Fabric roof material usually consists of a base cloth that is woven then coated with an appropriate finish. Some light (around 10%) passes through the fabric, meaning that the roof is translucent. This provides a soft, diffused light that users find very acceptable, particularly compared to very bright sunlight outside the structure.
Most roofing materials need to have a rigid support, but tensile fabric structures can sweep over a space, spanning it from one side to the other without any joins or seals. The tensile nature of the fabric when it is stretched allows for a much lighter structure and framework than would be necessary with other types of roofing material.
Versatility and Style
Perhaps one of the key features of fabric roofing is its adaptability and ability to lend itself to different locales and environments, from a small sail providing shade in a nursery playground, to roofing for sports stadiums, airport buildings or atrium coverage.
One advantage to this type of roof is that it forms a visual feature which people can see from some distance away. For this reason Tensile Fabric Structures are particularly suited for use at building entrances, providing shelter for people entering and exiting the building and also creating an elegant entranceway statement. One of the main appeals for this kind of structure is that it is cost effective and good value compared to other construction structures.
Tensioned membrane ceilings with special acoustic properties are now being used to deaden noise in environments such as swimming pools. Fabric Architecture magazine recently highlighted the flexibility of tensile canopies, citing the example of a restaurant where three sails provide protection from the sun during the day, then provide atmospheric lighting to the restaurant once night falls.
As environmentally friendly buildings, these structures score very highly. They can be fully recycled and are very economical in terms of supports and columns. Furthermore, because they can provide protection from the sun, they reduce the need for cooling and air conditioning. In fact, fabric coatings can either absorb or reflect UV while still providing light.
The fabric is prepared and treated off-site, and the cables and steelwork are also engineered and assembled off-site. This means that erection of the roof or canopy can be very quickly accomplished. This minimises inconvenience to the public and building users, ensures other trades working on site are not disrupted and reduces vehicle deliveries to the site. It also means that there will be less health and safety related procedures before being able to start work.