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Fabric Structures

How Fabric Structures Are Used

Fabric Structures provide solutions for a wide range of applications. Architectural awnings can be used for salt storage, warehousing, agricultural buildings, yurt designs, riding arenas, aviation facilities, golf course shelters, recreation buildings, and much more.

PSE provides municipal engineering for commercial canopies and awnings. Tension fabric structures can be used for government or public works projects such as:

  • Post offices
  • Park shelters
  • Schools
  • Recreational facilities
  • Salt storage
  • Waste/recycling
  • Temporary fire, rescue, & EMS departments
  • Prisons
  • Wash down structures
  • Portable command centers

Architectural canopies and awnings are today’s preferred choice whenever a dramatic, unique architectural statement using green engineering is called for.


Cover What You Value

If you need a temporary or modular fabric structure or building to provide protection from the weather, contain an area, or serve as storage space, but you don’t want to spend the money to construct a conventional building, then an architectural canopy or awning is the perfect solution. More importantly, you can have it now! A temporary architectural awning used as a building or shelter can be designed and engineered by a trusted structural engineering firm like PSE Consulting Engineers, Inc..

The basic types of tension fabric structures are cable domes, mast-supported, arch-supported, radial tent, and saddle roofs. In these types of fabric structures, the distinction between roof and wall is indistinct. Tension fabric structures can economically span large distances without internal obstructions or the need for any mechanical systems. An architectural canopy engineer will help design your fabric structure to meet your needs, along with your local building department requirements.

Fabric structures and buildings can come with steel or aluminum trusses. All components are either hot-dipped galvanized, anodized structural aluminum, or high strength powder coating finishes. Complete fasteners and cable systems are galvanized, stainless, or otherwise corrosion resistant to offer decades of maintenance-free service while meeting all building codes.


One of the main advantages of fabric structure is that you can install it rapidly and easily. Tension fabric buildings can provide abundant daytime lighting that is bright and natural, and the interior of a fabric structure is an inviting environment that people can thrive in. The cover’s translucent and reflective qualities also allow for further energy savings by providing indoor temperature stability.

  • Tension fabric buildings are less likely to catch on fire and flame-retardant cover material is available.
  • Tension fabric buildings are better able to withstand high winds and remain intact after natural weather events, so there are lower insurance costs.
  • Fabric buildings may be moved, disassembled or sold if no longer needed, which means significant amount of initial investment may be recouped. Additions are easy.
  • Fabric buildings are self cleaning- they never need painting, and dust, dirt and pollutants wash off with water. There are also no rotting parts to replace.
  • Fabric buildings are quieter- Fabrics dampen sound waves and the curved shape also limits echoes resulting in a more controlled atmosphere – unlike the flat surfaces of other options.

Fabric Structure

The fabric membrane consists of a vinyl-coated polyester weave, and it could be in translucent, opaque and many popular colors. Custom fabrics, such as camouflage for military applications, are also available. Dupont’s Kevlar, PVDF and other quality coatings can be applied specifically for structures that must maintain appearance and provide extended life. Additional coatings could be added to the fabric which results in a long life, enhanced thermal characteristics, UV and environmental protection.

Thermal Design for Fabric Structures

In structures that require special temperature control, one or more vinyl coated, polyester layers are constructed into the outer membrane, creating a dead-air space of approximately 6-12”. This results in a minimum cost of heating and/or air conditioning the structure and provides for installing fiberglass or high tech “Mylar” materials. The Thermal liner is also used as an acoustical barrier. At no point does the inner and outer fabric meet to cause a condensation problem or interruption in the dead, insulated air space.

Custom-made tension fabric structures are engineered and fabricated to meet worldwide structural engineering, design, seismic and fire codes and are in compliance with all building departments. Fabric structures used in the USA are designed to meet the requirements of the International Building Code. IBC. The supporting steel truss or dome are designed to meet the requirements of the American Institute of Steel Construction, AISC


Minimal Foundation Requirements

Costly concrete foundations are not necessary for fabric buildings, whether for permanent or temporary use. Save money by installing a building directly on the ground with little site preparation. Fabric structures can also be constructed on asphalt or concrete, and you can add height to your building by putting it on a pony wall, shipping containers or concrete blocks. Many foundation systems for fabric buildings require no excavation, meaning that it provides superior holding capacity while being environmentally-friendly. Other anchoring options are also available.

  • Concrete Trench Foundation
  • Slab-on-Grade Foundation with Spiral Anchors
  • Concrete Footings with Spiral Anchors
  • Helical Piers as Foundation
  • Concrete Footings with Helical Piers

Tensile fabric structures and cable mast supported structures are also known as tensile structures. This type of fabric architecture offers innovative forms of green construction combined with art and imagination that provide designers and end users with a variety of aesthetic free-form architectural canopy, roof, and shade sail designs.

Tensile membrane structures are most often used as large span roofs as they can economically and attractively span large distances. Steady technological progress has increased the popularity of membrane-roofed and fabric structures. The low weight of the materials makes construction much more economical and easier than standard designs, especially when vast open spaces have to be covered. PSE is a structural engineering firm well versed in fabric structures, architectural canopies, and architectural awnings. Call today to discuss your needs.