purpose. No traffic flow problems. No blocked visibility for live events. No limitations on how the space can be used. From soccer fields and swimming pools to aircraft maintenance and storage, the possibilities that come with a well-designed, durable clear-span structure are endless.

Allsite’s engineers have found ingenious ways to accommodate unique applications, such as using a track and caster system to create a movable building, and stacking sea-containers to create a base when extra height clearance was needed. Such column-free space and location solutions for increasing open space would be impossible with a steel building.

Sports facility laid out inside fabric structure

One of the most notable qualities of fabric structures is the ability to customize any door or opening at any location on the structure, made possible by the structure of the fabric walls. There are also options to use translucent roof panels to create a bright interior that does not require any artificial lighting during normal daylight hours. Steel buildings are often dark and shadowy, even with continual use of costly electric lighting, whereas the translucent roof fabric on structured fabric buildings is well-lit with pleasant ambient light. The framing system is strong enough to suspend any kind of lighting or audio visual equipment at a level that is both functional and attractive. The white material is highly reflective, so lighting requirements in a fabric structure are fewer than those of a steel structure.

Steel has heat-conductive properties, which means that the climate within a steel building is sweltering in the summer or freezing in the winter. Since fabric transmits less heat, interiors stay cooler without forced air circulation. Ventilation occurs naturally and can be maximized by using roll-away doors or optional venting systems. If cooling or heating is needed during periods of inclement weather, the airtight property of the fabric membrane keeps temperature-controlled air inside, so heating and cooling costs stay down.

Clear span TFS structure showing ability to shed snow load

Unless sound-dampening panels are added to steel, wind, rain, and hail are intensified to deafening levels, making working conditions difficult and rendering them highly impractical for uses like worship services, public events, or housing livestock. Fabric, on the other hand, naturally absorbs and dampens sound, creating a people and animal friendly environment during all weather conditions.

Fabric Structures Enjoy Cost Advantage

Not only are fabric clear span buildings an average of 30 percent more affordable to construct than steel buildings, the cost savings are ongoing throughout the life of the structure. Operational expenses are drastically reduced by the heating and lighting properties of fabric structures. And with membranes that inherently repel dirt or contaminates, fabric structures require virtually no exterior maintenance or cleaning. Additionally, the sleek roof design, airy, open interiors, and premium construction materials make fabric structures nearly impervious to infestation or structural degradation due to birds, insects, or rodents. Furthermore, since fabric structures are designed to shed snow, winter building snow removal costs are reduced.

Because pre-engineered fabric buildings are easily disassembled and reassembled, they are considered temporary for purposes of taxation, meaning property tax rates are lower and depreciation periods are shorter than with permanent steel buildings. Many fabric structures qualify for certain energy efficient tax deductions, and agricultural applications typically meet the criteria for federal funding programs. Unlike steel, fabric structures retain their value, and if operational needs ever change, they can be easily modified, expanded to unlimited lengths, or relocated.

Speed and Flexibility When it Counts

When construction time is critical, fabric structures beat steel buildings hands-down. After a devastating tornado, Allsite was able to deliver and install temporary fabric structures to house displaced townspeople and help local businesses rebuild and recover. This town couldn’t wait months for shelter, and they received the help they needed immediately because of the quick delivery and installation time of fabric structures.

In another instance, a building contractor faced serious losses when an unexpected cold-front threatened to delay construction on several custom homes. Allsite responded with crane-liftable fabric shelters that could be leap-frogged from site to site, protecting the sites from the elements while crews completed exterior work.

Fabric Buildings a Cost Effective Solution

When it comes to deciding between fabric and steel, the choice is easy. Fabric structures offer clear cost and performance benefits that leave traditional metal buildings an outdated, expensive, nonviable construction alternative. Fabric structures, on the other hand, are highly functional and cost-effective with a typical lifespan of ten years, able to withstand weather events and resist environmental damage or corrosion. With an abundance of customizable options including HVAC, lighting, hard-wall sides, roll-up doors, man-doors, full-access doors, and large aviation doors, a fabric structure can be designed for nearly any application, in any climate, on any surface in the world.

Fabric structures are both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly, making them the ideal structure for your business, industrial or public event. Fabric is the recommended and preferred industrial standard for today’s innovative and fast-paced global economy where speed, flexibility, and durability provide the edge your business needs to grow and prosper. Find out about Allsite’s options for sale or rent of a clear span structure.

Author Jason Cromwell

Jason Cromwell is the General Manager of Allsite Structure Rentals. He has a degree in Business Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Jason is a 12 year veteran in all matters related to Tension Fabric Structures with Allsite Structure Rentals and has over 20 years of sales, operations, and management experience. Read more about Jason and the rest of our team at

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