Air Supported Buildings VS Rubb Fabric Structures

Bubbles, sport bubbles, and air supported buildings are popular and affordable alternatives to traditional construction and framed tensioned fabric structures such as Rubb’s solutions.

Manufacturers and providers of these products state the following as advantages:

  • Inflate when needed, deflate when not needed
  • Large clearspan space
  • Installed and sourced quickly
  • Air structures/bubble cost a fraction of alternatives.

Though the points above are generally valid, the question remains:  are air structures truly a more cost effective solution? Below are questions that need to be answered prior to making the decision to purchase an air supported structure.

Do these buildings need to be inflated 24/7?  How much will that cost?

The building needs to be continually inflated by a compressor 24/7/365 or it will collapse.  The utility costs of doing this will erode much of the savings of the building over time. You will also need to have a significant back up generator capacity.

What if there is a power failure or damage to the membrane?

The bubble will burst or deflate. Snow, wind, projectiles, and power failures can all cause deflation and the collapse of air structures. It is vitally important to remember that safety is paramount, as many people often occupy these structures, as well as valuable assets and equipment. In the recent case of a sports dome at a college in New Hampshire, sliding snow damaged the connection between the roof and the doors and tore a hole in the roof, collapsing the structure.  As this happened during the winter, the building was out of action until spring.

Is it easy to inflate/set up the building and also deflate the building?

It is true that only one “specialized technician” who understands the building is required to install and deflate the building, but he will need many, many strong friends!  Once deflated the building will need to be properly stored to prevent damage and mold growth.


Is the clearspan space within the building all usable?

Due to the design of the building, the base of the sidewall slopes downward toward the connection point with the foundation thereby making much of the area near the sidewalls (interior perimeter) useless.  With a Rubb building, the sidewalls can be designed to make all interior space usable.  Why pay for square footage that is unusable?

Air Structure projects can be completed in a very short time frame of 2-3 months?

Yes this is true, however a standard design Rubb fabric structure can also be provided quickly.  Though not as quick as an Air Structure, Rubb buildings can be typically completed in half the time of standard construction.

Are Air Structures significantly cheaper?

Yes, however if you analyze the cost of ownership over the life of the building then the answer is no.  In Rubb’s estimation, the ongoing costs of utilities and upkeep will erode the initial price savings in 7-10 years.


Air supported buildings or “bubbles” are a popular and cost effective solution for:

  • Limited seasonal operations where the facility is only needed for a few months.
  • Very temporary situations where an indoor structure is needed for a short term of a few years.  In this case the best scenario would be a lease or agreed buy-back agreement.

At Rubb, all we ask is for the customer to ask the right questions and gather the correct information to make the best business decision before buying a building.  Rubb offers complimentary consultations for new buildings with no obligations.

Let us help you get all the facts.