Before breaking ground on a building project, one of the most important decisions is the type of structure you will be constructing. There are many building types available, and qualified contractors selling their product. Concrete buildings are popular because they are sturdy and low-maintenance. However, before committing to concrete, see how it compares to tension fabric structures.
Advantages of Fabric Buildings
- Customization: “Tilt-up” concrete buildings are commonly used for big box stores and other industrial buildings. This type of concrete building is common because it can be installed more quickly than a custom concrete structure; however using these pre-made concrete walls means your building will look like a big box store. Custom concrete buildings are available, however choosing one will add curing and drying time to your construction project (to say nothing of the additional engineering and design time). In contrast, fabric buildings can be completely custom built to your specifications with no added time or expense.
- Light: Tension fabric structures are well-known for their bright, sunlit interiors. Thick-walled concrete buildings simply can’t replicate that. Adding doors, windows and skylights adds some sunlight into the building, but it’s not a substitute for sunlight flooding in through the entire surface of the walls. Doors and windows installed in an opaque building also gives the effect of dark, shadowy corners and glare.
- Roof slope: Sloped roofs are a practical choice for stopping rain and snow build-up on your roof, and in some places sloped roof pitches are actually required to meet local building codes. The steel I-beams used in fabric buildings can be built in any shape, including peaked or monoslope roofs of any pitch. Heavy concrete is not as easy to manipulate into practical and attractive roof shapes, so adding a slope will definitely add cost to your project.
- Future maintenance: Concrete buildings are often sold as low- or no-maintenance structures. However, think of a concrete sidewalk – it’s likely full of cracks and chips. A major disadvantage of concrete is that these chips and cracks are difficult and expensive to repair. While sidewalk slabs are fairly easy to replace, building walls are not. Fabric is sturdy and long-lasting; in the event your fabric building is damaged it can be patched and repaired for as little as $2 per square foot.
- Portability: Concrete buildings are engineered to be built in one place (after hauling heavy materials to that place) and stay there. While fabric buildings are certainly able to stand for decades and make great permanent structures, they are flexible enough to be relocated if needed. If you are building on leased land, or you move to a new location someday, your fabric building can go with you. In addition, fabric buildings can also be expanded later on. By adding more steel supports and more fabric, you can increase the size of your building to meet your growing needs.
- Insulation: Both concrete and fabric have advantages when it comes to staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And either type of building can be insulated for even more protection from the elements. Here, fabric has the obvious advantage of additional sunlight. In addition, tension fabric structures are flexible enough to incorporate any type of ventilation system (active or passive) into the design of the building.