Everything you need to know about Tier 1 and Tier 2 structures, and how they affect your project!

Are you thinking about installing a carport? Are you having a hard time choosing a structured supplier? Do you know which structure type you need? 

If you have been asking yourself these questions, then you have come to the right place! There are many factors to consider when purchasing a carport. Not only do you need to determine which structure design you want, but you also if a Tier 1 or Tier 2 structure is right for you. While both Tier 1 and Tier 2 structures achieve relatively the same goal, there are many differentiating factors that one should consider when spec’ing a structure

Structure quality is a major determinate between a Tier 1 and Tier 2 structure, choosing the quality of the structure is often the biggest hurdle customers face. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a structure:

Tier 1 vs Tier 2 Factors

  • Materials
  • Lifetime Expectancy
  • Installation
  • Accessories

Factors of Determinants: Tier 1 vs Tier 2

Many aspects come into play when deciding if a structure is Tier 1 or Tier 2. Tier 1 has a higher up-front cost compared to a Tier 2 due to the quality of materials used in structure fabrication. A Tier 1 structure made of structural steel creates a more durable structure, allowing it to withstand more extreme weather conditions in addition to having a longer lifespan – in some cases close to double. While a Tier 2 structure is also made of steel these, materials are often thinner, less-durable, roll-formed profiles that are prone to higher rates of corrosion and degradation. This causes the structure to become more susceptible to damage and structure failure at a faster rate.


Both Tier 1 and Tier 2 structure providers offer standard accessories to be added, giving the structure the ability to meet lighting and security requirements. This allows you to add additional area lighting, security cameras, and charging stations. When comparing the two, they both offer standard accessories for specific needs depending on a project’s needs. 

Costs and Other Determining Factors

When determining the cost of a solar structure, three main cost points must be considered: Initial project cost, projected maintenance cost, and lifetime costs. The first, initial project cost, totals the cost of the solar structure as well as the cost of completely installing the system. The second cost point is the projected maintenance cost of the structure. This includes upkeep on the system and can range from cleaning panels to re-painting the structure itself. The third cost point to consider is project lifetime costs. This is viewed as the most important cost metric in the project since it sums up the total capital investment of the project coupled with the length of time that the investment is actualized.

Upfront and Installation Costs

A Tier 1 structure typically requires a larger upfront investment due to their higher quality materials. These materials allow the structure to easily maintain a projected lifetime of 30 years, which leads to a better investment when looking at the project lifetime cost. The installation of a Tier 1 structure can be beneficial to the customer if this process is engineered for flexibility and increased installation speed. If installation times are significantly reduced, then the soft cost of installations can be greatly reduced. Not to mention the structure being up and running means you are saving money while adding value to your company more quickly. Most Tier 1 structures do not offer an improved installation process and in most cases take as long as Tier 2 Structures to install.

A Tier 2 structure typically has a lower upfront investment cost. This allows for a Tier 2 structure to be more accessible to a larger range of investors and offers the potential for a return to be actualized in a shorter period. Tier 2 structures lack an improved installation process and many installations can take upwards of two months, restricting the use of parking locations. In most cases, installation costs cannot be reduced when using Tier 2 structures.

Maintenance Cost 

Due to the quality of materials and coatings often used in Tier 1 structures, they require less maintenance and are at a lower risk of structural members failing. This not only reduces the risk of the investment but also cuts down on costs associated with repairing and replacing members due to damage from accidents and corrosion. With a Tier 1 structure, this cost does apply to the entire duration of the structure lifetime and must be considered.

Tier 2 solar structures do not benefit from structural steel or specialized coatings, so they are at higher risk of being damaged. In addition to the increased risk because of the use of cold-rolled purlins, when one piece fails, several around it typically fail as well making what would be a small repair on a stronger structure, a major repair on a Tier 2 structure.

Lifetime total Cost

When considering the lifetime cost, a Tier 1 structure will almost always have a lower cost. 

This is because it can have a projected lifespan of 30+ years. With initial investment cost spread over 30 years and a lower average maintenance cost, a Tier 1 structures features higher bankability and provides a more secure long-term investment with an overall higher value.

A Tier 2 structure has a projected lifetime of 15 years. Its upfront investment is spread over a shorter time and coupled with a higher maintenance and risk factor does not yield a high value over its lifetime.

A Tier 2 structure fits the needs of many projects. For many, the initial cost is too high to afford a Tier 1 structure. There are also several situations where solar structures are only viewed as a short-term solution or where they are simply being installed to meet the “green” requirement for an organization. These are situations where a Tier 2 Structure would best fit a project’s requirements.

If a project benefits or requires a structure that offers increased value and longevity with lower risk, a Tier 1 structure is the ideal fit. Tier 1 structures offer the most security, customizability, and value-added additions that are not available with a Tier 2 Structure.

Kern Solar Structures

Kern Solar Structures offers Tier 1 structures fabricated with high strength structural steel. Our structural steel allows a structure to maintain a 30+ year projected lifetime and withstand a variety of weather conditions. We offer a pre-drilled structure that bolts together allowing quick and easy installation. Our installation times are unbeatable with a single structure able to be installed within a 3-5-days using our SolFasT™ Installation Method. This allows you to get your structure up and running in no time. You can also give your structure a customized look by adding Solar Wraps™, logos on the structure, LED lights, security cameras, monitoring systems EV charging stations, and more. To see this idea come to life, check out our latest project with Imbibe. Imbibe purchased a Double Cantilever CarPorT™ through KSS, adding two-tone grey and white urethane paint, laser cut branded Solar Wraps™, Beam BoX™, as well as area lighting to give the structure their own distinct signature look. 

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