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Home -- Blogs -- Clear Span vs. Multi Span Buildings: How to Choose

Clear Span vs. Multi Span Buildings: How to Choose


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

Updated: May 28, 2024
Published: April 29, 2024
When setting about a construction project, one of the primary considerations is the type of building structure best suited for your needs. Among the choices, clear span and multi span buildings are prevalent due to their versatility and efficiency. This article provides insights into the distinctions between clear span and multi span buildings, their advantages and disadvantages, and guidelines to help you decide which is right for your specific project.
Clear span vs. multi span buildings 1

About Clear Span Buildings

Clear span buildings are structures that feature an unobstructed interior space without the need for internal supports such as columns or trusses. This architectural style is typically utilized in spaces where large, open areas are necessary, such as in warehouses, agricultural buildings, sports facilities, and manufacturing plants.

About Multi Span Buildings

Multi span buildings, unlike their clear span counterparts, incorporate internal supports, which can include columns or beams, dividing the space into multiple sections or spans. These buildings are common in commercial real estate, such as shopping centers, office buildings, and in industrial settings where segmented spaces are beneficial.

Pros of Clear Span Buildings

Flexibility of Space

Clear span buildings are engineered to provide an expansive, open area free of obstructions, enabling complete autonomy in layout design. This unobstructed space is particularly valuable in settings where interior mobility and layout fluidity are crucial. For example, in events centers, the lack of columns allows for unimpeded sightlines and adaptable seating arrangements, enhancing both functionality and aesthetic appeal. Similarly, in logistics centers, the open floor plan facilitates the efficient movement and storage of large quantities of goods, optimizing operational flow.

Ease of Construction

The construction of clear span buildings is notably streamlined due to the minimal use of internal supports. This simplicity not only accelerates the building process but also reduces the complexity associated with architectural planning and construction management. Fewer structural components mean that fewer calculations and less construction material are needed, which can lead to significant reductions in both time and cost. For instance, the erection of a clear span steel warehouse can be completed up to 30% faster compared to traditional structures, offering quicker occupancy and earlier return on investment.

Clear span vs. multi span buildings 2

Cons of Clear Span Buildings


Despite their advantages, clear span buildings often come with higher upfront costs. The requirement for durable materials capable of supporting wide spans without internal columns means investing in high-quality steel or reinforced concrete. This can make initial expenditures for clear span buildings considerably higher than those with internal supports. For instance, the cost per square foot can be up to 20% higher than traditional structures, particularly as spans increase beyond typical dimensions.

Limitation in Width

Practical limits to the width of clear span constructions pose another significant drawback. While spans up to 150 feet are common, extending beyond this range often requires specialized designs and materials, escalating costs exponentially. Engineering constraints also become more pronounced as the span increases, leading to higher demands on material strength and foundation stability. In cases where widths exceed 150 feet, the feasibility and economic viability of using clear span architecture must be carefully evaluated against the intended use and long-term benefits.

Pros of Multi Span Buildings


Multi span buildings offer a cost-efficient solution, particularly for large-scale constructions. The integration of internal supports allows for the use of lighter, less expensive materials, since the load is distributed across multiple points rather than needing to span a large open area. This results in a significant reduction in the cost per square meter as compared to clear span structures. For instance, the cost of materials and construction for multi span buildings can be up to 25% lower than that of clear span buildings, especially in structures exceeding 150 feet in width.


The design of multi span buildings inherently supports future modifications and expansions. The presence of multiple sections or bays divided by supports makes it easier to plan and execute extensions without disrupting the entire structure. This characteristic is invaluable for industrial complexes and commercial facilities that anticipate phased growth over time. The flexibility to expand in predetermined segments can greatly reduce downtime and operational disruptions during expansions.

Structural Integrity

Multi span buildings are capable of supporting heavier loads due to the structural reinforcement provided by internal supports. This makes them particularly suited for industrial uses where heavy machinery, multiple floors, and additional loads such as HVAC systems are common. The enhanced load-bearing capacity also makes multi span buildings ideal for environments subject to heavy snow, wind, or seismic activities, as they can be designed to meet specific structural codes and requirements more feasibly than clear span structures.

Clear span vs. multi span buildings 3

Cons of Multi Span Buildings

Space Restriction

One significant disadvantage of multi span buildings is the limitation on space usability imposed by internal columns. These columns can obstruct large vehicles, machinery, or equipment from moving freely within the building, which can be a critical drawback in warehousing, manufacturing, and assembly operations. The placement of these supports needs to be strategically planned to minimize disruption to workflow and space utility, which can add complexity to the initial design phase.

Complexity in Design

The architectural and engineering planning for multi span buildings is inherently more complex due to the integration of internal supports. Each column or support beam must be precisely calculated to handle specific loads and to integrate seamlessly with the building's overall design. This not only increases the initial time and cost involved in the design phase but also requires specialized expertise to ensure that all aspects of the building's performance meet the necessary standards. Additionally, the presence of multiple spans can complicate modifications and renovations, as any changes must account for the structural dependencies between spans.

Clear Span vs. Multi Span Buildings: Which Is Right For You

Choose Clear Span Building

  • If you require large, unobstructed open spaces for various activities such as sports, large events, or manufacturing large items:this structure is ideal for scenarios where interior flexibility and the absence of obstructive columns are crucial for operational efficiency and space utilization.

Or Choose Multi Span Building

  • If your budget is tight and you're constructing a large building: the use of internal supports reduces the need for expensive wide-span materials, lowering overall construction costs.
  • If you anticipate needing to modify or expand your building in the future: its segmented structure allows for easier and more cost-effective expansions or modifications.
  • If the site conditions are challenging, such as uneven terrain or unstable soils, a multi span building is more suitable: its design allows for better adaptation to diverse ground conditions by distributing structural loads across multiple supports.
Clear span vs. multi span buildings 4

Final Words

Choosing the right type of building structure is crucial for the success of your construction project. Clear span and multi span buildings each offer unique benefits and can be optimal choices under different circumstances. By considering your project’s specific requirements and constraints, you can make an informed decision that ensures functionality, cost-efficiency, and adaptability for future 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