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Tensile fabric roof replacement

Written by in Insulated Structures, Tensile Fabric Architecture

As leaders in the field of Tensile Fabric Architecture, we live and breathe fabric structures so it would only seem right to work in an office with our own tensile fabric roof.

The structures which now house our factory were originally built as a number of touring training facilities for Natwest Bank and had an anticipated lifespan of just a few months. Seeing an opportunity to give a redundant structure a new lease of life, and the chance to structurally and aesthetically monitor a structure through its whole lifespan, we relocated 12 modules to form the roof over our factory site.

When originally installed in the early 80’s, fabric structures were cutting edge technology. Outside of yurts and circus tents, tensile fabric architecture was only just beginning to emerge as a permanent method of building and, being pioneers in the industry, we naturally wanted to showcase the possibilities to the world.

30 years on, our original roof is still going strong thanks to regular inspection, maintenance and cleaning and the membrane has done well to last well beyond its anticipated 15-20 year lifespan. As part of our own research and development, we’ve left the fabric roof in place to track its lifecycle and performance throughout this period, but the time has come to welcome in the new generation of fabrics; while the fabric roof is still performing structurally, its aesthetic appearance is showing its age.

As a result, this month we installed and replaced the first section of the 12 fabric conics that form the roof of our building and wow, what a difference! What you quickly notice is the difference between the old and the new PVC coated polyester. The new is bright white and gleaming!

The technology behind today’s PVC coated polyester is far more advanced than 30 years ago. The fabric we are installing today will structurally outperform and retain its aesthetics far longer and with over 2,100sqm of fabric, we want our investment to have a long lifespan.

With research and development always in the forefront of our minds, the new roof system will be made of several types of material; PVC Coated Polyester with a TiO2/Nano coating for enhanced cleaning properties, PVC coated polyester with a Low E treatment for better thermal performance, high light transmission PVC polyester and ETFE foil. To increase the thermal performance of the roof, nine of the conics will have a PVC coated polyester outer membrane (either TiO2/Nano or Low E coated), multi-foil insulation layer and an inner liner. This combination of 3 layers will achieve an impressive U-Value of 0.18, meeting Part-L – the same technology we applied to Zaha Hadid’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery. To increase light transmission in the space below, we are replacing the existing steel headring with clear polycarbonate.

For the three conics structures over our reception space, we are installing a brand new high light transmission PVC coated polyester fabric called SA-800-H. This material is translucent with 64% light transmission and will form the outer membrane of the roof with a middle and inner lining made from ETFE foil to help us to achieve high levels of natural light.

Our head office has always been a place where architects have visited to see and experience being in and under a fabric membrane roof. This is an exciting time for us and we are looking forward to sharing updates as the roof progresses over the next few months and then welcoming architects to see the results.

Jason Smith

Author: Jason Smith

As Business Development Manager, Jason is responsible for marketing, PR, company website and he delivers CPDs to architectural practices.


Other posts by Jason Smith


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Architen Landrell, Station Road, Chepstow, NP16 5PF, UK

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