Texas Strong: Weathering Harsh Winds with Clearspan Fabric Structures

When people ask about factors affecting oil prices, industry vets often point to three things: taxes, politics, and weather. And weather is certainly a critical part of the conversation in the Gulf Coast oil industry right now. Spring may be a welcome change to the oil industry vs. the harsh winter the nation experienced this year, but spring also brings wildly unpredictable weather. As one example, strong winds and heavy rains have already hit the Texas Gulf Coast particularly hard during the first quarter of 2017. These extreme conditions possess the power to bring oil plant productivity to a screeching halt, causing delays that can severely impact the bottom line.

As far as facilities go, extreme weather can easily take down temporary structures such as lunch tents and temporary warehouses that aren’t properly engineered. What’s more is that the American Petrochemical Association (API) found that many weather-related injuries and incidents could have been prevented with a properly engineered temporary fabric structure. According to RP 756, “Previous incidents have demonstrated that tent occupants are susceptible to injuries from…tent collapse due to extreme weather… Some of these hazards are addressed by tent design standards.” Seasonal elements like heavy rain and wind shouldn’t be overlooked when choosing on-site lunch and break tents, temporary warehouse structures, and maintenance facilities.


Wind-load certified structures

Standard tents that aren’t wind-load certified can typically withstand wind speeds of 30-50 miles per hour. These structures don’t stand a chance against 65 MPH wind gusts, let alone heavy rains. A properly engineered wind load certified structure can withstand heavy rainfall and wind loads up to 130 miles per hour. That’s the clear difference between the two.



A certified Clearspan fabric structure is engineered to withstand a stated wind speed, which involves three types of wind load forces: shear, lateral, and uplift.

  • Shear load – horizontal wind pressure that can make a facility tilt
  • Lateral load – push-pull pressure that can move a structure off its foundation
  • Uplift load—pressure from wind flow that causes lifting effects

But the wind force itself is only one part of the equation.

So, what exactly makes a structure that can stand up to the elements and weather conditions in a South Texas oil and chemical plant? The answer lies in engineering and anchoring power.

Anchoring power in fabric structures

A clearspan fabric structure is more than the sum of its parts. Even when built with tough, durable Précontraint fabric, the way that fabric is attached to a frame is ultimately the most important aspect in determining a structure’s efficacy. Productivity, profitability and the safety of your workforce depends on structures that stand up to the most unpredictable conditions. Custom engineering is key to setting up a facility that will meet the specific needs of your job site.

The idea is to anchor a temporary clearspan structure with enough power to withstand the opposing forces of wind, both vertically and laterally. As one of Sunbelt Rentals' engineering specialists, Brian Szkaradnik, explains: “In a typical design process, one of the first things we’ll do is run the model simulation to determine the anchoring forces required for each load case, which includes dead load, snow load, and a couple of variations on wind load depending on the direction the wind comes.” And, with so many factors affecting the wind forces imposed on a structure — altitude, proximity to bodies of water, structure size, roof slope and more — it’s critical that your vendor knows what they are doing.

Vendor expertise

Hire a vendor with a vast inventory currently in their warehouse, and ask about off-the-shelf wind load certified structures that can be tailored to your job site and built within the timeframe you need. Make sure your vendor has experience working within your industry or similar industries, and make sure they are familiar with your region.

Finally, ask questions so you understand your options. As an example, the Mahaffey Max 756, the Mahaffey Tension Series, and the Mahaffey MegaStructureTM are all designed to withstand extreme winds, so how do you know which one is right for your job site? When interviewing vendors, talk with a project manager who can identify the right structures for your project.

Extreme conditions can stall your operation, costing you time and money. Working with an experienced vendor who can provide you the right structure for your job site and climate will help you avoid unnecessary risk.

Interested in reducing turnarounds, shutdowns, or weather delays with Clearspan fabric structures? Talk to us.

Contact us

Topics: Clearspan Fabric Structure Blast Shelters Lunch and Break Tent