How new, flame resistant tensile fabric works

A new flame resistant fabric has been registered in California, by SEFAR Architecture. This is significant news for tensile fabric structures, because fire resistance is an important factor, not only in gaining permission to use a tensile fabric design, but also in the costs of insuring it.

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In California, the new product has achieved “Title 19” – a registration awarded by the Fire Department. This means that the fabric can be used in much larger scale, fixed tensile fabric applications. These tend to be in schools, retail parks and the hospitality industry.

If structures are not open on all sides, but have awnings, curtains or other enclosures, fire-resistant fabric is a must.

PTFE material

The new fabric transmits 40% of light, giving a comfortable translucent, diffuse light. It is coated with a Teflon-type coating (PTFE), and there is also a yarn similar to Teflon woven into the fabric. So not only is it flame resistant, it also wears well and doesn’t easily stain.

The magazine, Building, explains that PTFE is non-flammable but that if fabric is used to cover a building, rather than as a canopy over an outside space, an extraction system or sprinklers may be needed, because of the potential for smoke from the fabric. Obviously, where the structure is open at the sides, smoke can escape.

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Tensile fabric canopies increasingly popular

This fabric is probably going to be used a lot with retractable roofs because it can be repeatedly folded back then opened out to provide shade, for example, if spectators are in full sun, or shelter, or if it starts to rain.

In fact, tensile fabric canopies are becoming more and more popular. Most people are aware of the largest tensile fabric structure – the O2 Arena, which is the biggest in the world. However, the real growth is coming from the demand for canopies for outdoor events, to give schools extra space, or for one-off celebrations such as weddings. Firms who supply and install these canopies, such as, are finding more and more demand for their services.

With the uncertainty of the British climate, being able to put up an inexpensive overhead covering means that people who own or can rent outdoor space, are starting to see a whole range of potential new uses for it.

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