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ClearSpan Fabric Structures
Feature Article - February 2017

Structural Integrity

Nonconventional Buildings Offer Savings, Customization

By Deborah L. Vence


Nonconventional Uses

Nonconventional structures can be used for recreation, sports and aquatics, enabling users to take part in activities during any season.

For example, Ching's company has designed structures with customers for soccer, tennis, basketball and multi-purpose athletic facilities. "The versatility of our design has made projects cost-effective for private clubs, universities, towns and residential customers to customize their ideal sizes for activity and budget," Ching said, adding that his company is able to provide turnkey facilities that include full installation. In terms of installation timeline, a 100-foot-wide by 200-foot-long structure can be installed in as little as three to four weeks.

McNichol said recreation, sports and aquatic facilities are using these structural solutions for complete buildings, skylights, sunshades and canopies. "The diffused daylighting and corrosion resistance of [our] products is very advantageous to aquatic facilities," he said.

Goldrup noted that recreation, sports and aquatic facilities have been thrilled with her company's structural solutions. "Many seasonal sports and aquatic centers are now able to operate through all four seasons, offering users the optimal temperatures and conditions of an indoor space while still letting in the open atmosphere of the outdoors. Sports and activities that would normally have to be delayed for inclement weather can now continue in any conditions, thanks to [our] fast and reliable retracting panel system," she said.

And, aquatic attractions such as pools and indoor waterparks enjoy even more advantages.

For instance, aquatic facilities that have Goldrup's company's roofs can rely less on ventilation systems and air conditioning in the summer by letting in fresh breezes and sunlight naturally, saving energy and improving air quality for guests.

"Add to this the reduced need for lighting that every operable enclosure provides, and can save up to 27 percent on energy costs compared to conventional structures," she said.

Turner added that the buildings have wide, clear spans without supporting columns, which means there is plenty of room for sports and spectators.

"Some of the characteristics that set fabric structures apart include the ability to comply with each sport's interior height requirements, a bright liner for high-quality lighting, and the freedom to use them for any large occupancy gatherings or events," Turner said.

An Affordable Price

"The cost of a building is usually the first and main focus of a client," Bolwerk said. "However, while the goal is usually to construct the least expensive building, this can ultimately result in more cost and frustration over the life of the structure.

"Buildings need to function for the purpose of the venue and designs need to take into account long-term maintenance and operating costs," he explained.

For example, constructing a concrete block and metal roof building over an aquatic venue might seem like an inexpensive solution, but will result in high future costs.

"Pools and especially waterparks evaporate a tremendous amount of water and chemicals into the air," he said. "Energy-consuming mechanical dehumidification systems are designed to address the moisture but structural and building materials used to construct the building cannot be ignored."

A nonconventional building is a one-time cost, while maintenance and operating costs continue for the life of a building.

"Therefore, the structural frame should be non-corrosive, thermally broken aluminum to address the moist chemical atmosphere that will rust steel and rot wood," Bolwerk said.

"Aquatic venues have high energy cost to address the moisture and chemicals evaporating from the pools. Incorporating an operable roof into an all glazed structure can save up to 27 percent of this energy cost by being able to turn off the mechanical systems when the roof is open, no air conditioning, no need for artificial lighting during daytime hours and absorbing solar energy when the roof is closed during the winter months," he explained. "Therefore, a nonconventional building may cost more initially, but the additional cost is paid back over time due to savings in maintenance and operating costs."

Ching's customers are able to significantly reduce foundation costs with options, such as his company's unique anchoring system.

Also, his company's public-use athletic facilities are designed to the same building codes that prevail in each area of the United States. "Price per square foot does differ based upon design requirements that are affected by local snow and wind loads," he said.

Depending on the building, cost savings can be significant compared to traditional brick-and-mortar buildings.

"The shorter construction time is also important," Williams said, "as most sports have a defined season and the doors must be open."