Last edited 16 Apr 2018

Cable net structure


A cable net structure is an example of a tensile structure, i.e. a structure that is stabilised by tension rather than compression. For example, a piece of fabric pulled in opposite directions.

Cable nets were developed and popularised as a minimalist structural system in the 1960s and 70s by Frei Otto. However, the architect Helmut Jahn is often credited with using the system in the most innovative application, when designing the Kempinski Hotel, Munich, in the early-1990s. Jahn adopted the cable net system, creating a structural form of pre-tensioned cables to provide support for a sheer glass curtain wall. The cables and fixings are typically stainless steel, enabling the accommodation of high pre-stress loads.

To increase height and load capabilities, horizontal cables can be combined with vertical cable arrangements. By doing so, system designs can be developed for double curvature walls as well as flat walls.

Leaving aside the boundary steel, cable nets are capable of being very simplistic structures which are favoured for providing optimal transparent facades and blast-resistance. The clean aesthetic of the glass wall is often capable of integrating well with adjacent structures and the need for conventional support structures can be avoided by the single pre-tensioned cables arranged in a geometric (often a net) pattern; as long as the cables are aligned with the glass joints.

The cables are locked together at their vertices using a clamping component which also fixes the glass to the net. Complex hydraulic jacking processes are involved in applying the cable prestress, and the large loads will often require close coordination between the façade contractor and the building engineer.

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