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Tensile Membrane Material Specification

Tensile Membrane Material Specification

Their are many types of tensile membrane fabrics and specifications available to the fabric architectural market. Each has it’s benefits -as well as their shortfalls-  that defines which Tensioned Membrane Material and Specification needs to be used for a particular project. As a tensile architectural company we always look at the project as a whole before outlining which fabric and specification will be most appropriate for a project. This will include operational lifespan of the canopy or fabric structure, its maintenance practicalities, ability to carry out repairs, its suitability towards the design and its overall appearance. Below are typical fabrics used in tensile architecture.

Polyester coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
This is one of the most versatile and cost effective of tensile fabrics. With an integrated construction grade topcoat that improves its appearance and extends its lifespan; this material is self-cleaning when washed by rainwater.  Tensile based PVC has a typical lifespan of 15-20-years (depending upon installation and usage).

PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethene) – Coated Glass fiber fabric
PTFE glass fibre fabric is one of the most commonly selected materials for larger scale projects due to its life expectancy of 30 years plus, and its strength. Due to its inherently low flexural properties, a PTFE membrane may not be the best material for more free flowing designs. However, the safety and practicality aspects of PTFE membranes more than make up for their shortcomings.

Silicone coated glass fibre fabric
Silicon coated fabric has a greater tensile strength than polyester coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), however being slightly brittle in its nature it can be subject to damage from prolonged flexing. Silicone coated fabrics ‘as with PTFE fabrics’ are not subject to ultra violet attack, which is why they have an expected 30-years plus lifespan.

ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) foil 

ETFE foil has often been referred to as the miracle construction material. Used in the construction of both the Eden Projects mammoth greenhouse domes, and, for cladding the Beijing National Aquatic Centre ‘also known as The Water Cube’; ETFE is highly versatile.

A transparent / translucent polymer material, it can carry 400 times its own weight, can be stretched 3 times its own length ‘without effecting is tensile properties’, has a non-stick surface that repels dirt and is unaffected by Ultraviolet rays.  Due to these amazing properties of ETFE, it has an excepted lifespan of over 50-years.  However, it has a few drawbacks; these include the fact that it transmits more sound than glass, requires a more complex inflation based (cushion design) installation process, making it impractical for residential or smaller project applications. However, with the latest heat weld techniques, ETFE can be installed in a single layer form that is supported by thin steel cables; improving on installation practicality and overall maintenance requirements.

The above is simply a list of fabrics commonly used in the manufacture of tensile structures. However, Airscuplt has helped many clients with projects which required more untraditional or specialist fabrics to be used, such as waterproof Canvas and new fabrics like Tenara

We are always looking for new and innovative fabrics to improve industry functionality and practicality.