Author Archives: Sam Armijos

“W” Fabric Structures

The FabricArchitect look at Fabric Structures from A to Z is coming to a close and we are now on the letter “W”.
The words that come to mind are:

Wedding Tent
Wind Load


Fabric Structures, because of their “sail-like” qualities and components, always seem to work well along waterfront properties. The key to doing waterfront structures is in the finishes. Paint finishes need to be of the highest grade. Cables and hardware should be stainless steel or galvanized with a plan to service and prevent them from rust or corrosion. The membrane should have the best topcoat.

Wedding Tent

The wedding tent has been around as long as weddings have. There is something about an outdoor wedding with some fabric shade or shelter that people still want for their special day. Rental companies have made a living creating these “outdoor rooms” and some enclosed facilities cover outdoor patio areas so people can have the best of both worlds.

Wind Loads

A very common question asked by clients is if it can take “our wind”. Waterfront, Hurricaine zone, rooftop, etc. No two locations are alike and that’s why when you are looking for a custom designed tension fabric structure,  you want to make sure the designer, engineer or fabricator is going to do a structural analysis and take into consideration the local and site wind loads. Wind loads vary from 50 to over 150 mph in some locations. Results from a wind load test can effect the size of your structural system, the size of your foundations and even the membrane you use. Pre-engineered structures are tested for specific wind loads. Make sure the product you are getting will satisfy your building department or have it modified to meet local code.

Got any ideas for “x”, “y” and “z”? Let me know.

Fabric Structure V’s

We are getting down to the last few letters and The FabricArchitect still has words to use. When it comes to the letter “V”, the words that come to mind are:

  • Valley Cable
  • Verseidag Fabric
  • Velodrome

Valley Cables

Valley cables are pretty self explanatory but often misunderstood, poorly detailed or installed incorrectly. These cables are used to “keep down” the membrane from uplift forces on a structure.

Usually associated with “folded plate” style forms, they are normally constructed with a coated “jacket” on them because they are sitting on top of the membrane. They are sometime covered yet again after they are installed or left exposed to the elements. The end fittings require them to have some adjustment to them otherwise they have a tendency to flutter if not properly tensioned.

Verseidag Fabric

Verseidag is a manufacturer of membrane material located in Germany. They are one of the few companies worldwide that offer both PTFE and PVC fabrics. Duraskin is the brand name they go by for architectural membranes.


One of the more interesting and growing sports is the sport of bicycle or track racing. A Velodrome is an arena for Track racing.

Velodromes may be indoors or outdoors. Indoor tracks are not affected by weather and are more comfortable for spectators (i.e. see London 2012 Olympics). They ride smoother and last longer.

Despite the advantages of indoor tracks, outdoor velodromes are more common. However, there is more interest and fabric seems the be the material of choice for these venues.

“W” is next.

Fabric Structures and “U”

The FabricArchitect has been writing all year about Fabric Structures from A-Z. Today I am going to talk about the letter “U”. There is no finer example of the letter “U” than the umbrella. The umbrella is universally understood and it comes in all sizes and materials. The shape of the umbrella has been tested but there is no challenging the classic shape which uses minimum surfaces and patterns. Some umbrellas are retractable, some are permanent. Some are quite small and simple, some are quite big and complex. Some collect water, while others do not. Hard to go thru life without experiencing an umbrella.

Umbrella (small)

Love TUUCI and MDT-Tex umbrellas. Beautiful umbrellas that can be seen at home, cafe, resort, etc.


Umbrella (Medium)

Love fully engineered structures from the likes of Fabritec, Birdair and Fabric Architecture. These structures are engineered to local code and built to last.

Umbrella (Large)

Large umbrellas offer the most covereage and provide the most dramatic spaces.  With custom peaks and edge conditions, these structures provide shade and shelter for a versatile space.

On to “V”

Temporary Fabric Structures is the New Permanent

Unless you were hiding under a rock this past month, The Olympics in London showcased great examples of the future of Architecture, Special Event Planning and Olympic Design and what you can do with the letter “T”:

Temporary Structures
Architecture is going Temporary. It’s cost effective, it’s now and it’s wow. The London Olympic stadium is “relocatable”!? That’s right. Today, you can design, build, take down and reuse a stadium. That’s sustainable!

We’re not talking about your typical “tent” any more. The present and future of tents combines lightweight structures with durable fabrics to make “tent cities” hospitality suites, sport venues, the sky’s the limit. It doesn’t have to be this organic structure with high tensile loads. It just has to be beautiful and useful.

The wire rope cable is a common component of the New Architecture. Curtain walls, handrails and roofs, etc. High wire acts of London can be seen at the Eye, at the O2, at the roof and facade of the stadium, at the Emirates cable cars crossing the Docklands. Some times Tension is a good thing.

I’m heading to London to see it first hand. I read somewhere that in preparing for their Olympic presentation, the London Olympic committee was not looking to create another iconic building. “There is plenty of history of forms of architecture to see there already”.

Fabric Structures provide a permanent experience of a temporary moment.

Experience Fabric Architecture.

See “U” later.

