Sports clubs looking to strengthen their existing programme or boost membership appeal and employ more full-time coaches are often faced with the dilemma of what to do on the darker, inclement months when the outdoor tennis, netball, basketball courts etc can only be used for a limited amount of time, if at all. Floodlights can help to a certain extent but they only solve one issue.
A traditional building project is expensive and planning can be a challenge so they look to the alternatives. Air domes used to be the trendy solution and we have been asked several times why we don’t offer them as part of our own range of temporary buildings since there are so many similarities.
They offer an unobstructed interior space just like our fabric-covered domes. They are re-locatable and we can also tick that box. They’re cheaper than bricks and can be installed quickly. So far, there’s nothing in it.
However, that is where the similarities end and the steel-framed structures start to take the lead. Irregular dimensions are not easily accommodated with air domes and they have strict configurations, however, we are not restricted by size or shape and can fully customise our designs. Then there’s the issue of versatility and it is much harder to provide other amenities such as changing rooms, viewing areas and shower facilities in an air dome. The inflation also cannot support additional loads from mounted scoreboards, netting or divider curtains, which limits its usage potential.
Many of our customers want to be indoors and outdoors all at once. The air quality inside an air supported structure is so pressurised that it doesn’t feel natural at all, whereas, retractable side curtains or even telescopic domes allow the outside in and provide plenty of natural ventilation as well as a feeling of openness. The air lock required for the structural integrity of an air dome means that no doors or vents can be integrated and the absence of any fresh air can feel quite stifling and cave-like.
There is a perception that air domes can collapse but while we’ve only heard of this happening once, they can deflate through a loss of power supply or because of climatic conditions such as snow and ice. They require people to proactively manage them continuously and assess the risk from unpredictable weather fronts. Our steel-framed structures are engineered to stand up to extreme weather conditions without the need for additional maintenance or monitoring.
From an energy point of view, air domes are not efficient. Fans must continually keep the structure pressurised, which is an on-going operating cost and with virtually no insulation, it can be hard to achieve a comfortable temperature.
Most significantly perhaps is that air domes are designed to be seasonal & temporary whereas our steel-framed fabric-covered structures are designed to last. The process of inflating and deflating air domes is time consuming and exhausting and there’s always a risk they might be damaged while in storage, which would leave you right back at square one.
In our view, and admittedly we are biased, there is no contest. Compared to an air dome, our sports facility solutions offer more flexibility and can be designed to blend in with your surrounding architecture and natural setting. They are more energy efficient and don’t require huge amounts of gas or diesel to keep them running and, most importantly, they offer long-term durability. By all means, try an air dome but be prepared for it to have a short lifespan, after which, we will be here, ready to discuss your next move.