top of page




The modern day engineered fabric structure, known more universally as a tent, has applications far beyond weddings, social events, and as temporary expansion space. The versatile structures have recently come into their own in a whole new way — appearing on the scene at large construction sites of major national grocery and retail chains including Target, Whole Foods, and many others. These megastores, who often complete renovations during off-hours, have realized the benefits of using tents for staging, materials storage, organization, equipment protection, and providing impromptu meeting space for construction crews sheltered from the elements. Environmental benefits are making an even stronger case for opting to use tents rather than the standard steel storage container both for new builds and major renovation projects.

New Applications Result in Win-Win

The A/E/C industry constantly seeks better ways to get a job done — if a project or process isn’t evolving, it’s not growing into a better system. Innovation should always result in some combination of saving money and time, using resources wisely, improving work process and safety, and lessening impact on the environment. In the tent versus steel storage container debate every one of these boxes is checked and there isn’t much to recommend a container on construction sites once all the benefits of using a tent are considered.

Tamarack Grove Engineering (TGE) has been recommending tents over shipping containers for many years with great response from clients. TGE is integrally involved in the process, submitting all permits and calculations for the tent install based upon local codes and ordinances making the process seamless.

“Through educating AHJ of the benefits of using tents we have been able to help Bledsoe Tents keep many steel storage containers off of jobsites. Tents speed up the overall construction start-up process and the take down process at close of construction. And, the ultimate benefit is that this helps the store open sooner,” said Doug Hardin, P.E., TGE.

The A, B, Cs of Tents in A Construction Site Application


Many retailer clients undergoing a remodel or building an entirely new location often restrict construction activities to nighttime when stores are closed, allowing stores to remain open and generating revenue. Steel storage containers are often delivered onsite dirty and with failing locks and hinges making them difficult to safely access and navigate especially at night with minimal lighting available.

“We found by using the tent in lieu of shipping containers we were able to save a huge amount of time and money on our projects. We can locate and access building materials quickly and quietly in the middle of the night during a remodel. When using shipping containers it often takes a long time to locate the items needed and they always seem to be in the back of the container requiring us to unload all the product in order to access them,” said contractor Randy Whitacre, Project Executive, W.L. Butler.

When using a tent, looks and function meld, providing a much more attractive appearance on active jobsites:

  1. No graffiti

  2. Available in a variety of colors to match location or business

  3. Business appears to be open and operational not deterring shoppers


Building the ideal job site is facilitated when using a tent. Site preparation is easy — once you address any landscaping or light pole issues and check for utilities, you’re good to go! However, if you’re using shipping containers, the coordination between owner, owner’s rep, shipping container company, delivery company, and contractor is extensive and can take months up front to schedule. Such a lengthy and drawn out process also increases the likelihood for scheduling mistakes, coordination snafus, and delays.

With a tent there is a one-time delivery of one tent which takes a maximum of three days to assemble as opposed to 33 different delivery trucks dropping off 33 individual containers over a long period of time. The delivery of so many containers also adds exponentially to fuel and traffic pollution and the impact on roads of heavy machinery delivering the containers can be significant. Consequently, the resulting environmental impact of one truck delivering one tent versus the multitudes of containers is enormous. Additionally, containers can’t be stacked, so they take up a great deal of valuable space on a jobsite — on an average remodel there may be (40) 8’ x 40’ containers taking up to 12,800 SF of area as opposed to one 50’x150’ tent occupying a mere 7,500 SF.


The cost of tents compared to shipping containers is another clear example of the benefits. Tents are very easy on the budget, saving between 20% – 25% over the use of steel containers. “When comparing the cost of a tent to containers the math is easy if you consider all the benefits during the project and perhaps the best part is that it goes up in a day and can be taken down in a day, taking up a lot less space,” said Whitacre.


When big box retailers are contemplating their next renovation, expansion, or new location, the additional benefits of using a tent rather than shipping containers are compelling from a cost, time, coordination, and environmental impact perspective.

“I am a BIG fan of a tent vs containers because I find a tent to be so much easier to work with and much more versatile. With a tent I can setup pallet racking in many different configurations to meet the needs of the job. I can see things better for logging parts locations and it is easier to search for missing parts instead of opening up all of the containers and climbing over pallets or removing multiple pallets to find what you need.” said Thomas Cox, TBCCI.

Additional benefits of tents includes:

  • Materials can be off-loaded as they arrive, easing the sorting and storage process

  • Organization of all merchandise and building materials allows inventory to be seen and easily located

  • No need to open and unload containers piecemeal

  • Faster, easier, and cheaper shipping to site

  • Tent set up is quick

  • Weather resistant keeping materials safe and secure

  • Easy navigation of staging area and ample daylight

  • Lengths on the 50’ wide tents can be customized for each specific project

There are relatively few downsides to replacing standard cargo shipping containers with a tent on your next construction project. Site geography can occasionally be an issue for either option, however when using a tent most of these issues can be resolved quickly and efficiently by consulting with a knowledgeable engineer. “Conveying to the local AHJ that these tents are not ‘event tents’, but rather ‘temporary storage tents’ changes the definition and use of the tent from a permitting standpoint with the city building official and fire marshall. Structural engineering calculations can be shown to comply with the local code requirements for temporary hold-downs pertaining to uplift, overturning, and connections into the existing asphalt,” said Brian J. Sielaff, P.E., P.Eng. If a cargo container can be delivered and installed, a tent can be erected easier and with less coordination.


Set up time

Ease of deliver

Significant cost savings

Inventory tracking and safe retrieval

Healthier for the environment


To find out more about using a tent on your next big-box or retail project, contact Doug Hardin at or Bledsoe Tent’s Cody Jones at

Download PDF • 898KB


bottom of page