A Quick Guide to Rack-Supported Buildings

If storage is the most important factor for your next facility, a pallet rack-supported building might be the best option for your team. Of course, you’ll want to take a full assessment of your current and future storage needs before making any decisions. To help you along your journey, we’ll walk you through some rack-supported building basics.

Here at East Coast Storage Equipment, we’re experts on everything storage-related. While we specialize in offering quality used equipment to meet any need, our experienced team is more than capable of helping you develop, plan and install a rack-supported building system. If you want to learn more about the process and how we can help, reach out today at 888-294-5022.

What is a Rack-Supported Building?

In traditional structural steel frame buildings, a “skeleton frame” of steel columns and I-beams or trusses creates the foundational framework for the walls and the roof. After construction, workers can then install freestanding storage equipment like pallet racking. This is by and large the most common construction style for today’s warehouses.

Rack-supported buildings, in contrast, utilize racking systems to provide the structural support for the building. Instead of a structural steel framework, the racking system itself provides the basic structural components to support the roof and walls.

In most cases, facilities will use automated storage/retrieval systems (AS/RS). These systems can maximize storage space and facility operations but are not the only type of rack-supported building. Pallet rack-supported buildings also provide some key advantages over strictly steel frame buildings, but more on that later.

Are Rack-Supported Structures Different?

You might hear the terms rack-supported building and rack-supported structure used interchangeably. While both rack-supported buildings and structures incorporate racking as the main structural component, it’s often the case that structures lack some key building features — like walls.

A T-shed rack-supported structure, for instance, uses cantilever racking to provide an alternative to covered yard storage. In this kind of installation, a center column supports the steel trusses that extend past load arms to create shelter to protect from sunlight and rain.

What Does the Construction Process Look Like?

First, let’s walk through the construction process for a strictly steel frame building. Typically, workers will pour the concrete foundation first and then erect the structural steel framework. Next, they will install the roof decks and siding. Once workers finish the underground work, they will pour the concrete for the slab. 

Once the curing process is complete, workers will erect the racking system one frame at a time. Across this process, workers will face quite a few challenges. For one, space is at a premium. Workers will often face access and height limitations when installing racking, leading to under-optimized storage space.

With the construction of rack-supported buildings, installation begins with pouring the concrete slab. Afterward, workers will erect the racking. This provides workers an environment with ample space. Often, workers will assemble multiple frames while they are lying on their side and then stand them up on the slab. After racking is up, workers will install the walls and roof.

Since much of the work happens at ground level, parts of the installation, like bolt-up, are easier. This construction method also provides greater accuracy with alignment, along with other advantages.

During the construction of rack-supported buildings (pictured), workers erect racking before installing other elements like the walls or the roof — allowing for better-optimized placement of racking in dense storage environments.

Advantages of Rack-Supported Buildings

With rack-supported buildings, workers can essentially work toward erecting the building while installing the racking system instead of completing building construction and then moving toward installing the storage system. As you can imagine, this can save quite a bit of time during the overall installation and construction process. But that’s not all:

  • Lower initial construction costs — By utilizing racking as building supports, much of the steel framework components used with traditional steel frame construction won’t be as necessary.
  • Maximize vertical storage capacity — Since pallet racking will often run all the way to the ceiling, rack-supported buildings maximize every inch of vertical space.
  • No building columns — Planning out a racking system often means working around building obstacles like support columns. This is not a concern with rack-supported buildings.
  • Tax benefits — Some states will offer tax benefits for rack-supported buildings.

While you’ll find plenty of benefits of using a pallet rack-supported building, these structures are not for every application. If you need dynamic storage for a diverse inventory and constantly shifting SKUs, a rack-supported system may not provide the flexibility you need to maintain storage optimization.

In a rack-supported system, racking is permanently in place. Moving racks around can be a significant pain. So, when are rack-supported buildings a good choice? 

Where Do Rack-Supported Building Work Best?

As you can imagine, deciding to use a rack-supported building system over traditional steel frame construction is not the perfect solution for all environments. When choosing your preferred construction method, you’ll want to consider a few factors:

  • Does your business require the ability to change the building configuration?
  • Will you need to add or remove storage throughout the building’s lifetime?
  • What is the preferred height of your building?

These questions can help you make an informed decision. When it comes to rack-supported systems, they are preferable when:

  • You need to maximize your storage density (I.e., storage per cubic foot)
  • Land is at a premium, so a small footprint is desirable
  • The site has high wind or seismic considerations

Rack-supported buildings are best for storage purposes only. If facility operations include processing or manufacturing, rack-supported might not be the right choice. Some ideal environments include:

  • Maintenance shops
  • Climate-controlled warehouses
  • Lumber storage
  • Freezer or cooler exterior structures

Plan Your Rack-Supported Building with East Coast Storage Equipment

Pallet rack-supported buildings offer facilities an optimized construction process if storage is the main purpose of the warehouse. Not only can you save on material costs, but construction often happens faster than with traditional steel frame construction methods.If you’re considering a rack-supported building, teaming up with a qualified team is the first step of the process. At East Coast Storage Equipment, we’ve got decades of hands-on experience working with many different types of storage solutions, including rack-supported buildings. We can assist with everything from design to installation. Reach out today to learn more about how we can help.

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