- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 28 Nov 2018
Tensile surfaces, that is, surfaces which carry only tension and no compression or bending, rely on double curvature for their stability. Stability is provided by the opposition of two curvatures which enable the surface to be tensioned without losing its form.
Tensioning the surface reduces its elasticity and so its tendency to deform under load, and the curvature itself means that the surface will deform less for any given extension.
Tensile surfaces can be used in buildings to create thin, long span enclosures, such as roofs for sports stadia, shopping centres, atria and so on. Typically they are constructed using a PVC coated polyester or PTFE coated glass fabric, typically just 1 mm thick.
|Anticlastic (saddle-shaped).||Synclastic (dome-shaped)|
Anticlastic surfaces are those in which the centres of curvature are located on opposing sides of the surface. This is commonly-described as a saddle shape. A hyperbolic paraboloid is an anticlastic surface.
Synclastic surfaces are those in which the centres or curvature are on the same side of the surface. This is a dome-shape. This can be created with an architectural fabric by inflation – that is, air pressure within the dome maintains the form of the surface when it is tensioned, rather than the opposition of the curvatures.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Barrel vault.
- Biaxial bending.
- Concept structural design of buildings.
- Conoid shell.
- Fabric structures.
- Hyperbolic paraboloid.
- Limit state design.
- Millennium Dome.
- Structural engineer.
- Tensile structures.
- The development of structural membranes.
- The structural behaviour of architectural fabric structures.
- Types of dome.
 External references
- ‘How structures work: Design and behavior from bridges to buildings’ (2nd ed.), YEOMANS, D., Wiley (2016)
Featured articles and news
What is biophilic design and how can it increase wellbeing?
80 experts come up with the top 7 mistakes the industry makes with BREEAM.
Compliance cannot be verified by inspection on delivery.
Some electric cars have batteries that give a range of over 350 miles.
Assembling, curating, caring for, and designing the future.
A sensitive approach to renovating a building of historic stature.
UK energy policy uncertainty as Welsh project put on hold
What collaborative working achieves and how it can be put in place.
BSRIA publishes the 2019 edition of its small but concise annual databook.
Using QSAND to measure the performance of disaster response.
What U-values are, why they matter and how they are calculated.
The need to ensure that we plan for all aspects of our bio-economy
BSRIA calls on government to reach deeper into the causes of pollution.