50 Shades of Fabric Structures

The FabricArchitect is now on the letter “S” which means its time to talk about Shade. Here are 50 ideas for using Shade Structures:

1. Playgrounds

2. Outdoor Dining.

3. Basketball courts.

4. Walkway.

5. Airports.

6. Sports Stadium Roofs.

7. Entries.

8. Covered Parking.

9. Swimming pools.

10. Retail.

11. Military.

12. Resorts.

13. Transportation.

14. Interiors.

15. Museum.

16. Aquariums.

17. Zoos.

18. Boats.

19. Crusies

20. Equestrian.

21. Agricultural.

22. Water Treatment.

23. Casinos.

24. Music.

25. Schools.

26. Disaster Relief.

27. Theme Parks.

28. Ferry Terminals.

29. Bridges.

30. Church.

31. Courtyards.

32. Special Events.

33. Parks.

34. Facades.

35. Homes.

36. Art.

37. Gas Station.

38. Hospital.

39. Library.

40. Tents.

41. Trade Shows.

42. Colleges.

43. Movies.

44. Ice Rink.

45.  Shopping Mall.

46. Beach.

47.  Snow.

48.  Transit Stations.

49. Tennis.

50. Exhibition.

Did I miss anyone?

R U interested in Fabric Structures?

It’s been a while since my last blog.

Been busy trying to get Architects, Designers and clients to use fabric structures more often.

Today, The FabricArchitect looks at the letter “R”.

I just came back from exhibiting at both the American Institute of Architects (AIA) convention and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and realized how much the letter “R” is used in design.


Shopping Centers and fabric structures? Why of course. What material provides shade, shelter and signage better than fabric? It is used as an awning, umbrella, canopy, facade, pedestrian walkway, etc. The skys the limit.


Image is everything and so is the experience when it comes to resort design. The shade structure over the lounge chairs, the cabana, the porte cochere. All nice words and what better way to create that  vision than with Fabric.


A tent for every home? Maybe not but why not. The outdoor family room, the seasonal tent for a BBQ, the party tent, the gazebo. All great ideas which work in fabric.


Both owner and end user love this! Owners love to use that outdoor space. Customers always want the table outside. Fabric structures solve that on both a sunny and rainy day.

You ready to shop?

You ready to eat?

You ready to play?

The Answer?

Outdoor Living.

Try a fabric structure on your next retail, restaurant, residential and resort experience.

Next week, you will be ready for some “S”.

Fabric Structures: Q&A

The FabricArchitect continues to go thru the alphabet of Fabric Structures and today looks at the the letter “Q”.

I thought finding words starting with the letter Q was going to be hard but the words came pretty quick:

Queensland (Australia)

Queensland (Australia)

If you want to see alot of fabric structures, head over to Australia, particularly Queensland which is the northeastern part of that beautiful country. I was in Brisbaine in 2000 visting SSP (Shade Structures Pacific) and just loved to see that fabric is well received as a building material and that there were many uses for it. Hotel entries, outdoor dining, walkways, interiors, etc. I dont know if there is a law or requirement in that country but I found them everywhere. I applaud the design community for getting them built in so many places. Architects love to quote “Learning from Las Vegas”. People interested in Fabric Structures should “Learn from Australia”.


Small scale fabric structures include umbrellas, barrel vaults and canopies built to code and built to last. One common design in the marketplace is a single post “hypar”.

Birdair calls theirs “Quasar”. FabriTec calls theirs the “Aurora” but it is the closest thing to custom at a standard cost. The structure has a nautical feel to it with stainless steel exposed cables and a canopy cover that is quite eye catching. These structures come as small as 12′ and I’ve seen them as big as 30′. If you want to do something beyond your standard umbrella, this is the way to go.


Most people don’t even know where Qatar is but if you follow soccer, you know Qatar is adjacent to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Persian Gulf and will be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Alot of new stadiums are being planned there and as you can imagine, they all need shade which means look to see a variety of new fabric structures in the Middle East.

“R” comes next.

Fabric Structure P’s

Today, the FabricArchitect looks at the letter “P”

  • point supported structure
  • patterns
  • PVC

Point Supported Structures

Point-supported structures are forms with a minimum of four points of attachment with either straight or curved edges that produce a clear span with no center mast.  The classic point-supported structure is the saddle shape or hypar.

Point-supported structures can have a variety of shapes depending on the number of anchor points and the position of the supporting elements, however, double curvature is essential.


Computer patterning is the process of developing a two dimensional representation of a three- dimensional membrane surface. The patterns are created with compensation factors. Compensation factors are the reduction made to a cutting pattern to allow for the expansion of the membrane once in tension. In some cases, decompensation (addition made to the length of a piece of the membrane which was shortened by compensation) is required in order to meet certain geometric conditions such as fixed points where there is no access for tensioning. The panels are sized according to the width of the fabric being used.


PVC (polyvinylchloride) or vinyl coated polyester is the most common and cost effective membrane material for both temporary and permanent tension structures. The material is soft, pliable and less expensive than PTFE. It is available in a variety of types to meet a wide range of structural requirements. It has a minimum of stretch and shrinkage in a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions and the coating process prevents mildew, stain and streaking.

