Thinking Inside the Box

I have been told by both manufacturers and tent installers that there is a bit of confusion associated with specifications and installation procedures for engineered tents and membrane structures, so without further ado, we are going to start “thinking inside the box.” Our box contains the specifications the manufacturer maintains their engineered product accomplishes. The specification basis that the manufacturer stipulates is the basis that the installers need to follow.

The manufacturer defines the basis for the standard and should provide the installer with these specifications including staking diagrams and the soil support that was used in their testing to validate their products wind load rating.  (Soil Testing Video) The next step is an educational process between the installer and the manufacturer on how to duplicate the specifications as a starting point using the manufacturer’s suggested guidelines. Education between the installer and the manufacturer is the common denominator to replicate the manufacturer’s basis with the installers installation. By not following the manufacturer’s basis, the integrity of the installers installation will decline and we are back to confusion.


We begin our exercise with an engineered tent that stipulates a maximum wind load of 70 mph. During the onsite installation inspection, the installer has decided an adjustment is needed that requires a change in the basis of the box. Once this change has been initiated the engineering has been altered and the tent will need to adjust its basis to this change. A conversation between the installer and manufacturer is necessary to decide the new wind load status based on the change to the installer’s basis.

To verify the integrity of our installation we begin by creating a risk management plan using the manufacturer’s basis and wind load rating. To understand wind sequences for wind loads, we will use the Beaufort Wind Scale, for wind velocity. A Beaufort Wind Scale example is a gale force wind starting around 34 mph and ranging up to 47 mph as the YouTube clip demonstrates  Gale Force Wind. Once the gale force wind occurs the event is in jeopardy and we could be humming the tune “Turn Out the Lights the Party is Over.” Nevertheless, our risk management plan states that an evacuation plan must be implemented before these gale force winds occur. Our 70 mph engineered tent may survive, but you and the client must understand that the tent or membrane structure is no longer considered a safe haven.

By following the recommended installation procedures of an engineered tent basis and developing a risk management plan within the basis, you will create the foundation of a safe event. Before presenting your next risk management plan to an AHJ and your client, invite them to join you “inside the box.”

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