Fabric structures, combine traditional building materials—metal, wood, stone and glass—with a fabric membrane, typically designed under very high tension. The most common application is the traditional awning, however shade sails, tension membranes and retractable fabric rooves are becoming increasingly popular as people discover their cost, practical and environmental benefits.

Some popular places in which fabric structures are found include parks, playgrounds and amphitheatres. In addition, they are often used in sports clubs such as golf courses and tennis courts, to schools wishing to protect athletes and children from the sun. They are versatile and can be used in many different residential, commercial or industrial areas, covering any sort of outdoor space that needs protection from the elements.

Within New Zealand, protection from UV rays is the primary benefit of a fabric structure and one that is highly publicised with our depleting ozone, and this shouldn’t be dismissed lightly. With a good fabric structure (the best can offer up to 98 percent UV protection) almost no harmful UV rays can penetrate the fabric, keeping the skin protected from sun damage, such as sunburn and skin cancer, no matter what time of day it is or how extreme the heat. But UV protection isn’t the only benefit- shade sails also provide ventilation, as they are made from fabrics that allow cool air to circulate.

Fabric structures have massive advantages over structures made from traditional materials. They are lightweight and incorporate a lot less material, they can be efficiently engineered and installed, and structures such as shade sails can involve complex 3-D geometrical patterns that enable unlimited scope in architectural creativity to appease any aesthetics. Most importantly, fabric structures can be manufactured to have an extremely low environmental impact. Materials can be used that are 100-percent recyclable, and because of their lightweight nature they cut down dramatically on supporting structure requirements. Plus the shade fabric allows natural lighting whilst reflecting radiant heat, reducing energy requirements and utility costs.