Installing Fabric Buildings Half a World Away

Legacy manages complex projects over large geographical distances amidst a pandemic.

Legacy Building Solutions has sponsored this post.
(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Solutions.)

Legacy Building Solutions has been successfully manufacturing fabric structures for over a decade, with projects ranging from explosives storage facilities in Chilean mountains to logistics warehouses for some of the world’s largest freight corporations.

The Minnesota-based company’s advanced fabric building technology combines a rigid steel I-beam frame with ExxoTec PVC-based fabric panels that incorporate a patented fabric attachment system. Every fabric panel is bolted to the solid frame individually using biaxial tension to provide a wrinkle-free finish and ensure long life of the material. The result is an open structure that supports dynamic loads including hangar doors, fire suppression systems, cranes, conveyors, HVAC systems and lighting equipment.

Key Features of Legacy’s Fabric Structures

Legacy’s fabric buildings provide excellent value and are quick to build; they are quicker to install over metal building and in some applications cost less to install. The technology meets engineering standards set by the International Building Code (IBC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The system is designed for high structural integrity, with the steel frame demonstrating an extended lifespan and the fabric coming with a 25-year warranty.

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Systems.)

(Image courtesy of Legacy Building Systems.)

ExxoTec fabric has a grab tensile strength of 745 pounds per inch, making it twice as strong as the polyethylene fabrics commonly used in other fabric buildings. If repairs are ever required, small tears can be welded on using the same material as the original panel, while larger repairs can be achieved by simply replacing the fabric panel with a new one.

Legacy’s fabric lets in natural light while reflecting heat from the sun, which helps to keep things energy efficient. In an insulated version of the building, the fabric liner maintains airtightness while still magnifying interior lighting. The ExxoTec fabric is also corrosion-free even in the most challenging environmental conditions.

Legacy will do hot dipped galvanizing for its steel frames to protect them from corrosion, but the company is moving in the direction of epoxy coatings.

“We have added a comprehensive state-of-the-art epoxy paint line,” says Nathan Stobbe, general manager at Legacy Building Solutions. “We now have an entire facility dedicated to providing high quality epoxy finishes onto our complete structure framework. The value of this is that we can now provide a superior product to many clients who have been asking for enhanced corrosion protection beyond what hot-dip galvanizing offers. It’s definitely been a significant value-add for our clients. Because it’s in-house, we’re able to do it in a more cost-effective form than what is typically available.”

The Legacy Process

Legacy begins every project with a comprehensive plan. The client’s needs are discussed during the consultation period, including uses for the building, personnel and equipment access, energy efficiency requirements, location, building dimensions, height requirements, HVAC needs and more.  

After the building plans are reviewed, the Legacy team uses computer aided design (CAD) and Metal Building Software (MBS) to engineer the loading and integrate customized features such as lean-tos, offset peaks and overhangs. Sidewall loads may be fashioned to account for any extra weight, and even solar panels can be incorporated into the design.

Legacy handles most aspects of design, manufacturing and construction internally—from building design and component fabrication, to the installation of the fabric structure. Their engineering team provides the necessary blueprints, advising customers on permit needs. Once the planning is finalized, all components are manufactured in Legacy’s facilities in Minnesota and are then shipped directly to the site for assembly.

Lessons learned from the field are fed back into Legacy’s engineering process to refine future designs.

Legacy’s Recent Projects

Legacy has been focusing on critical infrastructure projects in 2020, with highlights including the installation of U.S. military aircraft hangars in Guam and Spain. These installations can be in hostile climate environments that include extreme wind pressure, seismic activity and UV exposure. The hangars in Guam measure 170 x 100 feet, while the ones in Spain measure 100 x 100 feet.

“The project in Guam was fairly complex from a few standpoints,” explains Stobbe. “First off, the wind loads on that project were extremely high at 195 mph because of the potential for typhoons going through and hitting the island. In addition to that, we installed large aircraft hangar doors which had door pockets outside of the building, which ended up being complicated because of the high wind loads and the amount of structural framing and engineering that had to go into their design.”

