Creating outdoor spaces that have the coziness of being inside combined with the natural light and fresh air of the outdoors is a continuing trend that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down—for both residential and commercial clients.
Polyfab’s HDPE sail cloth is a popular choice for alfresco applications, and for the first time is available in white. Duvall Design Inc., West Rockport, Maine, installed a 30-by-50-foot structure in Rockport, Maine, that spanned a residential patio, stretching from the garage to the house and at places reaching the ground. “It ties together the house, the landscape and patio, creating a comfortable social space that was previously unbearable to sit on,” says owner Charles Duvall. “And white is a great color to work with that we didn’t have before in this fabric. It doesn’t compete with other colors or architecture.”
Residential clients don’t generally want the heavy steel that is required to tension structures that use heavier fabrics, so fabrics that require lower pre-tension loads are used. “On domestic applications we prefer to use Ferrari Precontraint® fabrics because they’re easy to tension up smoothly at low pre-tension loads,” says Dr. Paul Baglin, managing director of tensARC Ltd. “For
clients who prefer a more tactile type of fabric, we’ll use acrylic canvas though it’s not as durable.”
Whatever fabric and rigging is used, it’s important to achieve a proper tension drum skin canopy and see that the structure doesn’t move too much when the wind hits. Loss of tension leads to water and dirt accumulation, and fabric deterioration, Baglin points out.
For commercial shade/mesh applications that require structural engineering, there aren’t many fabric options, according to Mark Welander, owner of Fabricon LLC, Missoula, Mont. When Fabricon worked with Kansas City Tent and Awning Co., Kansas City, Mo., on a shade structure over an atrium for the Carter Arts Center’s student center, Welander used Ferrari’s Soltis® 92 PVC-coated polyester mesh. “Soltis has been one of the few mesh fabrics we’ve found that can be suitably engineered,” Welander says. “It can be tested and provides the numbers for engineers to confidently say, ‘Yes, we know this fabric will hold up to snow and wind loads.’”