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Home -- Blogs -- Clear Span Buildings: A Complete Guide

Clear Span Buildings: A Complete Guide


Executive Manager: Plays a crucial role in strategic decisions and business growth.

Updated: May 24, 2024
Published: March 9, 2024
As versatile solutions for warehouses, distribution centers, indoor sports facilities, and more, clear span buildings provide column-free space well-suited for many commercial and industrial needs. This comprehensive guide explores what clear span buildings are, their practical applications, effective span capabilities, typical price ranges for popular options like clear span metal buildings and clear span fabric structures, key comparisons, and final recommendations for consideration.
Ultimate Guide to Clear Span Buildings

What Are Clear Span Buildings?

What Are Outdoor Event Venues
Clear span buildings are designed and constructed without interior load-bearing columns. This maximizes usable floor space since the interiors have no structural support elements infringing upon open areas. Building frameworks that make long, clear spans possible include rigid frames, trusses, arches, and cable structures. Materials like structural steel and engineered wood are shaped into essential support components. Roofing and wall materials are then enveloped over the supportive skeleton. Popular options for covering include metal paneling or tensioned fabric membrane. Doors and windows can also be integrated into clear span buildings as needed by the application.

Applications of Clear Span Buildings

  • Warehouses & Distribution Centers- The open interiors create unimpeded storage, retrieval, and transport of inventory. Forklifts can access racks rows, and load docks can be positioned for optimized workflow without dodging or maneuvering around poles. For e-commerce fulfillment centers that utilize significant automation, high clearance racks can scale upwards, and robotic systems can traverse laterally without collisions.
  • Indoor Sports Facilities- Clear column-free areas allow maximum flexibility in field and court layout dimensions and arrangements tailored specifically to each sport's standards. For stadium designs, spectator seating can be situated along sidelines or encircle competition zones in customizable configurations per event, unrestricted by permanent interior structures.
  • Event Venues- The adaptability of clear interiors suits changing layouts needed for concerts, festivals, conferences, and more, as stages, booths, seating, and displays can temporarily section off open areas and then revert back after events conclude. Building infrastructure is not fixed, enabling versatility in space planning.
  • Aviation Hangars- High clearance and obstruction-free space aids the maneuverability of aircraft for storage and maintenance. The lack of intermediate supports allows unencumbered wing spans and tail heights to guide fuselages into aligned positions without risk of collision, which could damage sensitive mechanical components and control surfaces.
  • Equestrian Facilities- Barns structured as clear span buildings eliminate interior poles and small confined stalls, improving horse freedom of movement and safety. Open planning suits the scaling of structure dimensions optimal to the size of horses utilizing the facilities.
  • Commercial Space- For retail stores, restaurants, grocers, and other commerce, readily adaptable interiors morph to suit evolving layout needs. Checkout zones, aisle configurations, and kitchen areas can be transformed without major building renovations. As business models change, so can the building insides.
  • Manufacturing Facilities - Equipment, conveyors, pallet flows, and robotics route through production zones without interrupting columns and narrowing machine clearances. Scaling wide bays covered by expansive rooflines suits flexible manufacturing needs.
Manufacturing Facilities

What Is the Effective Span of Clear Span Buildings?

The effective span of clear span buildings refers to the maximum distance between the two supports on either side of the structure. This span can range significantly, from 20 feet to well over 200 feet, depending on the building's design, materials, and intended use.

How Much Do Clear Span Metal Buildings Cost

The cost of clear span metal buildings varies widely based on factors such as size, materials, location, and customization. On average, prices can range from $20 to $50 per square foot for standard models, but this can escalate for larger spans or customized features. Metal buildings are generally more cost-effective for larger spans due to their strength and durability, offering a long-term solution with minimal maintenance.

How Much Do Clear Span Fabric Structures Cost

Clear span fabric structures are often more affordable than their metal counterparts, with costs ranging from $5 to $30 per square foot. These structures are lighter, easier to assemble, and require less foundational support, which contributes to their lower price point. However, the total cost can vary based on the quality of the fabric, the complexity of the design, and additional features such as insulation or HVAC systems.

How Clear Span Metal Buildings Compare to Clear Span Fabric Structures

While both clear span metal buildings and tensioned fabric structures deliver obstruction-free interiors, several comparative points differentiate the options:
  • Cost Factors - On a square foot basis, basic pre-engineered metal buildings start around $12/ft2 for simpler warehouses versus high-end architectural fabric enclosures approaching or exceeding $30/ft2 for facilities like sports stadiums. However, fundamental open canopies using vinyl fabrics can compete with economical metal building pricing, landing between $8-$12/ft2.
  • Enclosure Properties - Metal panels bonded to steel structural frames fully isolate interiors from outside wind, moisture, and temperature conditions. Fabric membranes alone provide moderate separation, lacking insulation qualities. Additional liner panels and mechanical systems upgrade interiors for enhanced climate control and acoustic needs per specific uses.
  • Durability Expectations - Properly maintained steel frames and metal skins achieve 50+ year building lifespans before major refurbishment is necessitated, though coatings may need reapplication every 10-15 years. High-quality tensioned fabric covers see warranties in the 15-20 year range before replacement is recommended. Vinyl and less advanced fabrics degrade faster from UV exposure and weathering.
  • Aesthetic Flexibility - While basic clear span metal buildings take on a stereotypical corrugated appearance, accent colors and trim customizations inject personality. Translucent membranes and interior illumination create dynamic light-filled sensations for fabric enclosures. Backlit ceiling and wall graphics further the visual wow-factor.
Comparing total lifecycle costs illuminates the long-term investment associated with each structural type. While metal constructions necessitate bigger initial capital outlays, longer use cycles spread costs over decades before major renovations arise. The advanced engineering within fabric structures balances bigger upfront pricing with eventually replaced membrane covers. Define visual, spatial, and functional needs through focused criteria before final clear span selections.
Be it warehouse distribution

Final Words

Be it warehouse distribution, aircraft storage, indoor recreation, or general commercial use, clear span structural solutions maximize multi-use floorspace flexibility now and into the future via column-free interiors adaptable to changing needs.

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Contact Us

Make On-Demand Space Solutions Easier, Faster

SHELTER has a great team of skilled architects ready to support your project or Event at any time.

When you’re ready to start your next business, get in touch with us now, and our architects will get back to you with a quote as soon as possible.

Business Email

      [email protected]

Phone Number

      USA: +1 713-386-9281

        CN: +86 13928858552

No.1 Huanghe Section,Songshan Road, Chao Tian Industrial Zone,Shilou Town Panyu District,Guangzhou