“The complexity of that project combined with the location, and together with having limited availability to source much of anything locally on the island, was complicated with the fact that the wind never went below 20 mph, made the installation of the fabric extremely challenging,” added Stobbe.

The construction of aircraft hangars in Guam which took four months over two deployments due to the pandemic. Legacy also manufactured a fabric building for U.S. Steel this year.

“The project for U.S. Steel was very unique because it had extremely tall 75-foot sidewalls,” Stobbe describes. “Basically, the entire building was built off aerial man lifts that went up to 125 feet in the air, which makes the installation just a little bit of a greater challenge because now you’re dealing with extreme heights. That project took approximately two months to complete from an installation standpoint.”

The COVID-19 Impact

Despite the worldwide repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, Legacy has been able to navigate manufacturing issues successfully, while keeping their staff safe.

“Our manufacturing has operated relatively smoothly through the whole process,” states Stobbe. “Our staff are properly segmented so that we could mitigate any issues if they happen to show up. With regards to the installation of buildings, that’s been a little bit more challenging, because—starting in the middle of March—we had projects that got delayed or sites that got closed due to certain state, county, city and company regulations.”

Projects in California and North Carolina, for instance, were completely shut down—leaving Legacy’s construction side of the business to get significantly delayed for a couple months.

“The second half of March and April were pretty slow from an installation standpoint,” says Stobbe. “During that time, we refocused our construction teams on getting projects completed in an orderly fashion. And so, our crews were very busy starting early May. A lot of the projects that we worked on during that period of time were deemed critical infrastructure projects. We were allowed to continue with those during the initial lockdown phases, until the rest of the country started to open up again. Our clients included the U.S. military, Department of Energy, steel manufacturing and waste reclamation entities. We worked with many of our clients to prioritize the project based on national security concerns.”

Legacy crews faced significant challenges when working in cities where virtually no hotels or restaurants were open due to the pandemic. Stobbe asserts that the project management team and installation foremen have been creative in terms of creating a safe work environment while still being able to keep the projects going.

“During COVID-19, there’s a specific protocol that we have put in place for all of our crew members,” explains Stobbe. “In addition to working together with site-specific or state protocols required in that area. It was different in every jurisdiction. We’re continually working to mesh together our standard COVID-19 protocol together with what’s required on the specific site. That hasn’t been very difficult because for the most part, Legacy’s COVID-19 protocol is very stringent—and so, it matches well with other requirements on sites.”

In the case of the U.S. military aircraft hangars in Guam, Legacy’s installation team had to be brought home for almost two months when COVID-19 spread throughout the region. Once the project could finally be restarted, there were additional issues.

“When our crews returned to Guam, they had to quarantine in a government-mandated hotel for 14 days,” conveys Stobbe.

When it came to installing high-priority aircraft hangars in Spain, the Legacy team encountered a unique problem where U.S. citizens were not allowed in the country due to pandemic travel restrictions. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The Realities of Providing Services Globally

Legacy has a recognized international presence with fabric structures installed in areas ranging from remote South American mountains to the humid tropics of Sierra Leone. According to Stobbe, the global experience comes with challenges.

“The whole planning, design and engineering side of things is extremely important,” states Stobbe. “If site conditions vary from the plan, oftentimes you cannot source it locally and you have to air freight those parts out.  Additionally, having talented and capable installers who can handle anything that needs to be modified on site is a critical part of any international construction plan. In any given project, there’s always site circumstances, which either are unanticipated or come up during the construction process. Ensuring that we have talented, trained individuals who are creative enough to be able to modify anything on site is really important.”

In the end, great challenges provide the best rewards.

“Ultimately, it’s extremely satisfying to see a project like that come together—to be able to serve our country and help various organizations to accomplish their jobs,” expresses Stobbe. “We have a lot of pride and satisfaction in being able to do that.”

To learn more about Legacy’s fabric buildings, visit their website.