Here’s the PDF version if you want to take a closer look.
After briefly looking into some select case studies, and after feedback from my peers last Wednesday, I’ve decided to explore some of the different functional and sustainable aspects tensile structures can provide, and some of the creative and sustainable ways architects are using these systems.
I think what really got me going about these structures in the first place, is the lightness of these structures as a visual, physical and sustainable approach, using a minimum of materials to impact our environment.
The first project I looked at is The Schlumberger Research Facility by Hopkins Architects. It’s common spaces are broken down into three bays of a fabric roof which covers the drilling-rig test station and the main social space known as the ‘winter garden’. They mutually benefit from the roof form; The workshop needs the height for drilling, and it’s light and shape gives it the character of an outdoor space with ample weather protection for the winter garden.
The roof is supported on the exterior by a “cat’s cradle” (as Hopkins calls it) of cables, which transmits the weight of the fabric to the ground via four structures acting like suspension bridges.
The translucent fabric, PTFE, or Teflon coated fiberglass provides these main spaces with natural light without the blinding glare of the sun. It’s self cleaning and light.
The Second Precedent I looked at which I thought was pretty cool was the newly built Rosa Parks Transit Center, designed by FTL Design Engineering Studio.
It includes a passenger terminal and roof canopy covering a drop off and outdoor waiting area, it’s been said to have “a pivotal role in providing alternate means of public transportation to the greater Detroit area.” I really enjoyed the way the roof structure was designed withstand harsh weathers. It’s durable, easy to maintain, inexpensive and unique.
Like Schlumberger, the tensile structure is broken down into bays. Each bay consists of a double conical membrane suspended between two A-frame trusses with only two compression members within each bay. Is flowing canopies to create an active visual space and naturally day light the space. “It challenges the conventional notion of roof where the membrane both hovers 50 ft in space, and in other areas brought to ground and to act as a giant water collector. How this works (refer to diagram) Preciptate drains into these grassy areas, then is directed down through a couple layers of crushed stone and rock, and flows into a storage and distribution tank. In the winter, the heavy snow is directed to the ground and is designed to be shoveled away by trucks.
I also looked at a project in development by Foster + Partners, The Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre in Kazakhstan.
It’s 500ft high from an elliptical base to form the highest peak on the Astana skyline. The building encloses an area in excess of over 300,000 square feet within its dome.
The roof is constructed from Tri-Layer insulating envelope of ETFE suspended on a network of cables strung from a central spire. This special material ETFE is different from the traditional PTFE envelope (the material I mentioned before with Schlumberger) It is actually a flexible transparent plastic material (not translucent like ETFE and it’s more insulative)
The layering of the transparent material allows sunlight through which, in conjunction with air heating and cooling systems is designed to maintain an internal temperature to maintain the greenery of it’s urban-scaled park.
Also, as an aside unrelated to the other projects, I researched a special Photovoltaic tensile material which comes in units called the PowerMod 1200M™ made by a company called FTL (Surprisingly not related to the FTL who designed Rosa Parks Transit Center). It’s made of a PVC mesh with solar panels woven into it. From doing some research I found it’s mainly used by the US Armed forces for Expedition Base Camps, Recharging Humvees, Small Unit Operations, and Mobile Tactical Units Such as Medical, Refrigeration, and Communications.
-Its Average Daily Output: 4.5 KWH– About 1/6th of an average homes daily power consumption.
-Operating Voltage (V): 24 Volts
-Operating Current (Amps): 38.4 Amps
Stay tuned for the beginnings of Part 2! I’m excited to start experimenting with these structures myself.