Why a Bulk Commodities Facility Chose Fabric Buildings
Isaac Maw posted on May 25, 2018 |
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

When you think of a structure housing bulk goods like animal feed or fertilizer and the heavy equipment to move it, you probably think of a corrugated steel warehouse or a concrete dome.

If you want to make a dent in this industry, you may be better off choosing a structure you can’t make a dent in—a fabric building.

Consolidated Terminals and Logistics Company (CTLC) is one of the largest logistics handlers of bulk commodities in the middle and lower U.S. The company ships product nationwide and from around the globe, with 17 terminals on inland waterways.

At CTLC’s Naples, Illinois, terminal, the company stores up to 60,000 tons of aggregates, minerals, agricultural salt and other raw materials.

The Naples terminal ships product via train and truck, with track space for 300 railcars. The facility transfers goods from barges to storage and to land transport, and they use plenty of heavy equipment including cable cranes, full-size crawler excavators and front-end loaders.

Basically, CTLC Naples is the dream of every kid in a sandbox.

The company stores goods in six domes, 60 feet in height and 110 feet in diameter. The domes are concrete and foam structures which can store 10,000 tons each. They also store some non-weather-sensitive goods outdoors on large asphalt pads.

CTLC recently needed new space to store salt and other weather-sensitive goods, as well as space to bag, palletize and store smaller quantities of goods. 

To solve this problem, CTLC hired Graber Construction, a Washington, IN based industrial/general contractor. Based on CTLC’s challenges, Graber’s project manager Brandon Schafer recommended a fabric building from Legacy Building Solutions.

Bulk Goods Storage Challenges

Bulk goods storage presents unique challenges for structures. For one thing, CTLC handles up to half a million tons of bulk goods per year. To make room for the heavy equipment, their buildings must have an open, clear span structure with lots of room to maneuver. The structure must also support both the dead and dynamic loads of their conveyor systems, something Legacy offers with their proven in-house engineering and design process.

CTLC’s salt and fertilizer products are especially challenging to store because they are very corrosive to metals and sensitive to weather. It’s essential to keep bulk matter dry, away from metals and well-ventilated to reduce dust and moisture.

To address the unique engineering challenges of CTLC’s bulk goods storage needs, Schafer and Graber Construction decided on a Legacy Building Solutions steel-framed, fabric building.

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

CTLC’s Legacy Fabric Structure

The 15,000 sq.ft. building is an A-frame structure with an offset peak. The space is split into two bays to help keep operations organized, with a steel and fabric divider wall. In the 60-foot bay, bulk goods are stored by the hundreds of tons. The clear span of the space is essential for maneuvering trucks and heavy equipment, and the structure also supports a large bucket elevator which is used for breaking up the massive quantities of goods into smaller portions for bagging and retail.

On the other side, the 40 feet bay stores bagged and palletized goods for shipping. The offset peak provides the full 37-foot 7-inch ceiling height in the large bay, without wasting that space on the smaller bay where the height isn’t needed.

The steel structural members in CTLC’s building are hot-dipped galvanized for corrosion resistance. The fabric cladding is made of a PVC material Legacy calls ExxoTec™, which comes in 27 oz. Elite, and 19 oz. Pro.

What Materials are Fabric Buildings Made Of?

CTLC’s new building, in all its glory.  (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
CTLC’s new building, in all its glory. (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

A far cry from your Boy Scout canvas pup tent, the exclusive ExxoTec PVC fabric provided by Legacy Building Solutions in their structures has more in common with a flexible fiber-reinforced composite material than with ordinary cloth. The PVC-based fabric is made of 7 layers: a core layer of base fabric, coated on each side with 3 coating layers of primers, top coats and lacquers.

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

Fabric offers several benefits over heavier building materials. It’s translucent, allowing indoor work during daylight hours without the need for an artificial light source. The building’s envelope can be made to be airtight with no penetrations. The white exterior surface reflects the sun’s heat, keeping the building cooler in summer, and warmer in the winter.

For the winter, some fabric buildings have been engineered to withstand up to 256 lbs. snow load and 150mph winds.

The steel frame of a Legacy Building  is not substantially different from the frame of a steel-sheathed building. Steel I-beams form the structure, with secondary framing members such as flange braces, purlins and bracing rods. In highly corrosive settings, galvanized cross rods help to  prevent corrosion starting in the small areas on the steel cables that some buildings use. The steel members can be ordered with primed, hot dipped galvanized or other coatings. In corrosive settings, it’s important to get all the components hot dip galvanized, including all the smaller secondary members, as corrosion often starts in unseen places.

Fabric Buildings Resist Corrosion

One of CTLC’s major engineering challenges for this building was corrosion resistance. Bulk salt and fertilizer are highly corrosive, and ordinary steel members don’t stand a chance.  That’s part of the reason Schafer recommended a Legacy fabric building: the fabric itself is inert to corrosion, and the technology affords additional protection against corrosion and rust.

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

First, the steel structure of CTLC’s building is set on poured concrete piers four feet high, which the steel columns are bolted to, with two feet high curb walls between piers. This concrete design elevates the steel away from potentially spilled product. The galvanized steel is corrosion resistant, but material dust can still settle on members high above. To protect these, some Legacy buildings use an optional inner fabric liner isolating the structural beams from the interior and exterior environment.

As Schafer explained, the good airflow in the building, which is provided via mesh eave soffits and peak vents, is also beneficial in reducing dust particles in the air and excess moisture build up due to condensation.

ROI of Fabric Structures

Fabric buildings are an example of the out-of-the-box thinking that good engineering does best. For CTLC, the benefits of fabric were a no-brainer over the headache of building a new steel or concrete structure.

“Fabric buildings are a bit more pricey than other buildings, but I’m a big believer in ‘you get what you pay for,’” said Schafer. “If you spend a little more up front, it will last longer in the end.”

For more information about Fabric Buildings, contact Legacy Building Solutions.

This post was sponsored by Legacy Building Solutions.  All opinions are mine.  –Isaac Maw

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