Fabric structures should not be confused with tents as they are not in the first place. A tent is a wooden frame or metal that is covered with fabric. And the fabric just simply drapes over the frame that provides the flexible walls. Tents are portable and temporary and they can be taken down and be moved quickly, in most cases, in a matter of hours. Most tents though, are not capable of handling extreme weather such as strong wind of snow. The difference between a fabric structure and a tent is the tension. The fabric in a fabric structure is under a strong tension which allows it to create ridged ceilings and walls that do not flap in the wind or buckle under snow. The fabric is also stretched over a strong steel or an aluminum frame. Both the fabric and the frame can withstand winds for even up to 120 miles per hour. They also have the capacity to support as much as 40 pounds per square foot.
Fabric structures can be erected quickly, but the smaller structures need no foundations or footers anymore. This makes them ideal for temporary structures. They are also often used by military organizations or they serve as temporary warehouses or work spaces while having the construction. The sports and recreation, and entertainment industries also utilize fabric structures. They have replaced the inflatable structures because of a tear or puncture in the surface of the fabric structure does not put the structural integrity of the whole building into compromise.
Moreover, the temporary nature of fabric structures is the reason why they usually fall into a gray area of building permit laws. In many places, a builder is not required to secure a permit if the structure is just temporary. And fabric structures can be both permanent or temporary, thus they are not easily categorized. A property owner who has plans of erecting a fabric structure in place need to work closely with the local building officials in order to be sure that the given laws are being observed and followed before deciding to erect the structure.