Architectural Membrane Structure- Its Advantages and Usage in Sports Facilities

Membrane structures are becoming largely popular in modern-day architecture. Although they have been used for over 50 years in form of tents, engineered tension membrane structures are being considered as viable and permanent building methods especially in sports facilities. An architectural membrane structure is a building that has been fully or partially constructed by use of tensile membranes. Some of the major sports buildings that have been developed by use of this unique and amazing technology include the London Olympic Stadium, Kuala Lumpur Formula One Circuit, and Marseilles Olympic Stadium. Other notable constructions that have architectural membrane structures include covered playgrounds, covered outdoor learning areas and multipurpose sports halls.

Due to the fact that membrane structures are economical to manufacture, design, and construct, they are mostly suitable for buildings that cover a large area. The low weight of materials used in these membrane structures helps reduce time consumption as well as construction costs.

Architectural Membrane Structure- Materials Used

An architectural membrane structure is made by use of various materials such as PVC-coated polyester, PVC coated glass fabric, PTFE and ETFE membranes, and translucent polythene fabrics. These are the predominant materials commonly used in construction of various types of buildings. They are composed of various characteristics that give the structure desirable properties such as tensile strength, stability, durability, and may others.

Types of Architectural Membrane Structures

Architecture membrane structures are grouped into three categories: Tension and Suspension membrane structures, Frame membrane structures, and Air-inflated membrane structures. Tension/suspension membrane structures are more popular and have been used to construct the roofs of various sports facilities around the world. The membrane structure’s surface is curved in shape, which is why it’s considered as the best option for sports buildings. The tension induced in the membrane provides the structure with maximum flexibility and helps it maintain its shape.

The frame structures usually consist of a self-stable frame covered with membrane. The frame structure is usually steel space frame, steel frame, or space struss which are all capable of supporting different weight loads.The air-inflated membrane structures, also known as air-supported membrane structures, use air pressure to inflate the membranes in order for it to support its own weight as well as other surface loads.

Architectural Membrane Structure- Advantages

An architectural membrane structure has numerous advantages over other normal structures.

Ideal for Large Span Constructions

The structure requires less structural steel to support the roof, thus enabling large spans of column-free space to be covered. Their shaped fabric which is usually under tension also has the ability to span large areas. This why it is popular in buildings that require large roof spacing such as sports facilities and music theatres.


The structure is erected more efficiently which reduces construction overall construction costs. The fact that it spans large areas also significantly reduces costs as compared to the conventional roofing systems. Maintenance costs are also low as it is less likely to wear and tear.

Rapid Construction Speed

Through incorporation of the latest construction techniques, installation of fabricated membrane panels can be done within a short period of time. This is because unlike other types of structures that involve plenty of concrete work, membrane structures take less time to complete, thereby saving labor costs and energy. Membrane removal can be easily accomplished.

Provision of Natural Lighting

The materials used to construct an architectural membrane structure provide an outstanding translucency, therefore reducing daytime interior lighting costs. The membrane material is relatively excellent in light transmission, with approximately 7% to 20% light transmission. It also has a reflective index of light which forms soft diffuses of light to create an ambient exterior luminescence.

Flexible Design Creativity

One of the main reasons why architectural membrane structures are a popular with many designers is the fact that they can be easily manipulated into any shape and design. The structure can be designed for use in roof buildings, canopies, overhangs, and other architectural applications.

Its membrane is easily formed into amazing night scenes with the coordination of lighting equipment.

Aesthetic Value

With the availability of unlimited designs and the unique characteristics of the membrane, this structure is aesthetically pleasing. Furthermore, the artificial lighting brings modern beauty to the occupants.


The daily maintenance cost on this type of structure is minimal as compared to others. Its tensile strength and elongation properties are particularly important for its longevity. It’s less susceptible to tear and wear and thus does not require a lot of care and maintenance.

Weather Resistance

An architectural membrane structure provides excellent water and weather resistance to the interior of the building. The structure’s heat sealed seams which creates a monolithic layer of a coating compound provides a good waterproof seal. This means that the structure is not susceptible to any weather effect, thus sports fans can sit and enjoy the games with comfort.

Safety and Reliability

This structure’s earthquake resistance is relatively good since it bears less building load and has high-elasticity. Its soft membrane structures can cope with a large amount of displacement and the likelihood of a building collapsing is minimal. It’s also flame-resistant.

Reduced Noise Pollution

The structure is not only effective in reducing climatic noises from hail, wind, and rain, but it’s also excellent in diffusing and absorbing both internal and external sounds. This is made possible by the structure’s curved nature as well as the membrane material which absorbs the sounds, thereby reducing noise pollution dramatically.

Energy Costs Reduction

The structure dissipates heat in summer and retains heat in winter, thereby reducing energy costs.


The membrane structure maintains all the properties required for it to survive a long period of time. The fact that its weather-resistance, stain and fade resistant, flame resistance, and has great tensile strength gives it a long life-span.

Their Effectiveness in Sports Facilities

As stated earlier, the architectural membrane structure is mainly used in construction of the roofing of major sports buildings. Its most suitable as it has a large span, provides insulated and translucent roofing advantages, has an exciting design, is energy and cost effective, and most of all, its durable.

Apart from that, this structure provides ancillary accommodation. This simply means that the structure can comfortably accommodate various rooms such as shower facilities, changing rooms, offices, fitness suites, as well as viewing balconies. Their open ventilation allows for proper airflow inside thus providing the occupants with regular air conditioning.

With their numerous uses and advantages, architecture membrane structures provide a modern approach to sports facility design.