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What’s the difference between an industrial tent and a temporary building?

On the face of it the difference between an industrial tent and temporary building could simply a matter of perception. Both can often look similar and both can be installed very quickly onto existing hard surfaces. The key difference however is something very important as it is critical to safety, functionality and longevity.

Tricky one this as people refer to temporary buildings in so many different ways with industrial tents or marquees being one of them. This is probably because they share a similar installation method that is fast and easy and usually doesn’t need any kind of ground-works or preparation.

But, if you’re going to be technically accurate there are some major differences centered around quality, durability and safety.

What is an industrial tent?

Just that really; a marquee being used for industrial storage. The frame will be aluminium and the walls could be fabric PVC or hard sided steel walls.

But, and this is a big but, if the structure originally started life as an events marquee then the frame will probably be lower in quality and strength compared to a temporary building and can therefore not legitimately be used long-term.

The frame for marquees and temporary buildings come in sections. The former usually have sections or bays that are 2.5m wide. Temporary buildings however, with the larger stronger frame, come in sections/bays of 5m width.

So, if for example you want to hire an industrial tent for long-term storage and the specification shows 2.5m wide bays then you’d be wise to ask to see a copy of the structural calculations before proceeding.

What do you want to see on the calculations? You want to see that the building meets BS6399 meaning it has been engineered to meet the UK’s maximum snow and wind loadings. If you see a snow loading of 25kg/m2 then you aren’t getting the required strength for long-term use.

Yes, of course your industrial tent might be a lower cost than a temporary building, but what about the cost of building control asking you to remove it? Or the safety and potential human costs should it become unstable in strong winds or collapse under heavy snow? Or, the cost of damage goods from a lack of security? And so on.

How do temporary buildings compare?

We’ve pretty much covered this off in the first section of this article, but how much better does this added strength actually make temporary buildings? And, how does this mean they can used and what for?

Firstly, you can safety and legitimately use them long-term. In-fact, in some cases, businesses are choosing to use them as an alternative to more permanent structures.

And, with the ability to buy them as well as hire these companies are achieving considerable savings when compared to the time and investment associated with bricks and mortar. They do also still have an asset that could be dismantled and sold on if they decide they don’t need it.

So, for additional warehouses, storage units, workshops or loading canopies they can give short interim space, or long-term semi permanent facilities.

An industrial tent could provide very short term storage solutions, but temporary buildings can come with a design life of fifteen years and there are existing structures in the UK that have been in situ for much longer and are still going strong.

Heating considerations do need to be given for long-term use of temporary buildings as the energy efficiency might be too low. But, for basic industrial storage or operational applications they can easily stand the test of time.

The differences are clear and simple once you’re abreast of the structural issues and or have actually seen the buildings to compare. Industrial tents can be a simple and effective solution for short term basic weather protection. But, anything over a few months and you’re moving into temporary building territory and something altogether much more durable and safer for your business.

You can read more about the structural integrity of temporary buildings here.

We’d be interested in any comments below about your experience of industrial tents or temporary buildings.