Philip Donald Sprung of Sprung Structures Photograph Cooper + O’Hara
Sprung Structures, a manufacturer of “stressed-membrane” buildings headquartered in the hamlet of Aldersyde, south of Calgary, can trace its roots to Philip Dorland Sprung who, beginning in 1887, made canvas products for the wall tents, chuck wagons and mattresses that were demanded in a growing West.
Philip Donald Sprung (right), great grandson of the founder and now CEO, says current success can be traced to his father, who patented structures that will not fail in heavy winds or under a snow load. Now with hundreds of sports complexes, warehouses and military installations under its belt, Sprung – the company – has 400 employees and offices in Utah and Bahrain, off the coast of Saudi Arabia.
Sprung’s structures are made of a PVC-coated polyester membrane pulled tight over lightweight, long-lasting aluminum I-beams. “The trick is that it is placed under extremely high tension,” Sprung says. “The secret to the longevity of a fabric is to limit or eliminate movement.”
The structures can be built in as few as 90 days, can be taken down and moved and come in insulated editions. The insulation and PVC coatings extend the fabric’s life to 30 years. “It pushes us into the permanent-structure market,” Sprung says. “After 30 years, you reroof your building like you would a conventional building, except with a new exterior membrane.”
Sprung has had an office in the Middle East since 1973, serving civilian and military clients. “We’ve supported U.S., Canadian and Australian forces by pre-positioning inventory for quick delivery to the various theatres,” Sprung says. “Insulation is probably even more important from an energy standpoint in warm climates than it is in cold because air conditioning is incredibly expensive.”
As for the fifth generation, Sprung’s daughter, Shelbi, is wrapping up a master’s degree in business and intends to join the company. Sprung says others among the 11 members of the company’s fifth generation have also shown interest. “We’re hoping for a smooth transition,” he says.