A Comparison of Rack-Supported vs Conventional Buildings


The decision to construct a new warehouse often includes endless hours devoted to site selection and the type of material handling equipment and technology to be used to support the new facility. Often, it becomes a foregone conclusion that the facility will be a steel frame structure with freestanding rack. This conclusion, however, deserves greater debate. 

Steel Frame vs. Rack Supported Structures

Structural steel frame buildings are the most common construction style in use for today’s warehouses. Utilizing a “skeleton frame” of vertical steel columns and horizontal I-beams or trusses, the building is constructed in a rectangular grid to support the roof and walls which are all attached to the frame. The building is then equipped with freestanding rack for material storage. In contrast, a rack supported building is comprised of a complete storage rack system, with the rack system being the basic structural support for the building’s roof and walls. In this scenario, the roof and walls are often referred to as the “skin.” 


A side-by-side comparison of the two styles relies primarily upon the intended use of the facility. For pure storage purposes, the rack-supported structure has many benefits. On the other hand, if other business processes are interspersed with that of material storage, or if business requirements might force a change in the building’s overall configuration, a steel frame building might prove the best choice.

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