Are Fabric Buildings the Automotive Industry’s Ideal Storage Solution?
Kagan Pittman posted on September 01, 2019 |
AGC Automotive’s fabric building from Legacy. (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
AGC Automotive’s fabric building from Legacy. (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

Auto parts manufacturers face many challenges in today’s low margin, high volume environment. Warehousing components and tooling is a significant cost that falls under scrutiny more than ever before. Options for expansion of storage space today include prefabricated and custom-built solutions using several different materials and technologies. Fabric buildings are a growing segment, but traditional fabric buildings are often small-scale and can be unnecessarily costly when factoring in environmental controls, foundations and construction.

AGC Automotive wrote a specification for side-by-side fabric structures for storing their manufacturing equipment and tooling at their Elizabethtown, Kentucky location, and were on track to spend more for an inefficient solution.

Legacy Building Solutions stepped in to help AGC design a single fabric building for cold storage, providing enough space while cutting construction and energy costs.

The final complex measures 164 feet wide, by 100.5 feet long with 16,482 square feet of storage, constructed from gray primed steel frames and 27 oz. PVC white fabric cladding. Straight sidewalls, overhead doors and clear span design allow room for storing tooling racks and machinery to move the stored assets.

AGC’s Legacy fabric building has 16,482 square feet of storage and a clear span design, providing room for tooling racks and machinery. (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
AGC’s Legacy fabric building has 16,482 square feet of storage and a clear span design, providing room for tooling racks and machinery. (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

“It wasn’t until we found Legacy that I knew a building this wide was an option,” said Andrew Morley, maintenance tooling engineer at AGC. “It gives us a lot more flexibility. The steel structure is much more sound and the life of the fabric and the structure are better.”

Design Strength with Rigid Steel Frame Fabric Buildings

Rigid steel frame fabric buildings are custom engineered to allow for designs reaching 300 feet in width, at any length, outclassing the size possibilities and structural integrity of open web truss designs common to most fabric buildings.

Open web trusses are prone to structural failures due to chord plastification, where a thin steel web within the truss penetrates the supporting web frame, compromising structural integrity. Frame pieces are hollow and connected only by welded steel chords, contributing to structural weakness. Truss systems may shift from wind and snow, affecting conveyors and collateral loads and resulting in increased maintenance and downtime when compared to systems hung from a rigid frame.

Fabric cladding can be attached to rigid steel frames for a stronger and more structurally sound building. Legacy’s fabric building panels are permanently welded together without small fastener holes for a tight and sealed fabric membrane that keeps the elements out.

Legacy uses its own ExxoTec fabric, a coated PVC with an inner scrim layer and three UV-resistant protective coatings with a grab tensile strength of 745 pounds per inch. ExxoTec fabric is attached to the rigid steel frame using biaxial tension, pulling it in two directions to prevent it from moving from wind or snow while providing a wrinkle-free finish and extending the life of the fabric.

Rigid steel frames can accommodate dynamic loads like cranes and dead loads like HVAC systems. Purlins and flange braces provide additional stability.

Legacy fabric buildings are designed to meet current industry standards, withstanding both extreme wind and snow loads and seismic zone E requirements, meeting variabilities depending on application requirements.

Fabric Cladding Equals Cost Savings for Cold Storage

Fabric cladding installs faster than steel sheeting and allows natural light to shine through into the building while keeping the interior cool thanks to its high solar reflectance, reducing energy costs during the day. Fabric buildings can also include passive ventilation systems, skylights and solar panels to further reduce energy costs.

Legacy fabric buildings allow natural light to shine through, and can accommodate passive ventilation systems, skylights and solar panels. (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
Legacy fabric buildings allow natural light to shine through, and can accommodate passive ventilation systems, skylights and solar panels. (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

“Fabric has thermally non-conductive properties, so they are typically more efficient when being climate controlled,” said Sara Davis, building and project design consultant at Legacy Building Solutions. “A metal building is going to be dark and damp, unlike a fabric building. It doesn't leak and it's typically cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.”

Insulated fabric buildings are better options for storing sensitive materials. Although they lose the advantage of natural light, Legacy’s insulated buildings use a bright white liner to reflect and magnify the interior lighting.

Minimal emergency lighting was installed inside the AGC building to meet code requirements and all day-to-day operations are carried out using only the natural light coming through the ExxoTec PVC fabric.

With a tight building envelope and zero fabric penetrations, rigid steel frame fabric buildings can also protect products and tools from any kind of weather.

The automotive industry is experiencing increases on insurance costs because of more frequent stormy weather and insurance companies are sick of payouts as premiums have gone up,” said Davis. “ExxoTec PVC fabric is really good in cold and warm climates and can protect assets from hail, rain, snow and sun. Fabric buildings can be used for OEM storage, retailers, auctions and more.”

Concrete, steel and other types of side walls can be designed to increase the load strength and resistance to damage from accidental collisions to protect storage. Sidewall cladding can also be considered for security criteria to support security alarms, floodlights and other features.

Customization is Key for PVC Fabric Buildings

Fabric buildings ultimately prove their worth when optimized for space and energy efficiency, designed tightly around a defined application with variables like environment and storage needs.

Legacy worked with AGC using a design-build construction project delivery system to optimize design flexibility and cost efficiency. Rather than relying on multiple contractors for design and construction, Legacy took on all elements of the project in-house, with engineers and designers working together.

Exterior of AGC Automotive’s fabric building from Legacy.  (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)
Exterior of AGC Automotive’s fabric building from Legacy. (Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

Storage buildings often need loads designed into the sidewalls of the structure to account for the weight of the stored material. Design-build associates determine loads for collateral equipment as well as building code regulations. Other variables considered in the design-build process include hanging loads, environmental loads, thermal factors, occupancy and the structure’s enclosure category.

Design-build construction also accelerated the AGC project by eliminating the bidding process and risk of miscommunication between two, rather than multiple, parties with a single source of accountability. Expedited construction allowed for a quicker return on investment and occupation.

“It was amazing to see how much they got done,” said Morley. “There were weather delays and they still finished early. It was a seamless process and a pleasure to work with this group.”

Legacy provides a consultative service for custom design and installation for housing and storage products for part suppliers, OEMs and retailers in the automotive industry. Legacy buildings meet engineering standards set by the International Building Code (IBC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Visit the Legacy Building Solutions Information Center for webinars and whitepapers concerning the latest information regarding fabric buildings and their advantages.

For more information about Legacy Building Solutions, visit their website.


Legacy Building Solutions has sponsored this post.  All opinions are mine.  –Kagan Pittman


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