Most PVC fabrics will have some form of top coating applied to keep them looking new and clean. These topcoats can be acrylic solutions, polyurethane-acrylic solutions, PVDF solution coats or a PVF film lamination. Vinyl laminated polyester is primarily used for temporary structures while vinyl coated polyester is used for both temporary and permanent structures.

PVC material has a life span of 15-25 years and comes in a variety of colors and textures. This material is sealed using radio frequency (RF) equipment.

Ouch, “Q” comes next.

O My Fabric Structures

Happy New Year!

The FabricArchitect begins the year with the letter “O”.

OMG that’s me in front of Bucky Fuller’s Geodesic Dome in Montreal. Great structure. Good Times.

I thought I would use this letter to show some great images.

Don’t use this word much but most Designers and Architects refer to an oculus as a large opening to the sky, like a skylight. The Pantheon always comes to mind.

In the world of Fabric Structures, it is more like a “bale ring” which is a compression ring around a mast used to lift and tension a membrane. Circus tents are often found with them. The opening can also be installed anywhere on the membrane as long as there is a cable loop or some kind of component keeping the membrane from tearing.

Orange, red, green, blue. It doesn’t matter what color but “what color is available?” is a common question asked in fabric structure discussions. If you are looking for shade only and working with small scales, making structures using colorful fabrics is a great solution and there are plenty of colors and options available.

As projects get bigger and size and span get longer, fewer colors are available. Especially for waterproof membranes (PVC, PTFE, Silicon, etc.), color is available in minimum runs only.

A bigger issue  is that one’s pigment (skin color) will show the color of the membrane which may or may not be flattering (i.e. you look green under a green tent, yellow under a yellow tent, and yes, orange under an orange tent). I often recommend the use of white fabric and tell my clients to invest in lighting to change the membrane to any color.

Orlando is one of my favorite places to go because you can get a look at some nice fabric structures there in all shapes and sizes.

If you arrive by plane, the airport has some nice structures which cover the arrival and departure areas. Circ de Soleil has their signature structure there and there are plenty of interesting membrane structures at retail shops and at the Disney theme parks and hotels.
Next is “P”.

Fabric Structures “n” Membranes

Fabric Structures consist of three major things: Structural system (steel, wood, concrete, etc.), edge component (cable, belt, rope, etc.) and fabric (too many to choose from).

To the right is FTL’s U.N. Annex Entry Canopy in NYC.

Today the FabricArchitect talks about “N” and there are a couple of N words that come to mind and they all have to do with fabric.

  • Naizil
  • Nanogel
  • NovaShield


Headquartered in Italy with offices in Canada, Naizil has been manufacturing PVC coated fabrics for truck tarpaulins, awnings, tension structures, digital printing and many other applications for over 50 years.

They have a couple of interesting products in the market for Fabric Structures.

Their Cover series of coated fabrics have been designed to meet the high quality standards required for tensile structures and large coverings. All “Cover” products are self-extinguishing and protected by  a PVDF sealable topcoat. They also offer an extra treatments such as ROTOFLUO P which is a non-sealable PVDF coating which makes it longer lasting.

They have another product called TITAN W  which has Titaniuim Oxide (TiO2)which represents the cutting-edge in the protection of PVC coated fabrics.

Compared with conventional topcoat systems present in the market, these new protective coatings are being introduced that further increase the life of the product, keeping it cleaner.

Naizil also offers photovoltaic thin film on some of their membranes under their SolarPanel brand. The Nazil SolarPanel comes rough 5′ x 7′ and has an output of 75Wp per panel. The panels produce direct current that afterwards can be transformed through an inverter to alternate current and then can be used in standard electrical systems.

Other PVC manufacturers to check out are Seaman, SergeFerrari and Mehler.


Imagine Fabric Structures that are light and have insulation.

Thats’ where Nanogel or Aerogel comes in.

You’ve heard these brand names before being used on a bunch of things like glass and metal. Well, you can get it on fabric, too.

For example, Translucent skylights and membranes are now incorporating Lumira™ aerogel (formerly Nanogel® aerogel). Not sure why they changed names. Although it provides a little less translucency than traditional translucent materials like teflon coated fiberglass, acrylics or polycarbonate, they are an excellent value and can substantially reduce energy costs and provide a great return on investment.

“Nanogel-type” membranes can increase the R-Value of a membrane to be significantly higher than a normal skylight or membrane.

You get natural light and a high level of insulation all in one product. Pretty cool or warm.

See companies like Cabot, Birdair and Aerolite.

NovaShield II

NovaShield II is a polyethelene used for clear spans, agricultural and industrial structures.

The brand name comes from Intertape Polymer Group and Engineered Coated Products.

Designed to meet the industry’s highest standards, NovaShield II polyethylene fabric has great strength-to-weight ratios and its lighter weight makes for easier, faster installations. NovaShield  is an alternative to PVC. NovaShield II is ideal for use in membrane structures or any other fabric application requiring fire retardant and UV characteristics.

Check out fabric from Interwrap too.


Next comes “O”.