What are Tensile Fabric Structures?

What are Tensile Fabric Structures?

What are Tensile Fabric Structures?

Tensile or tensioned fabric structure are ones that feature cabling or wiring that helps provide crucial support to a building structure by tensioning in the membrane system. This kind of system can exist in many different forms, though it is based on the basic builds known as The Cone and the Saddle. It can be used to create eye-catching architectural structures, offering various structures for roofs and free-form designs. As the fabric tensions, all creases are removed and it is strengthened to cope with adverse weather conditions and protect against damage.

When Can Tensile Fabric Structures be Used?

You will find that Tensile Fabric structures are used for a variety of applications. As they use less material than conventional structures, therefore they are more lightweight and easier to move from one location to another. 


At Streetspace, we are an urban construction company that design and create affordable, functional and aesthetically-pleasing structures.



They offer great versatility and flexibility and can be tailored specifically to meet your own needs and requirements. Tensile fabric structures are therefore ideal when you need a sheltered or shaded area.

Beyond the practical benefits and applications, they can also be used as an aesthetically pleasing focal point.

Where Can Tensile Fabric Structures be Used?

·         Additional lightweight element to pre-existing buildings, as atrium roof, shading systems, covered walkways, skylights or canopies

·         As a prefab modular structure. The most economic modular frame buildings on the market are those that consist of metal framing with tensile fabric panelling.

·         When a building has to move from one place to another, such as during a refit or as part of temporary schools, travelling exhibitions, for example.

·         When wide span, whether free of columns or not, is required. Tensioned fabric structures can stretch for lengths of as much as 150ft without support and tension steel cable nets and fabric can stretch double that distance. It is possible, when using air structures to stretch them out for greater distances of as much as thousands of feet without supporting columns.

·         When an element is required to stand out from more traditional buildings and structures as a show piece. Whether as a building icon or urban object.

Can Tensioned Fabric Structures be Formed into Any Shape?

We noted earlier that tensioned fabric structures tend to be based around two basic tensile structure building blocks. That doesn't mean they are not flexible and versatile. One of the major benefits of this kind of structure id the fact they can be designed and constructed to fit your specific needs and requirements.

All canopies use the principles and curves of either the Cone or Saddle, or a combination of both. The Cone resembles a volcano and has radial geometry formed with hoops and radians.

While the Saddle is a surface with two low points and two high points, also referred to as a hyperbolic paraboloid. Either the surface is created by taking a rectangular grid and warping it or by making it orthogonal.

Similarly, to the use of the square and circle in classic architecture, the Saddle and Cone can be combined to produce a limitless amount of possible permutations.

What are the Fabrics Used in Tensile Fabric Structures?

While it is true that all fabrics can be used to create tension by pulling them in opposite directions, they all exhibit very different characteristics from one another. Tensioned fabric structures utilised four types of fabric at the moment, including:

PVC Glass Fabrics

Predominately used as internal tensile sails, in glare control systems and atriums, this type of fabric does not require much maintenance. It meets the standard of B.S 476 0 for Fire Code

ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) Foils (Only in Permanent Structures)

This fabric is used in structures featuring inflated pillows where the thermal properties are crucial. In a similar way to laminated glass, foils can be fritted or transparent to give a degree of translucency where required.

PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) Coated Glass (Also only in Permanent Structures)

PTFE-coated glass is 100% inert and benefits from a 30-year lifespan. It is also considered to be completely non-combustible by the majority of recognised and official building codes and does not degrade when subjected to UV rays. PTFE-coated glass meets the standard of B.S 476 Class 0 for Fire Code.

PVC-Coated Polyester

As this material has a lifespan of around 10 to 20 years it is offers the best value for money. PVC-coated polyester has been used in a wide variety of applications throughout the world for more than 40 years and is incredibly easy to transport when it is required for temporary structure and building uses. PVC-coated polyester meets the standard B.S 7837 for Fire Code.


Are Tensioned Fabric Structures Generally Eco-friendly and Sustainable?

Tensioned fabric structures normally use light-toned roofing to ensure that as little heat is attracted to them as possible. They utilise small volumes of materials over large lengths and areas, utilising the Venturi effect for natural ventilation and providing natural daylighting through translucency. The supplier can, when necessary, recycle ETFE foils, Polyolefin fabrics, Expanded PTFE and PVC polyester for use in lower grade applications.

What is the Cost of Tensioned Fabric Structures?

A fully installed custom tensile structure could cost anything from £200 to £800 per sq. metre.

This cost includes everything from the fittings, cables and supports, but not foundations which have to be arranged depending on the conditions of the local soil. The price can vary considerably though, depending on how complex the design is, the quality of connections and materials, the snow and/or wind conditions in the local area and the size of structure that is required.

The standard frame structures available featuring tensioned membranes can cost as little as £100 per sq. metre with air structures ranging from £80 to £160 per sq. metre fully installed. Generally speaking, as air structures need constant support from an air supply, they are more expensive to run than straightforward tensioned structures.

Why Work with Streetspace?

At Streetspace, we are an urban construction company that design and create affordable, functional and aesthetically-pleasing structures.

Request a quote today to see how we can help you with your tensile fabric structure needs.