Step-By-Step Guide to Design a Tensile Structure

“To build anything, you need to apply your heart to it”, they say. According to me, though, you need a lot more. Constructing a tensile structure is a technical task but simple. In this article, I explain how. Have you ever wondered what it takes to design a tensile structure of your own? Unlike the…

“To build anything, you need to apply your heart to it”, they say. According to me, though, you need a lot more. Constructing a tensile structure is a technical task but simple. In this article, I explain how.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to design a tensile structure of your own? Unlike the traditional buildings of brick and concrete this is not that difficult to design. But it is not easy either especially if you have no idea how the structures work and that's precisely the reason why I am here.

If it's the process that's confusing you, it will not confuse you any longer after this article. In this article, I will explain the entire design stage step-by-step. So, let's begin.

Preparation is necessary . It does not matter whether you are preparing for an exam or trying to construct a tensile structure, you do need some preparatory works. In case of tensile structure, it involves asking the right questions.

  • What's the purpose?
  • What's the intended life of the structure – is it to be temporary or is it to be permanent?
  • How well is accessible is the site location?
  • What about its maintenance once it's completed?
  • How much's the money, honey?

Once you are done with answering the above questions, we begin the important steps.

Step 1: Designing is not a job made for all

By the most important stage. It affects not just the final outlook of the tensile structure but also the consequent steps like fabrication and installation. Design is an art and an art takes time as well as expertise. The structures could have been designed by taking the help of different softwares like AutoCAD, Mpanel etc. This step impacts the aesthetics to a large extent.

Step 2: Engineering is the strength

No construction is complete without the involvement of an engineer. They are crucial for determining the stability, balance and safety of designs created by the tensile architect and designers. The engineers often work in conjunction with design team and are aided by various design software.

Step 3: Fabrication is the building block

Fabrication can be termed as the base of any tensionile structure. Although heavily dependent on step 1, fabrication has its own technicalities. In simpler terms, it involves creating a tensile fabric from raw materials – they could be different polymers like PVC, ETFE, etc. and / or fibers. It must be kept in mind that each polymer imparts its own unique characteristics to the tensile structure. The task of an architect is to choose the ones that fit and meet our requirements perfectly. This stage is critical since much of the advantages attributed to a tensile structure like durability, resistance to heat and weather, flexibility, strength etc. is decided here. A properly fabricated fabric is usually multi layered.

Step 4: Fabrication of associated parts

A tensile structure needs anchors and supports to hold the fabric. The shape of the structure too is large dependent on their positions and / or placements. We need to fabricate them as well. Although largely made of steel, they could have made from other materials as well.

Step 5: Installation

'All is well that ends well', is a common saying and the same is true for tensile structure as well. One of their primary vantage point is the ease of installation. The structure is not completed until it is firmly installed at the desired location. In fact, it is the most serious step because it defines how a tensile structure will appear in reality. By careful and clever placement of support, the shapes and curvatures of the tensile fabrics can be adjusted accordingly. Although the shape and design is finalized in the step 1 and step 2, it's here that they finally see fruition.

Step 6: Maintenance

'Things always tend to go wrong' is an of repeated theme in Physics, fondly named as Murphy's Law. In simple terms what it means is that everything in this world is bound to break down as it gets old. The key to extending this limit is proper and regular maintenance. Maintain a tensile structure is rather cheap and easy compared to traditional structures. Usually it involves sweeping the dust off the fabrics or adjusting the anchorages etc. It could have been done manually or you could use automatic dust sweepers as well.

By now I'm pretty sure that you are well aware of the stages that are involved in tracking any tensionile structure from scratch. Designing your own tensile structure could be fun. All that you need to do is follow these steps religiously.