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The hangar has more than 50,000 feet of clear area, allowing the airships to park inside the building for storage, maintenance, and charging. The building has a sidewall height of 60 feet, increasing to 82 feet high at the peak.

Expansive fabric hangar supports off-the-grid operation.

Solar Ship, Inc. is a Canadian company that develops hybrid aircraft designed to provide access to remote locations worldwide. The Solar Ship aircraft operate using solar power — an ideal the company is committed to maintaining in the design of its assembly facilities and hangars. In 2014, Solar Ship contacted Legacy Building Solutions to engineer, install, and provide project management services on a new hangar in Brantford, Ontario.

Space was a primary consideration for the new hangar. The largest craft Solar Ship manufactures has a 100-foot wingspan. To accommodate this, the hangar has more than 50,000 feet of clear area, measuring 176 feet by 231 feet. This allows the ships to park inside the building for storage, maintenance, and charging. The building is also formidably tall, with a sidewall height of 60 feet, soaring to 82 feet high at the peak.

The Solar Ship hangar has rooftop solar panels. Solar Ship operates off the grid except for a small generator used to store power for overcast days.

Rooftop solar panels were another top-level requirement for the hangar. Solar Ship operates off the grid except for a small generator used to store power for overcast days. The top of the structure features a rooftop array consisting of photovoltaic cells as well as 1.18 kPa roof rain-on-snow load.

“We’re not connected at all to Brantford Power,” said Lewis Reford, partner at Solar Ship. “We charge during sunny days and can work the next two or three days if we need to. We don’t need the grid and we’re not held ransom by electricity prices. We know the cost of our electricity for the next 20 years.”

Point loads from the solar panels are engineered into the building frame. The frames run parallel to the solar panels, which prevents uplift.

The natural properties of a fabric structure enhance the efficiency of the solar panels. The fabric roof and walls allow natural light into the building, eliminating the need for electric lights on most days.

“We really appreciate the translucency of the fabric,” said Reford. “During the day, there is enough sunlight inside the building to operate without additional lighting. It’s like getting the benefit of a skylight without the added cost.”

The fabric is also non-conductive, maintaining a consistent interior temperature rather than magnifying the outside conditions on especially cold or hot days. The fabric seals tightly around openings and features a continuous liner with thermal break on the interior, which has been shown to reduce air leakage to a minimum.

The hangar’s extra-large sliding door measures 164 feet by 59 feet. When open, the door extends beyond the width of the structure and is supported by a special frame that was designed by Legacy Building Solutions.

One of the most visible features of the hangar is the extra-large door. The sliding door measures 164 feet by 59 feet. When open, the door extends beyond the width of the structure and is supported by a special frame that was designed by Legacy. Personnel access the buildings via separate doors.

“Legacy Building Solutions has given Solar Ship more than just a state-of-the-art hangar and assembly building,” Reford said. “Through our close collaboration, their design incorporates a self-reliant photovoltaic power package that sits above the fabric roof, allowing our building operations to be entirely off-grid. In addition, Legacy’s foundation design allowed us to reuse an existing concrete pad, saving us time and money during construction. These innovations were part of our top-level requirements and delivering on them really sets Legacy apart from the traditional building segment.”

The innovative design and sustainability of the hangar have received recognition beyond Solar Ship as well. In May 2016, the hangar was awarded Game Changer Project of the Year by the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) for using a reliable and cost-effective system that advances the future of building-integrated distributed generation.


Juliet Brambrink is with Legacy Building Solutions (www.legacybuildingsolutions.com).

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