How tensile structures perform in different conditions

Tensile fabric structures are a quality choice, blending art with science to create something that is both attractive and functional. Popular in a variety of environments, including schools, shopping centres, sports stadiums and music venues, they fulfil a variety of needs. However, potential clients will want reassurance that the structure can withstand a variety of weather conditions, fire and potential vandalism.

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Many tensile structures do not require planning permission but it is wise to check with the relevant authorities –


Very high UV levels reduce the product’s lifespan but UV stabilisers incorporated into the component PVC fabric protect both the cloth itself and any pigmentation. This is aimed at extending the tensile structure’s useable life to around ten years in areas where UV levels are high and twenty years where they are lower.


Correct engineering of a canopy can negate the effect of situating the structure on a windy site. This means accommodating the maximum deflections of the structure’s membrane, and remembering that these may be greater at its extremities. Annual maintenance and possible retension is particularly important for structures exposed to high wind speeds. A specialist, such as can provide more tailored advice.

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Snow results in melt water, which can form pools on the surface of a structure. Consequently, structures sited in areas at risk of heavy snow falls should have steeper profiles and smaller spans.


Assessing how any building or structure will perform in a fire is essential. Any membrane loses tension when subjected to high temperatures but the exact point that this happens depends on its components and precise construction. Fire retardants in PVC mean that the membrane will self-extinguish when the source of flames is removed. Moreover, canopy designs tend to trap smoke well above ground level, providing valuable time for people to escape. Any toxic fumes generated by smoke can be minimised by a built-in sprinkler system or mechanical ventilation.


Items thrown at fabric structures tend to bounce off, particularly if the object in question is blunt. This gives fabric an immediate advantage over a glass alternative because of the latter’s tendency to shatter on impact. Fabric has greater susceptibility to sharp objects but repair is possible thanks to glue-on patches or hot air welders.