Caterpillar commissioned an air supported structure to serve as their new “Indoor Test Facility” for research and development work year-round.

The facility’s primary purpose was to provide a conditioned, weatherproof environment for Caterpillar and Trimble Technologies to validate and develop their machine control guidance systems and process equipment installation.  Utilizing an air supported structure for the project was a necessity due to the GPS signal requirements of the client; extensive testing done by Caterpillar and Trimble inside of the existing Danbury Sports Dome confirmed the GPS signal penetrated the fabric envelope completely and allowed their equipment inside to register locations accurately to the inch. This would be impossible to do in a traditional building or frame structure.

The task of releasing large amounts of exhaust fumes from the structure, while simultaneously  maintaining the appropriate water static pressure inside to keep the dome fully inflated, was a challenge we had to approach with some ingenuity. The venting system was designed by our team to capable of releasing 120,000 cubic feet of air per minute as soon as the interior gas detection equipment registered an “unsafe” level present in the dome. Two custom inflation units were installed to ensure that the unsafe air being expelled from the dome was immediately replaced by clean fresh air being pumped in. All of the components operate together to achieve an equilibrium inside of the structure, which helps to minimize any potential fluctuations and keep the dome properly pressurized at all times.

The air structure was manufactured and erected at Caterpillar’s Peoria Proving Grounds in the fall of 2016. The project was completed successfully, and Caterpillar/Trimble were able to continue their research and development work all throughout the winter without interruption.


Dimensions: 310’ L x 210’ W x 70’ H
Size: 65,100 sq. ft.
The Facility is up: Year round
Purpose: Indoor R&D Facility
Location: Illinois

Number of Lights: 54
Type of Lights: G-2 440 watt LED Hanglite
HVAC: Heating
Fabric: Translucent White with PVDF coating
Insulation: R-8 Thermal Construction
Cable System: Full Bias Cable Net System