Tensile fabric design has revolutionised architecture across the globe. It offers designers a versatility that would be simply unimaginable with more traditional techniques. But a common question is about how tensile fabric structures perform in various climatic and social conditions. Are they robust enough, for example, to withstand high winds? Sometimes these structures can have a steel frame with the fabric wrapped around it which is normally helped with the use of Tapping Machines sourced from businesses like Cotswold Machinery. In this short piece, we look at some common environmental issues and how they affect tensile fabric structures.
The key point here is that the tensile canopy must have been engineered with careful regard to the speed and direction of prevailing winds in any given location. This will inform both structural features and the type of membrane selected. Sites which are exposed to extreme conditions will need frequent inspection and maintenance – probably as frequently as every year. If the winds are accompanied by high levels of precipitation – rain or snow – thought will also have to be given to the risk of water accumulation and the design modified accordingly.
Sun, Heat and Humidity
The latest generation of tensile fabrics are treated to retard the degradation process but, over the years, materials like PVC will still deteriorate when exposed to high UV levels. They may become brittle and lose a significant degree of their inherent flexibility. The effect of high humidity can be partly offset by frequent cleaning, which will prevent damage from a build-up of mildew.
Vandalism and Criminal Damage
It’s not just the elements that harm buildings and installations. As any architect will tell you, it’s important to beware the hand of man. Fabrics have one main advantage over glass and other materials in that they are not especially vulnerable to damage from blunt instruments. On the other hand, they are susceptible to rips and tears, which must be repaired as soon as possible if more extensive problems are to be avoided.
Climate Change and the Environment
Public bodies and private businesses often have concerns around their environmental responsibilities and the ecological footprint that a new construction will leave. This was, for instance, the principal motivation with Newcastle University’s new tensile fabric structure, The Key, which was based on the concept of a soap bubble.
Tensile fabric structures are a practical and creative solution to 21st-century building requirements.