Modern Fabric Structure buildings are an inevitable and logical outcome of the Nissen Hut used extensively in the World Wars of the 20th century. In this article, we discuss Fabric Structures, their history, uses and benefits.
Nissen Huts as Precursor to Fabric Structures
The Nissen Hut, a corrugated iron covered semi-cylindrical building had two main factors influencing its design. Firstly, due to wartime materials shortages, the construction had to be economical in the use of materials. Secondly, it had to be portable and quickly and easily erected to respond to wartime needs. A standard pre-fabricated Nissen Hut could be packed into a standard army vehicle and erected in 4-6 hours by a small team.
After the war, Nissen Huts fell from favour despite attempts to adapt their use to post-war uses, including housing, construction camps and workshops.
The Advent of Modern Fabric Structures
With the advent of modern fire retardant, tear-resistant and UV proof fabrics, a new form of Fabric Structure was created at the end of the 20th century. The arched roof structure familiar in the Nissen Hut was married with sea containers and steel posts to use as mounting for the arched roof and the modern Fabric Building was invented.
Just like the Nissen Hut, it is economical in the use of materials, not for wartime shortage reasons, but for the cost-competitive market, it was introduced into. It is also portable and quickly and easily installed on remote sites. Its competitor is the traditional steel shed and innovative ways had to be found to differentiate on cost and convenience.
A modern-day fabric structure building consists of semi-circular curved steel-work secured at each end to either steel posts or sea containers and covered with a membrane of durable coated Polyethylene fabric. The whole structure is fabricated off-site, packed down into kit form and transported to site for installation.
The curved steel roof structure provides structural integrity and increased strength for a span free covered area up to 30 plus metres wide.
- Height is attained by mounting on sea containers up to three high with the height of the arch providing extra height
- Length is achieved by placing containers end to end for the required length. As a result, length can be from as little as 6 metres to unlimited
- Additional features include fabric walls where required, with personal and large equipment doors, sliding curtain walls, flooring, lighting, branding and other signage.
Common Uses of Fabric Structures
Worldwide, Fabric Structures are now often seen as alternatives to steel sheds for:
- helicopter and aircraft hangars,
- sports arenas,
- manufacturing and
This is largely due to their ease of transport to site, ease of installation and then demobilization when required.
In Australia, they are mainly utilised in the mining and industrial sectors with a small but increasing use in agriculture.
The non-permanent, portability feature, provides the key advantage to companies seeking a quick and cost-effective solution to their shelter needs, with the added benefit of installing on land they don’t own and being able to demobilize at the cessation of their contracted time. It is claimed that the overall project cost is reduced with the use of Fabric Structures compared to steel sheds. So, mining services and logistics suppliers to mining companies are also typical big users.
Benefits of Fabric Structures
Whilst steel buildings still have wide appeal, they are regarded as longer-term, even permanent, whereas Fabric Structures are non-permanent, portable. As a consequence, they have become increasingly popular on worksites where contractors need
- to be agile in getting a shelter installed quickly,
- most often on land, they don’t own and
- with a fixed term to completion of their contract.
- Often, the Shelter will be moved across the site as work needs change and
- on completion of contract, it can be dismantled and stored for future use or sold in kit form to next user.
In addition, the fabric membrane can often alleviate the need for lighting as natural light can be used and it may be cooler than a steel shed to work under in hot conditions.
Types of Fabric Structures
Fabric Structures have evolved into three distinct product types, all with the fabric-covered arched roof in common. The product is defined by its mounting substructure:
An additional option exists which is a combination of mounting options, such as post and container. The most common option is sea container mounting. Sea Containers are widely used as
- They can be transported to site with ease,
- Are standard size the world over,
- Can be secured and;
- Offer good options for secure office, storage and staff amenities associated with the Shelter.
The Durability of Fabric Structures
As a result of rigorous engineering standards and the natural benefits of the arched roof and modern fabric membrane, Fabric Structures can be built to withstand significant natural and environmental hazards. Extreme wind, snow, heat and cold can be accounted for to ensure the structural integrity of the final product in almost any extreme environmental situation.
DomeShelter Australia’s Fabric Structure design is unique to us and as a result of the innovation of our team for over 25 years. We are now one of the worlds leading manufacturers and suppliers with over 6500 Kits delivered to remote Australian sites and exported to 30 countries around the world.