What is the Difference Between Pre-Engineered and Non-Pre-Engineered Fabric Buildings?
Pre-engineered fabric buildings and non-pre-engineered fabric buildings differ in terms of their design, construction process, and customization options. Here’s an overview of the differences between the two:
Pre-engineered fabric buildings:
- Design: Pre-engineered fabric buildings have standardized designs that are developed by manufacturers or engineering firms. These designs are typically based on industry standards and are optimized for cost-efficiency, functionality, and structural integrity.
- Construction process: The construction of pre-engineered fabric buildings involves assembling prefabricated components that are manufactured off-site. These components are designed to fit together easily, often using bolted connections or other simple installation methods. The construction process is typically faster compared to non-pre-engineered buildings.
- Customization: Pre-engineered fabric buildings offer a degree of customization within certain limits. Manufacturers typically provide options for different sizes, roof shapes, door and window placements, and other basic features. However, extensive customization beyond these predefined options may not be possible or may come at an additional cost.
Non-pre-engineered fabric buildings:
- Design: Non-pre-engineered fabric buildings are often designed by architects or engineering firms to meet specific project requirements. The design process involves considering factors such as the location, purpose, local building codes, and client preferences. These buildings are typically more tailored to specific needs, but the design process may take longer.
- Construction process: The construction of non-pre-engineered fabric buildings involves more on-site fabrication and customization. The building components are often created or modified directly at the construction site. This process may require more time and skilled labor compared to pre-engineered buildings.
- Customization: Non-pre-engineered fabric buildings offer a higher level of customization. Since the design is developed specifically for the project, there is more flexibility in incorporating unique features, architectural details, and specific functional requirements. This customization, however, may increase the overall cost of the project.
While most fabric building manufacturers offer product lines covering the whole market, they generally specialize in either pre-engineered buildings or non-pre-engineered buildings. In the industry, pre-engineered buildings are often referred to as commodity buildings. The strategy behind the commodity building business involves mass production, lean manufacturing, low customization, low margins, and high sales volume for profitability. Companies focused on the non-pre-engineered, or custom building market specialize in producing customized, often large, buildings uniquely configured to meet customers’ needs. Common uses for commodity buildings include agriculture, golf cart storage, and smaller horse riding arenas. Common uses for custom buildings include fertilizer storage, indoor practice facilities, and mining.
An analogy that helps explain the difference is to compare the commodity building business to an economy car, like a Kia Rio, and the custom building business to a custom-order one-ton pickup, like a Ford Super Duty F-350. Some people need the least expensive method to get from point A to point B, while others need their vehicle to meet specific work requirements.
Ultimately, the choice between pre-engineered and non-pre-engineered fabric buildings depends on factors such as budget, project timeline, customization needs, and specific project requirements. Pre-engineered buildings are often preferred for their cost-effectiveness and faster construction, while non-pre-engineered buildings are chosen when customization and design flexibility are essential.
GNB Learn is an information resource for general contractors, developers, engineers, architects, and individuals interested in tension fabric buildings. Learn articles are written by our installation, engineering, and project management staff based on lessons they’ve learned from working in the field.