Fabric architecture covers urban plazas, school yards, park gathering spots and rooftop restaurants, providing protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays and unexpected precipitation, while allowing light and air to move. Arizona State University in Scottsdale, Ariz., took the idea a step further, working with FTL Design Engineering Studio, New York, N.Y., to design SkySong, an overhead canopy that collects rain water falling on the structure and uses it to irrigate the landscape.
SkySong’s design uses 45,000 square meters of PTFE-coated glass fiber membrane from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. to create a series of high and low points built around a circle. Using special software, FTL calculated the amount of drainage from the membrane and used the roof’s four low points as funnels to channel and collect water. In Arizona, the annual rainfall translates into approximately 80,000 gallons of water per year to irrigate flower beds and gardens. (The same structure built in New Jersey would collect more than 400,000 gallons per year.) FabriTec Structures, Costa Mesa, Calif., constructed SkySong, which has become a center for on-campus life and a model of sustainability.