You have probably driven by, or walked right into, a fabric structure without even knowing it. Fabric structures have come a long way from “tents”, not only from their sheer size and resilience to the elements, but also due to the way they are engineered. In many ways, a fabric structure is superior to wood, concrete, or steel counterparts. The fabric tarp covering resists corrosion as does the hot-dip galvanized steel frame. They can be built to nearly any dimension, in configurations limited only to the builder’s imagination. They allow light to pass through, creating an almost luminescent experience during the daytime, and can withstand strong winds, snow and ice, as well as the heat from the summer sun. Less costly to manufacture and maintain, and a life as long as any metal or concrete building, fabric structures are also quick to assemble and can serve a variety of purposes from livestock structures to commercial storage or public shade facilities.
Fabric structures also qualify for the same building codes and standards as conventional buildings, yet often outlive their wood, concrete, or steel counterparts due to weather, corrosion, and water resistance. What’s more, a fabric structure has significantly less impact on the environment than its counterparts.
Not limited to wedding tents or traveling circuses anymore, fabric structures are still in their beginning stages so a lot of misconceptions surround them as far as lifespan and durability are concerned. Fabric structures are just as capable as lasting through generations of use, the same as wood, concrete, or steel. In the future, you can expect to see fabric structures popping up everywhere, so be sure to keep your eyes open for new fabric structures being built in your area.
A Different Way to Build
If you had to explain what fabric structures are to a beginner, you might use the tent analogy. Fabric buildings are just what it says: buildings that are covered with fabric. However, a fabric building isn’t so limited in what it can do based on what it is constructed with. For example, many road crews rely on fabric buildings to cover their stockpiles of rock salt for snow removal. Magnesium chloride and calcium chloride are very reactive to frozen water, allowing for lower melting points as well as traction, but in a metal building, they can succumb to corrosion very quickly.
And what about using wood to cover a large area? It would not only be very expensive, but wood limits the amount of open area within a structure that cannot exceed the durability of the material before its structural integrity is compromised.
Fabric doesn’t have those problems. It also has the benefit of being used as buildings that would be priced out of practicality if you were to use sheet metal. A horse arena, for example, would be much more expensive to build using sheet metal or concrete than one built from fabric. On top of that buildings made of wood, concrete, and steel block the light. If you have ever been inside a fabric structure, light is diffused into the open space from outside, allowing you to use sunlight to illuminate your surroundings, almost as though you were outside!
How Are They Made?
Calhoun starts with a variety of methods available to begin building a fabric structure. Only a few things need to be known about the structure before construction.
• What do you need to use it for?
• How big does it need to be?
• When can we begin building?
Calhoun’s fabric structures can be built just about anywhere and are built to last. Our hot-dip galvanized steel can last generations, and our fabric covering can last years – backed by almost two decades of warranty.
The framework can be build on spec and assembled in just about any environment to any size, shape, or architecture needed, at a fraction of the cost and time to build as other building materials.
The majority of the fabric structure, such as the roof, end-walls, and side walls can be made of fabric, but our structures are not limited to just fabric. Wood, steel, and concrete can be used to enhance the building depending on your plans and designs. Fabric is entirely flexible when it comes to construction.
Sustainable and Functional
Fabric isn’t some indestructible building material either, but then again, nothing is. When considering use in livestock arenas, construction and heavy equipment sheds, barns, international airports, or even businesses, fabric will require maintenance. Repairs and recovers can be made quickly and effectively. What’s more, if the structure suffers enough damage over time, it is relatively inexpensive to replace.
Unlike a wood barn, fabric structures are animal resistant and you won’t see wear and tear on a fabric structure the way you would a wooden post and pillar barn. Cattle, goats, and even horses love chewing through wooden doors and supports, whereas they show much less interest in doing so with fabric. If accidents do happen, animals are less prone to injury with a fabric structure than they would be a barn made from wood or steel. As for steel sheds and similar structures, fabric is superior in that fabric saves money in heating and air conditioning, as it is less conductive than steel.
The structure also has the added benefit of being as temporary as you need it to be. Unlike conventional buildings, fabric can relocated quite easily. In a time when people need to be more environmentally considerate for future generations, fabric is the wave of the future.
How did fabric structures evolve? Read The History of Fabric Structures.