Harvesting rainwater is nothing new—but using fabric shade structures to collect and distribute rainwater, while providing an attractive aesthetic, is largely an untapped resource that can translate into growth potential for fabricators.
Architen Landrell, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, U.K., manufactures a structure that is essentially the opposite of an umbrella. The Inverted Cone acts like a giant funnel; water collects in the canopy and is channeled through the center mast into underground systems. “It’s a design that has been available for a long time. We’ve manufactured them for about 30 years,” says Jason Smith, business development manager. “The modern aspect is the ability to channel the water for a second use. The water can be tanked and used again to flush toilets or irrigate landscapes.”
Stirling, U.K.-based tensARC Ltd. manufactured an umbrella-type structure for the 2006 Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea flower show, which takes place each year at Chelsea Hospital in London. The temporary structure was manufactured of stainless steel and coated woven polyester, and collected water that was stored in a tank underneath, from which the entire garden was watered.
The inverted cone design can function as an aesthetic element in addition to its ability to harvest water. Montreal, Canada-based Sollertia Inc. designed a signature piece for the outdoor terrace of Granby, Quebec, Canada’s Cantine Ben La Bedaine restaurant. The inverted conical structure provides a sculptural element that is also functional. The structure’s inverted fabric cone funnels rainwater, which is collected in a decorative fountain equipped with water jets. “We used a translucent membrane for our design of the cone so that during the day the terrace is bathed in sheer luminosity,” says company president Claude Le Bel. “And at night the structure is lit in a most remarkable way.”