Fabric architecture is one of the oldest methods of dwelling construction in existence, but it has not stood still across the millennia. Today, fabric architecture can mean much more than just tents, with high-tech materials offering a practical and efficient way to provide dwellings and other kinds of buildings in a range of situations.
Modern technology has led to the creation of a wide range of different fabric types for architectural use. Some of the main fabric technologies include:
Even with simple tents, architectural fabrics have always had to be some of the strongest materials available. Today, a range of technologies exist to allow for more serious and long-term use of fabric architecture through the manufacture of high-tech, very strong materials.
To support the demands of the specific and unique Tensile Fabric Structures like those found at certain construction companies and elsewhere, a number of composite materials have been made. These combine multiple materials to provide properties that none would have on their own. Often, the properties achieved this way are strength, often in combination with low weight.
One of the challenges associated with using architectural fabrics for structures that go beyond traditional tents is the relative lack of insulation compared to traditional building materials. Once again, modern technologies and manufacturing techniques have helped to make significant improvements in this area.
Again, composite fabrics are often the solution. The use of multiple base materials, often in the form of multi-layered fabrics with insulating spaces between, can significantly improve the amount of insulation that is provided by fabric of a given weight and thickness. The use of membranes and treatments can also significantly improve the degree to which fabric inhibits heat transfer, as can using air cushion structures.
Modern manufacturing techniques have also allowed fabrics to be partly or fully made from materials that you would not normally associate with textiles. This can provide properties that may be equally surprising when found in a fabric.
Carbon fibre fabrics are one of the less surprising but most common examples, providing great strength at low weights. Some of the more surprising materials used in architectural fabrics include glass, metal, and even ceramic – all bringing important properties that are very useful when the textiles in question are being used in a structure that must be resilient and long-lasting.