Materials and engineering can differ drastically when specifying fabric-roofed buildings

Quality control
As engineering and installation methods have grown more sophisticated over the years, the demands on quality control in the material manufacturing process have increased as well.

In years past, it was accepted practice for fabric building manufacturers to rely on third-party suppliers to provide all building components. But the need to meet tight fabric tolerance requirements and control the material quality has prompted some manufacturers to invest in their own facilities to cut fabric or produce steel beams.

Particularly with panel systems that are sliding into extrusions, the tolerance for variation in the fabric is extremely low. The correct pretension is calculated into every panel to ensure proper post-installation tension on the building. Having a temperature- and humidity-controlled warehouse helps workers ensure compliance with fabric material specifications such as tear strength and elasticity.

There is also the practical matter of timely project delivery. Manufacturers who produce their own materials are better positioned to meet tight deadlines or simply avoid unnecessary backlogs based on supply issues that are out of their control.

Interior liners
For buildings that require insulation or are housing corrosive materials, an interior liner could be added. Liners essentially serve the same purpose on the inside of the building frame as the fabric cladding serves on the exterior.

In addition to providing a clean, smooth interior finish hiding the structure’s framework, liners provide an airtight barrier to keep the frame out of contact with elements that may be corrosive to the steel, such as salt or fertilizer. A liner also works as an extremely good vapour barrier to seal off any insulation behind it. Lined buildings typically include a cavity ventilation system to prevent moisture build-up on the frames.

Coming together
Simply look at the standard fabric structure offerings of 20 years ago and the best of those constructed today and it is easy to understand why the term “fabric building” has so many different connotations in the engineering community.

Manufacturers have successfully taken the very best features of diverse building styles and married them together. Modern fabric buildings now actually have much more in common with traditional architecture. They are conventional buildings happening to have a fabric membrane. This reality is making it possible for more industries and building users to reap the benefits fabric roofing continues to offer.

Nathan Stobbe is general manager of Legacy Building Solutions. Over the course of his career, Stobbe has overseen sales and construction of more than 35,000 fabric structure buildings in 21 countries. He has served as member of the original committee for developing Canadian Standards Association (CSA) S367, Air-, Cable-, and Frame-supported Membrane Structures, and as co-founder of the Membrane Structures Manufacturers Association (MSMA). He also holds several patents for fabric structure construction. Stobbe can be reached via e-mail at

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