Arun Madap­pal­lath, Serge Fer­rari In­dia, dis­cusses the ad­van­tages of ten­sile as a façade and roof­ing ma­te­rial

Arun Madap­pal­lath, Coun­try Man­ager - South Asia, Serge Fer­rari In­dia, dis­cusses with Ar. Har­ish Gupta the ad­van­tages of ten­sile as a façade and roof­ing ma­te­rial and the in­no­va­tions be­ing made to en­hance its prop­er­ties

MGS Architecture - - News -

How is the ten­sile fab­ric con­tribut­ing to sus­tain­able ar­chi­tec­ture of the fu­ture?

Ten­sile ar­chi­tec­ture be­ing lightweight, is a po­ten­tial an­swer to our prob­lem of lim­ited re­sources and rapidly in­creas­ing global pop­u­la­tion. See the very in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cle from Werner SOBEK De­tails 1/18 “Build­ing for the world of to­mor­row” with mind puz­zling fig­ures! The so­lu­tion en­vis­aged by Werner Sobek goes even fur­ther with ul­tra-light struc­tures. Ten­sile fa­cades prove to be very use­ful for ren­o­va­tion work be­cause again of their lightweight and flex­i­bil­ity they can be added on to the ex­ist­ing façade with min­i­mum ad­di­tional weight, and have the ca­pac­ity to span over large sur­faces with min­i­mum sec­ondary struc­tures, plus, they can adapt to any cus­tom ge­om­e­try.

What are the chal­lenges and pre­cau­tions one needs to take when de­sign­ing a roof or sky­light with ten­sile fab­ric?

One needs to make sure that the re­quire­ments of the clients are well un­der­stood and then choose the right pro­fes­sion­als who have the ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise in ten­sile ar­chi­tec­ture. These in­clude mem­brane con­sult­ing en­gi­neers, spe­cial­ized fab­ri­ca­tors, and spe­cial­ized in­stall­ers. This chain of ex­per­tise does ex­ist in In­dia; In­dian pro­fes­sion­als are rec­og­nized not only na­tion­ally but also in­ter­na­tion­ally and are able to con­duct such projects overseas. One of the key el­e­ments is that the ten­sile mem­brane is not only a cover ma­te­rial but a ten­sile el­e­ment of the build­ing which is able to take stress and which in turn gen­er­ates loads and stresses onto the frame struc­ture with a re­quire­ment to main­tain per­ma­nent ten­sion. There­fore, the mem­brane study must be car­ried out very early on in the process be­fore fi­nal­iz­ing the frame study. The ma­te­rial cho­sen must be re­ally pre­dictable and con­sis­tent to strictly com­ply with struc­tural anal­y­sis and avoid any un­con­trolled elon­ga­tion or creep­ing over­time, which could gen­er­ate un­ex­pected and po­ten­tially haz­ardous sag­ging, wa­ter pock­ets and re­ten­tion. Di­men­sional sta­bil­ity is proven through var­i­ous stan­dards and tests, which need to be clearly re­quired in the specs.

How safe is a ten­sile struc­ture from fire and does it pose a risk to evac­u­a­tion of a build­ing dur­ing an emer­gency?

This is a very wide ques­tion and of course fire safety needs to be ad­dressed in de­tail for each build­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion and en­vi­ron­ment ac­cord­ing to the na­tional stan­dards. But as a generic an­swer we can clearly state that the var­i­ous flex­i­ble com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als do pass a large spec­trum of fire stan­dards and tests world­wide to com­ply with build­ing codes. This is why ten­sile is ac­cepted for large scale build­ings. Ba­si­cally, we can say that flex­i­ble com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als of dif­fer­ent na­ture (glass or polyester-based cloth) have the fol­low­ing be­hav­iour in case of fire: lim­ited com­bus­tion/ degra­da­tion and self-ex­tinc­tion. In other words, they do not con­trib­ute to spread­ing the fire and limit the ruin of the build­ing to the ac­tual fire lo­ca­tion. This is il­lus­trated by stan­dard­ized full scale fire tests. There are no flam­ing drops (that is, no risk of flam­ing de­bris fall­ing); self-vent­ing ef­fect, that is, when the ma­te­rial burns in con­tact with the fire, the hole gen­er­ated in the roof does al­low the smoke and gas to es­cape through the roof, which con­trib­utes to pub­lic safety.

Are ten­sile fab­rics easy to main­tain and clean?

Ma­te­rial sup­pli­ers have im­proved over the years. The sur­face treat­ment of the ma­te­rial has been en­hanced in or­der to in­crease the re­sis­tance to dirt build up and to fa­cil­i­tate clean­ing, but let’s be re­al­is­tic: self-clean­ing ma­te­ri­als do not ex­ist! Reg­u­lar clean­ing must be un­der­taken. The fre­quency of clean­ing de­pends on the lo­cal pol­lu­tion level and aes­thet­i­cal

Sur­face treat­ment of ten­sile fab­ric has been en­hanced to in­crease re­sis­tance to dirt build up; ser­vice life is ex­ceed­ing 30 years; trans­parency is en­abling seethrough vis­i­bil­ity to chal­lenge glass; and there are mul­ti­ple layer so­lu­tions for ther­mal per­for­mance of fully en­closed build­ings

ex­pec­ta­tion (dif­fer­ent for res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial build­ings than for large trans­port fa­cil­i­ties, for ex­am­ple). Some ma­te­rial sup­pli­ers of­fer spe­cific de­ter­gent and be­spoke clean­ing pro­ce­dures. The ten­sile struc­ture con­trac­tors are also able to con­duct clean­ing op­er­a­tions with the right safety pro­ce­dure be­cause they know well the speci­fici­ties of their build­ings.

What in­no­va­tions are be­ing made in the ten­sile fab­ric so that ar­chi­tects and de­vel­op­ers will be in­ter­ested in us­ing it in their projects?

There are a num­ber of in­no­va­tions be­ing made to en­hance its fea­tures. These in­clude: • Longevity: Ser­vice life is now well ex­ceed­ing 30 years for XTREM TX 30 com­bin­ing struc­tural be­hav­iour and aes­thet­ics. • Translu­cency: Trans­parency to let a max­i­mum of nat­u­ral light through and al­low see-through vis­i­bil­ity to chal­lenge glass. • Mul­ti­ple layer so­lu­tions for ther­mal per­for­mance of fully en­closed build­ings. To give an ex­am­ple of a large span ten­sile roof construction: the Shang­hai Messe sin­gle skin roof / 2001 / 160.000 sqm. / PRECONTRAINT 1002 T2 Low E / Type II. The in­spec­tion con­ducted af­ter 15 years by an ex­ter­nal body Shang­hai Jianke En­gi­neer­ing, con­cluded that the re­main­ing mem­brane ten­sile strength as 86% in warp and 84.6% in weft.

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