Fabric Structures vs. Tent Structures

a large fabric structure outside of a manufacturing facilityThough Big Top’s fabric structures have a canvas cover and are considered temporary, they are vastly different from tent structures. Generally speaking, tent structures are used for short-term applications, such as shelters for weddings, carnivals, and similar events that only happen once or on a few weekends per year. Conversely, our fabric structures are built for long-term performance, which is why they are often used in mining and mineral field operations, oil and gas refinement facilities, aircraft and equipment maintenance shelters, and numerous other applications that require a durable structure that stands the test of time. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between fabric structures and tent structures.

Weather Resistance

Tent manufacturers will often advise their customers to plan for events when the weather is expected to be calm. That’s because the installation of tent structures is designed to be quick and efficient, meaning they’re built to last only for as long as the event. Big Top’s fabric structures feature an industrial-grade, galvanized steel frame that will hold strong in any type of weather. In fact, we can equip a fabric building with lighting protection and engineer it for heavy wind and snow loads for even better performance.

Comfortable Interiors

Though the weather during summertime is generally mild, it can get hot, especially under the low-quality canvas of a tent structure. The fabric used in our buildings is formulated to repel 99.95% of UV-A and UV-B radiation—an outstanding level of thermal performance! This means our fabric structures naturally maintain a pleasant interior temperature that is, on average, 15 degrees cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than the temperature outside, without aid from artificial climate control. This ensures that everyone inside the structure is comfortable and well-protected from sun exposure throughout the day.

Installation Practices

The short-term nature of tent installation usually means that the tent is not fastened to the ground. Big Top’s fabric structures are securely anchored for long-term performance. And they don’t require a concrete pad—they can be anchored to nearly anything, even asphalt, dirt, and shipping containers. This makes our fabric shelters ideal for both on-site and field operations. Consider also that they can be installed at a rate of 2,500 square feet per day, a swift pace that can help keep your project on budget. Big Top can train your crew on how to install your fabric structure, or we’d be happy to do it for you with our turnkey installation service.


Tent structures typically have a basic design that offers very little in the way of customization. They’re more of a one-size-fits-all solution. At Big Top, we can customize your fabric structure in myriad ways to make it work best for your operations. Your shelter can range in size from 20 feet to 174 feet wide and nearly any length your property can accommodate. We can equip it with high-quality accessories, such as HVACs, insulation, flooring, personnel and bay doors, interior partitions, and much more.

Other Benefits of Fabric Structures

As we can clearly see, fabric structures are built for long-term performance, in contrast to the short-term applications of tent structures. Indeed, with little maintenance required, our fabric shelters can last for several decades. Other benefits include:

  • Energy efficiency – The translucent fabric cover allows natural light to fully illuminate the interior, eliminating the need for electric lighting during daytime operations.
  • Portability – Our fabric structures can be moved around your property intact with a crane, and they can be disassembled and shipped to a new location to keep pace with your changing business needs.
  • Cost savings – Our solutions require fewer materials and cost less to install than traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. They can also be claimed as equipment with the IRS, potentially earning you tax benefits.

For more information about our fabric structures and how we can design and build one to meet your long-term business needs, contact Big Top today.

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