Fabric Buildings and Seismic Activity

Because the earth is always shifting, seismic activity (such as the kind that causes earthquakes) happens everywhere. Although there are many areas where the risk of seismic activity is low, any risk must be planned for before putting up a building.

The advantage of a rigid steel frame in your fabric building is that the frame can be strong enough to stand up to seismic activity – including earthquakes. Rigid frame construction has decades of proven experience in all types of weather, and fabric cladding doesn’t change the strength of the frame.

Although there’s no type of building that is completely immune to the effects of seismic activity or earthquakes, a fabric building planned for an area with a high seismic rating can be built to withstand likely effects. With a little planning up front, you can expect your building to remain standing for many years.

A sturdy foundation is your fabric structure’s first line of defense. Having the foundation well-anchored to the ground can help your building stay standing during seismic activity and other severe weather. If you are building a tension fabric building as a permanent structure, make sure the foundation beneath it is sturdy. There are several types of foundations available for tension fabric structures; be sure you understand the pros and cons of each type before making your choice.

A rigid steel frame provides even more protection for your building. Steel I-beams have been used as the frame for all types of buildings, and they are the best choice for a building that will stand for decades. In addition to the strength provided by solid steel, I-beams are a sturdy choice because they will not corrode over time, unlike hollow core steel or open trusses.

When planning a fabric covered building that will last for years, the type of fabric you choose also matters. A higher quality fabric will naturally last longer, especially in sunny conditions. And be sure to investigate the source of fabric. Some heavy-weight fabrics may be more expensive than a lighter fabric, but that’s not a guarantee of high quality.

In areas with high seismic activity, extra protection is needed. If your building is in an area that regularly experiences seismic activity, your fabric buildings can be reinforced with steel braces added to the frame, additional purlins on the roof, and even cables. Although these additional features will add to the cost of your building, the one-time additional investment will be more than offset by your savings on repairs later.

Some builders of fabric structures may not account for seismic loads in their plans for the building. Because fabric buildings are intended to be permanent additions to your property, accounting for seismic loads from the start will make it easier to obtain building permits and other clearances before construction begins. Ask your builder if they are accounting for potential seismic events before you commit to a building.

Your local government may require a certain rating for seismic activity. Make sure the company that designed your building has accommodated these codes. Even if you intend to move your building later or will only be using it for a few years, you never know when seismic activity will occur.

Remember that there is no type of building that is guaranteed to stand through a major seismic event, but a fabric covered building is likely to last as well as the surrounding structures.

Extra seismic protection is similar to insurance on your building – you hope you’ll never encounter a situation where you need it, but if you do need it you’ll be grateful it’s there. Planning ahead for seismic loads can save money, time and stress later.