Comparing Tension Fabric to Tensile Fabric: Strengths and Limitations


Both tension and tensile fabric are unique solutions that offer a blend of aesthetics, functionality, and sustainability when used to create buildings. But how do these fabrics stack up against each other? In this blog, we’ll explore the strengths and limitations of both tension fabric and tensile fabric structures to help you make an informed decision for your next project.

What Are Tension Fabric Buildings?

Tension fabric buildings, also known as tension fabric structures, are a type of construction that uses a rigid frame system covered by a flexible fabric membrane. The fabric membrane is stretched tightly over the frame, creating a durable and weather-resistant enclosure that uses tension to maintain the structural integrity of the building.

These buildings offer quick construction, cost-efficiency, and versatility, making them suitable for time-sensitive projects, cost-effective solutions, and a wide range of applications. However, they have limitations, including a limited lifespan because the fabric membrane eventually degrades over time. They also require more maintenance than a tensile fabric structure to prevent tears.

How Are Tension Fabric Buildings Used?

From crop storage and animal housing to sports venues and warehouses, tension fabric buildings are used in various applications and across many industries. As they are easy to install and remove, they can come in handy for businesses who only need a temporary structure, while still providing a solid structure that blocks the elements.

Tension fabric buildings can also be a good option for:

  • Modular frame buildings
  • Canopies
  • Skywalks
  • Sheltered walkways
  • Shaded areas
  • Atrium roofing
  • Showpieces

What Are Tensile Fabric Buildings?

While tension fabric buildings require a rigid frame and are meant to be temporary, tensile fabric buildings tend to be used for longer periods of time and do not require a frame to support them. Instead, these structures use tensile strength to create sweeping, freeform designs that are more architecturally pleasing. 

Unlike tension fabric buildings, the strength of the fabric itself provides the structure with minimal support needed and quick installation. This durability extends to extreme weather conditions and makes them ideal for long-term use. The complexity of designing and constructing these buildings, however, can result in higher costs, necessitating precise engineering and materials to make sure your design is done right the first time. 

How Are Tensile Fabric Buildings Used?

Tensile fabric buildings are popular in the design world because they are not only nice to look at but long-lasting as well. You can find them used in architectural landmarks like stadiums, museums, and cultural centers and in commercial and public spaces, such as airports, aircraft hangars, and public parks.

Tensile fabric buildings can be a good option for:

  • Atriums
  • Backyards
  • Botanical gardens
  • Canopies
  • Courtyards
  • Entrances
  • Greenhouses
  • Restaurant patios
  • Shaded areas

Design Your Own Tension or Tensile Fabric Structure With Tensile Structure Systems

Whether you choose a tension or tensile fabric building, Tensile Structure Systems is here to help. Our experts are dedicated to helping you craft a masterpiece from beginning to end to turn your vision into a reality. We’re here to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your project goals and vision. Contact us today to discuss your project and take the first step toward creating a one-of-a-kind tensile or tension fabric structure that sets you apart from the rest.