We all know what fabric quonsets are all about. They are low-cost tent-like structures thought of as temporary shelters that require maintenance or perhaps new fabric after about 10 years.
When the hot-dipped galvanized steel frames start to corrode, often within a decade, they become a safety hazard and off they go to the dump. But, as the old saying goes, “You pay your money and you get what you paid for.” Fabric quonsets provide low-cost shelter if a steel building isn’t in your budget or even in your dreams. They do a good job of keeping the elements off your grain, granular fertilizer and equipment.
However, there is a mid-priced shelter about halfway between fabric tents and real steel buildings. Municipalities, community clubs and fertilizer dealers across the three prairie provinces are discovering rigid frame tension fabric shelters that carry a 25-year warranty on the frame and the tension fabric.
One of the biggest suppliers in Western Canada is Legacy Buildings in Minnesota. The key to engineering a fabric-covered structure that will last 25 years is to begin with the same type and quality of frame that’s used in steel farm buildings, says Paul Smith, project designer at Legacy.
“We pulled out all stops to engineer a frame system that will resist fertilizer corrosion for 25 years. We recently invested in an EpoxxiShield epoxy paint system,” Smith said in a phone interview.
“First we put three mil of hot dip galvanizing or zinc paint directly on the steel components. We cover that with 10 mil of sealed epoxy paint. That gives us a barrier to prevent corrosion from getting to our zinc or galvanized steel. Our tests show this doesn’t just slow the corrosion process. It actually stops the corrosion process for the full 25 years.
“We just got results from 2,000 hours of continuous salt spray testing on our components. The straight-galvanized steel is completely oxidized and corroded. Our epoxy paint samples had no signs of corrosion whatsoever.”
But the frame is only half the deal. If you’re going to stand behind your structure with a 25-year warranty, you’d better have an exceptional fabric. Legacy uses ExxoTec tension fabric, which is designed to be fully stretched the day it’s installed. Legacy’s clamping system lets the installers stretch the ExxoTec to the final engineered limit. Unlike conventional fabric covers that need tightening as often as once a year, ExxoTec is guaranteed to require no further tensioning for 25 years. If it should sag, Legacy will come out and re-stretch it at no cost.
“ExxoTec is cost competitive with PE and other PVC fabrics, but it’s significantly stronger, it’s self-cleaning, has long-term weathering and high tensile strength, which is the main factor.
“There are three distinct grades of ExxoTec fabric. The 12-ounce has a 350-pound grab tensile strength. The 19-ounce has a 494 pound grab tensile strength. The 28-ounce has a 745 pound grab tensile strength. All three fabrics are flame retardant, and all allow sunlight to enter the building with 16 percent translucency.
A passive ventilation system requiring no electric fans is another unique feature of Legacy engineering. Smith explains that every structure is designed with an eve or house-style soffit running the length of the building on both sides. The underside of the eve is screened so birds don’t enter, but fresh air does flow in.
Fresh air entering through the soffits functions in harmony with roof vents at the peak of the roofline. At this point, Mother Nature lends a helping hand by pulling warm dusty air out the roof vent, which then naturally pulls fresh air in through the soffit screens. The result is a cooler structure with cleaner air. Dust and heat are exhausted into the atmosphere.
“We were recently dealing with Richardson’s big fertilizer operation in Saskatoon. They didn’t want a roof vent, so we just left it setting at the building site. I told him I’d already sold it to him, because it’s part of the package price, ‘It’s yours. You paid for it.’ But he didn’t want it.
“They filled the building with granular. Next day they called me and said ‘Paul, we can’t see inside this building. It’s raining off the walls. The floor is soaking wet.’
“So we went up and installed the roof vents. He called me back to say ‘The condensation problem is gone, we can clearly see 400 feet from one end to the other, the floor is dry and the air is clean.’ They’ve bought five more buildings from me since then. And with the soffits and roof vents of course.”
Legacy customers don’t buy these fabric structures solely for fertilizer storage, as Richardson has done. The recreational centre at Fox Creek, Alta., has four connected Legacy buildings housing a fieldhouse, aquatic center, hockey arena and a community centre. Total area is 58,364 sq. feet. There are interior build-outs for change rooms, concessions, weight room and offices. There’s a second-floor walking track above the hockey arena. The entire building is fully insulated and lined, with a climate-control system for year-round use. It has a 46 lb. per sq. foot snow load rating and a 144 kilometre per hour wind load rating, plus a high occupancy rating.