Guest Column - March 2017
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Sports Facilities

Game Changer
Advancements in Design Boost Sports Facilities

By Jeff Williams

Built For Play

Fabric building manufacturers have long extolled the virtues of natural light and promoted it as one of the key benefits of a fabric roof. While fabric's translucency remains an important characteristic for many building applications in the industrial sector, athletic facilities carry a different set of demands.

First and foremost, building codes must be accounted for, and state energy codes typically dictate anywhere from an R-19 to R-30 building envelope. To achieve the necessary R values, insulation and liners must be applied to the interior of the fabric cladding, which blocks out any natural sunlight. In some cases it is possible to leave a certain portion of the fabric roof uninsulated to allow the translucent fabric to act as a skylight.

However, it's important to note that light emission through the roof still won't necessarily be enough to meet the lighting standards of a particular sport. Even in buildings that do allow significant natural light entry, artificial lights are turned on to provide adequate illumination.

Fire suppression is another feature that has become more of a requirement for fabric sports facilities. Indoor air quality, HVAC, ventilation and the overall flow of air through the venue remain critical considerations as well, especially for those buildings frequently visited by spectators.

Buildings that house aquatic competitions and other high-humidity activities have additional stresses placed upon them. In response, manufacturers must be prepared to provide special hardware and components that resist corrosion. For I-beam structure suppliers, it's common to supply a hot dip galvanized frame in these circumstances.

Proven Performance

The latest engineering developments have put many old concerns about strength to rest. With I-beam construction, a fabric building is just as structurally sound as any conventional structure. The building profile can be designed in any fashion necessary, allowing users to add spectator viewing decks, adjoining clubhouses, pro shops, offices, storage areas and much more.

Thanks to I-beam engineering, even aspects like security and exterior appearance can be easily addressed. For projects requiring the addition of aesthetic architectural elements to the outside of the building, the straight sidewalls of a rigid frame structure make it simple to add steel panels, multiple doors and windows, colored membranes, glazing walls, or a stone or brick façade around the exterior.

By enhancing more aspects of their offering, fabric building manufacturers continue to thrive in sports facility construction. Most of the advancement is due to a seemingly simple concept—listening to the customer. That simple step has helped to solve the age-old "round peg in a square hole" dilemma and allowed more fabric structure suppliers to become the square peg solution everyone is looking for.

Jeff Williams, vice president of Sales for Legacy Building Solutions, has 20 years of experience in the fabric building industry. For more information about athletic facility engineering and construction, visit