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Lightweight tensile structures are a boon for the aviation sector

Lightweight tensile structures are a boon for the aviation sector

Textile structures with membranes provide for a sustainable, lightweight concept with enormously reduced input of primary and secondary energy. Besides that, tensile structures are head turners and give the roofs of airports a sense of place”, says Katja Bernert, Dipl.-Ing. Architect, Mehler Texnologies, Germany.

What is the advantage offered by tensile structure vis à-vis conventional roofing? 

Tensile structures are a lightweight construction method.  It’s a boon for sectors like aviation where the construction  methods tether on to the idea of ‘the lighter the better’.  Conventional roofing needs more sub construction, is  much heavier itself and needs considerable foundations.  This entails a large carbon footprint within production  processes, for transportation and installation. Textile  structures with membranes on the other hand provide  for a sustainable, lightweight concept with enormously  reduced input of primary and secondary energy, a  far smaller effort for installation and in conclusion  significantly reduced quantities for recycling at the end  of a very long-life cycle. These are only the advantages  when looking at aspects of sustainability. When it comes  to visual effects, it is clear enough that tensile structures  are head turners and give the roofs of airports a sense  of place. Passengers will certainly remember a beautiful  textile roof much more easily than the repeating cover in  aluminium for example. 

How can one make the right selection of fabric for the  tensile structures? What points are to be kept in mind With the help of the experts at Mehler Texnologies it is  easy to make the right choices. It is obvious that there  are many different sorts of fabrics and foils, many  different base fabrics and coatings. Textile architecture  

experts are happy to advise you on the different options.  Every structure needs to be looked at individually and it  is important to keep in mind that experts are there to  help you find it. Some of the key features when it comes  to tensile structures is translucency and cleanability  Mehler Texnologies’ vast portfolio includes membranes  with an extremely high translucency. For efficient  cleanability, Mehler Texnologies offers the Nano lacquer as  a top finish. This ensures that dirt and dust do not stick  to the fabric and can be washed off easily. Sometimes a  heavy rain is enough for a bright new shine on the roof! 

What are the factors which influence or determine the  cost of the tensile structure? 

Tensile structures are apt to cover vast spaces with a  considerably small amount of material. That’s the most  obvious saving. Looking at the carbon footprint of building  in general another important saving factor becomes more  and more evident. Our standard construction methods  with concrete etc. make up for around 40% of global  CO2 emissions. It should be our aim to reduce this figure  significantly. Lightweight structures with membranes are  an important means to do so. When it comes to the overall  costs it’s definitely not the fabric which is the cost driver.  Vinyl- coated polyester fabrics as in Mehler Texnologies’  portfolio cost a fraction of standard roofing materials.  Saving on the material itself allows for spending more  money on the engineering and hence optimization of the  structure. It is important to state once more  that there are experts in tensile architecture  who can offer sound consultation and advice  on the different options available.

What degree of design variation can be  achieved in a Tensile structure especially  when it is used for larger properties?  Design options in textile architecture are  more or less unlimited. The sky’s the limit.  Here again what we do is very similar to  aviation. The most straightforward use for  fabrics in large constructions are pneumatic  constructions for hangars etc. Air supported  systems with our membrane for the cushions  do not need any further sub construction and  can be installed quickly and easily even in the  most remote places. As far as pre-tensioned  constructions for passenger terminals  are concerned, there are far more design variations available. In such cases creating  the right visual effect is very important, to  create a sense of place which people will  appreciate and remember. If insulation is  required there are options for double or triple  layer constructions. Many of these are still  able to transmit natural light. Translucency  is a focal point and very important design  feature in textile architecture. Besides,  providing natural light saves on the building’s  energy consumption. 

The pandemic has given rise to the  prominence of the photocatalytic membrane,  can you tell us something about this? For us as coaters and weavers the most evident  effect of the pandemic is the use of our fabrics  in many of the pop-up Covid hospitals all over  the world. Tensile architecture is not only a  beautiful way of building but obviously a  very efficient, time and cost saving method  for providing space and cover. Apart from  the pandemic, our fabrics are generally used  

inside of hospitals as a very cost effective and primarily hygienic wall cover. In this as in  other applications, we found out that there’s  no need for additional photocatalytic effects. The afore mentioned nano lacquering is our best seller for fabrics that are meant to last  a very long time: the top lacquer provides  for the best cleanability and hence makes maintenance much easier. That’s an advantage which is not only vital in the pandemic but for  our everyday life with tensile structures.


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