Tension and tensile buildings are both used to protect other structures and work areas from environmental conditions like direct heat and rain. They’re also a popular and cheaper alternative to traditional buildings, which take more time and materials to erect. Despite their similarities, these structures aren’t interchangeable, nor are they suitable for every application. If you want to choose the best fabric structure for your application, let’s take a look at the differences between tension and tensile fabric buildings.

What Is a Tension Fabric Building?

Tension fabric buildings are relatively straightforward and include two main components: a simple steel framework and a fabric membrane. The steel framework provides all the structural support, dispersing force and pressure throughout the cords and posts of the structure. The cables pulled taught create tension, rather than the fabric creating the tension itself, which allows the weight and force of building loads to put less stress on the fabric membrane. Tension fabric buildings are often used for warehouses, livestock, and agricultural buildings or even as event structures.

What Is a Tensile Fabric Building?

Tensile buildings are visually complex and are typically used to make stunning pieces of architecture with their dramatic curves and tall, sharp points. However, unlike tension-fabric buildings, the fabric of a tensile building is pulled and manipulated, becoming incredibly stiff. In this way, the fabric itself takes the full force and pressure of building loads rather than the framework itself. Where tension fabric buildings are considered more permanent, tensile fabric buildings are not. These structures are commonly used as walkway shelters, open-air canopies, and atrium roofing.

What’s Best for Your Application?

To put it simply, the main difference between tension and tensile buildings is that tensile buildings are used for aesthetic purposes, while tension buildings need to be durable for more industrial applications. Tension buildings are mostly used to protect jobsites, so they have to be sturdy, weather resistant, and flame retardant. If you’re looking for a fabric structure that’s made to withstand the elements and will last you for years to come, tension buildings are your best bet.

If you’re in the market for a custom, high-tension fabric structure, Big Top Manufacturing has you and your jobsite covered. We’re long-time experts in the field, and we can design our fabric structures to meet a variety of needs and applications, from event structures to military hangars and beyond.

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