Technical Specifications

Outlined below is the technical Information for fabric structure design and engineering

Compared with the well-known and proven construction materials stone, wood, steel, concrete and glass, membranes are a relatively young product in terms of construction history – even though our ancient forefathers already had the idea of covering their homes or supplies with animal skins and later with hand-woven covers to protect them against the elements.

Today, membrane architecture – also known as fabric construction – is a highly developed technology that is used for applications as diverse as awnings, building facades and building covers – primarily as protection against the elements, but also as an architectural design element.

New developments in construction technology, lightweight structures developed out of membranes subject to tensile loads which ablate loads from wind and snow through the oppositely curved (anticlastic) shape of its surfaces. Textile structures are mostly three-dimensional supporting frameworks, consisting of a combination of supporting elements created from membranes, steel and cables. The latter are used to support the mounting and tension of the membrane. The easiest and classic basic form is the so-called four-point canopy. Its typical form resembles a saddle.

Four Point Canopy

The fabrics mostly used are extremely tear resistant polyester fabrics with PVC coating and  tear resistant fibreglass fabrics with PTFE coating, in addition to ETFE thin films used as pneumatic cushions or stretched in single-layer configuration. The application determines the quality of the material chosen.

Quality is defined by the most important properties: tear resistance, low weight, high transparency, durability, fire behaviour and longevity.

The installation of a membrane structure is carried out by means of an assembly method: individual structural elements are prefabricated in a manufacturing plant and assembled on-site. Membranes are fabricated in made-up in the plant: they are cut from a flat piece from a fabric roll and are welded into the pre-calculated, three-dimensional shape. This includes all details needed to mount and pre-stretch the membrane.

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Fabrics PES/PVC Acrylic Finish PES/PVC PVDF Finish Glass/PTFE
Average Lifespan 10–15 Years 15–20 Years Up to 25 years
Weather Resistance ★★ ★★ ★★★
Dirt Resistance ★★ ★★★
Transluzency ★★★ ★★★ ★★★
Fire Behaviour ★★ ★★★ ★★★
Crease Resistance ★★★ ★★★ n/a
Costs (Base Value: 100) 100 110 200/250
Places of Application Temporary and Permanent Structures Temporary and Permanent Structures Permanent Structures

Ideal Applications For Membrane Architecture

Textile fabrics made of tear-resistant polyester, fibreglass and ETFE thin films open up a new dimension in construction. Thanks to their high flexibility, their low weight per square meter yet high tensile strength and their transparency, it is possible to:

  • cover great surfaces without support columns
  • design rooms and spaces that are bathed in light
  • realise completely new construction shapes
  • create a memorable view thanks to design and colour
  • set up temporary structures and buildings that can be reused at other locations
  • construct efficiently with only as few resources
  • open up completely new construction areas

The possibilities with this construction method are extremely versatile. Membranes, generally as roof or façade structures, provide lasting protection against the elements.  Multi-layered membranes possess a high insulation value and added sound insulation. Aside from membrane constructions with added thermal insulation, membranes can be realised with high transparency or completely opaque. Plastic coated polyester fabrics are available in all colours, while coated fibreglass is mostly white. White or bright colours are often chosen because they are visually pleasant and feature an optimal transparency.

Curved Roof Membrane

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Curved Roof Membrane

High-Point Roof Membrane

Even with the limits that the laws of physics impose on membrane construction, the formal design possibilities of membrane architecture are still extremely diverse. The choice of the membrane shape is often not only determined by the functional requirements but by an architectural and design background. Frequently the marketing concept of the client plays a role in the choice as well. That is why a well-executed membrane structure can play an important role in the creation of the image of a building or a company.

Plastic coated polyester membranes are the ideal choice for temporary use. The low weight and the flexibility of the material make the assembly and disassembly of the structure easy and simple. Retractable roofs – roofs that open and close automatically – are exclusively made out of plastic-coated polyester fabric as well.

Costs are an important factor when making the choice for a specific construction type. In classic construction, there is still no construction that’s the least expensive one regardless of its use. The same is true for membrane architecture. In general, membrane constructions are financially feasible when large spans or areas need to be covered or when the construction features a large degree of repetition.

An important piece of advice: membrane as a material have not been generally approved by Germany’s building authorities. Instead, an approval must be sought in each individual case. Even though this process is becoming more and more of a routine exercise, unwanted delays can occur if documents and paperwork are not prepared properly.

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