ClearSpan Fabric Structures Inc.

ClearspanClearSpan’s fabric structures support its clients’ operations and growth.

By Alan Dorich, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

Some might look at a fabric structure and think of it as a tent, but the product fits quite well into the world of construction. As contractors work on projects, “They need flexible storage solutions for equipment,” Geoffrey Ching says.

Builders also need areas to set up workshops, and that is where ClearSpan Fabric Structures Inc. can help. Ching is the director of sales for the South Windsor, Conn.-based company, which specializes in fabric, metal and hybrid structures.Clearspan info box

The company’s fabric structures, he notes, can be set up quickly, providing contractors with a low-cost solution that can span up to 25,000 square feet. “We have some standard designs, which we can pack and ship within a month,” Ching says.

ClearSpan provides custom engineered buildings as well. “We do over 300 engineered structures per year, and they’re in compliance with all wind and snow criteria,” he says.

A Real Breakthrough

ClearSpan offers temporary and permanent fabric structures, which provide the strength of a permanent building. They also can be easily moved, which makes them perfect for long-term building projects.

“We’ve had a number of companies tell us they’ve been able to pack them up and ship them to reinstall quickly to a new site, or the same site,” Ching says, noting that this is possible thanks to ClearSpan’s innovative helical anchor system.

The system drills directly into the ground, creating a foundation that can be used both permanently or temporarily. But when the fabric structure needs to be relocated, the anchors can be quickly removed from the ground, leaving nearly no mark.

“What the helical anchor system does is it really prevents concrete from being poured for foundation purposes,” Ching says. “As long as there are not boulders or rock slabs on the site, we can install them in any part of the country.”

Users just need to level their sites before ClearSpan arrives and installs the helicals, which can be designed to be compliant with building codes. “They’re used for many construction purposes,” he says.

“Helical piles for ClearSpan have been a real breakthrough for controlling the foundation work,” Ching says. “They help the end user save a lot of money and time.” 

These include the costs of concrete foundations, which have limits due to the weather seasons. While cold weather is not conducive to concrete, “We can put helicals in during the middle of winter,” he says. “The helicals are probably the most popular foundational solutions we have for our buildings.”

All Covered

ClearSpan’s fabric structures also allow its users to save money on energy. Its white covers, Ching notes, allow natural light to filter through inside. With this benefit, “You’re not having to turn on the lights,” he says.

The company also makes climate-sensitive covers that keep structures warmer in winter and cooler in the summer, reducing the client’s energy usage. “It’s just a more comfortable atmosphere inside,” he says.

In the winter, “You’re going to feel a good 20 to 30 degrees warmer inside of the building,” he says. “In the summertime, I like to tell people, ‘It’s like being under a shade tree.’ You’re shielding yourself from the most intense parts of the sun and getting the lights.”

Innovative Designs

ClearSpan’s structures provide its clients with comfortable environments. Thanks to its innovative design, the interior is absent of support posts, which allows the internal layout to be set up in an efficient manner.

This also gives clients the ability to easily maneuver vehicles and machinery in its structures. Often, Ching says, ClearSpan’s products are used for covering generators and heavy equipment cranes.

“We also can mold the shape of the designs,” he adds. “So if someone calls us and we need to fit a 40-foot crane underneath it, we can vary the side walls if we need to.”

ClearSpan can custom design its tents so that customers can integrate any tools or accessories they need, such as conveyor systems. “If a customer has a design where the conveyor system is going to bring material into the building, we can create the space for that,” he says.

“We’re allowing the customer to really facilitate their operation exactly the way they want it to be done,” he says. “We’ve done so many projects that even if a customer thinks they have something [new], we’ve done it before.”

But Ching asserts that ClearSpan prefers to build its structures to its clients’ needs, instead of giving them a “one-size-fits-all” solution. “We want customers to have a feeling that they’re really getting something that’s designed for them,” he explains.

The Go-To Product

Ching is a 10-year veteran of ClearSpan and credits its success to its ability to work in many different industries. “When I started, we were selling 90 percent of our buildings within agriculture,” he recalls.

Today, the company still is very strong in that sector, but also sells into the commercial, warehousing, storage, athletics and government markets. “It’s almost the go-to fabric design,” he says, noting that it has also enjoyed strong success in ports and marinas.

“In each industry, we give you its own reason why the fabric concept works so well,” he says, noting that ClearSpan’s capacity and appetite for designing buildings that work allow it to thrive.

The firm also supports its clients with a network of installers to help them keep their costs low. “We can approach any type of construction opportunity anywhere in the country,” Ching says. “We try to make the customer’s life as easy as we can to make sure their operations and growth are supported.”

He also highlights the long lives of the structures. “The frame is warranted for 50 years,” he says, noting that ClearSpan also provides 10- to 20-year warranties for some of the covers it offers.

The length of those warranties should grow, Ching notes, once the company introduces a new vinyl fabric it plans to introduce soon. “We’re really close to that,” he says. “Once that actually comes out, we’ll have some new branding.”

Committed to Growth

Ching sees a strong future for ClearSpan as it adds more products and innovations. Next year, the company will introduce a new design that will allow it to expand its range.

“That’s something that we’re very excited about,” he says. “It just shows our commitment to growth and understanding that the buildings are not only utilized by more sectors of the construction community, but more applications and industries in general.

“It’s the strongest growth area of business for all of our families of companies,” he says, noting that its new concept will feature an I-beam frame that ClearSpan will have the ability to manufacture in-house. “It’s not to replace but to add to the welded truss designs that we have.”

The I-beam brings several advantages, including decreasing the amount of labor required and increasing the number of buildings ClearSpan can produce and ship in certain periods. “It also will decrease lead time and more installs will be happening simultaneously cross the country,” Ching predicts.

ClearSpan also will expand its range of designs with features such as metal siding. “If a customer says, ‘I don’t want a full fabric building,’ we’ll do metal around the sides so you feel more secure,” he says, adding that fabric can be featured at the top to let in light and allow energy savings.

“There’s still some people who look at fabric buildings and say, ‘That’s a tent,’ or ask, ‘How long is that going to last?’” he admits. “But I think the [perception] in the market is going to be that it’s a much smarter solution.” 

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