Revolutionary, Permanent Tensioned Membrane Aluminum Frame Supported Structures

Unique tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structures are a permanent solution for architects seeking rapid, cost-effective construction, sustainability, and energy efficiency
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Sponsored by Sprung Instant Structures, Inc.
By Celeste Allen Novak, FAIA, LEED AP

Energy Ratings: High-Performance Insulation

Insulation provides comfort in both hot and cold climates. Insulation reduces the cost of climate control as well as absorbs sound for better acoustics. A comprehensive insulation package for a tensioned membrane structure includes vapor barriers, thermal breaks, and a tensioned, finished interior liner. Additionally, membranes are designed to have low air and vapor permeance.

Frames are designed to accept a “sandwich” of fiberglass batting and are part of the membrane system. In any building, holes in the insulation can dramatically reduce its performance, and multiple layers of insulation may merely add to dead air spaces between each layer, negating much of the insulation value. An engineered insulation system remains in place and does not slide down the roof and bunch at the base of the wall. The specified R-value is uniformly maintained, as there are no pinch or bunching points from floor to ceiling throughout a membrane system.

Formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation is available as part of a complete insulated building package and assists with meeting green rating system goals. Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature and has a strong odor. It can be found in numerous building products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to formaldehyde may cause adverse health effects from mild allergic reactions to more serious neurological effects. An insulated membrane system can be specified as part of the membrane system in up to a 9-inch thickness (R-30). R-values are a measure of thermal resistance. ENERGY STAR recommends an R-30 value for most climate zones in the United States for roofs. In a membrane system, an R-30 system is both the roof and the walls, and the system can be designed to meet climate standards from -60 degrees Fahrenheit (-51 degrees Celsius) to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). Fiberglass insulation can be specified with third-party certifications to have a minimum recycled content of 25 percent, comprised of 20 percent post-consumer bottle glass and 5 percent post-industrial glass. Innovative insulation systems have already been developed to improve the overall R-value of the roof of the structure (above R-30) to meet some of the new energy codes.

A 20-year life-cycle analysis of a full-size hockey rink tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structure in Canada provides some startling statistics. The rink features an ultra-high-efficiency refrigeration system designed to dehumidify the ice arena, heat the domestic hot water, and heat the arena offices, arena, and lobby. The refrigerant was designated to have no negative effects on the environment in line with the Montreal Protocol. After its completion in January 2015, actual energy data and energy bills were collected and compared with the average Canadian ice arena using a comprehensive Natural Resource Canada report. The results show that Shawnigan Lake School will save the school more than $850,000 in future energy cost. These energy savings considered the base electrical charge, power factor, and demand charge of Shawnigan Lake School.

Comparisons with Traditional Construction

In addition to favorable comparisons on energy savings, there are numerous other ways that tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structures stack up to other building types. When comparing oranges to oranges, this chart shows a few key advantages of tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structures.

As a new building type, tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structures are a new way of thinking through the construction process and the delivery of a green building.

Going for Silver: LEED Certification Submittals

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy provides basic and advanced training to law enforcement personnel. Planning for a new basic training village included the construction of a new dining, classroom, and gymnasium as well as a new four-story dormitory building. Section 48-52-830 of the South Carolina Energy code requires that all major projects “must be designed, constructed, and at least certified as receiving two globes using the Green Globes Rating System or receiving the LEED Silver standard.”4 The team chose the LEED standard. In obtaining certification as meeting the LEED Silver standard, a major facility project must earn at least 40 percent of the available points for energy performance under Energy and Atmosphere: Optimize Energy Performance credit.

Tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structures were chosen for the 60-foot by 150- foot dining facility, the 70-foot by 157-foot classroom facility, and the 90-foot by 178-foot gymnasium. All three of these buildings achieved LEED Silver status (under the LEED BD+C 2009 V3) in time for the grand opening on June 15, 2011. The manufacturer submitted certified product test reports that supported the following credit points:

  • Sustainable Sites 7.2: Heat Island Effect Roof Test Results from Membrane Manufacturer
    • ASTM C1549: Total Solar Reflectance
    • ASTM C1371: Emmitance
    • ASTM E1980: Solar Reflectance Index (SRI)
  • LEED Energy and Atmosphere: Optimize Energy Performance (P1: Fundamental Commissioning and P2: Minimum Energy Performance both required)
    • ASHRAE 90.1-2007: Certificate of Compliance
    • Report on Envelope Airtightness Testing
  • LEED Materials and Resources 4.1: Recycled Content and Materials and Resources 4.2: Recycled Content
    • Aluminum Recycled Content Certificate (In this case, the manufacturer was able to certify a recycled content greater than 50 percent.)
    • Insulation Recycled Content Certificate: A minimum recycled content of 25 percent comprised of 20 percent post-consumer bottle glass and 5 percent post-industrial glass
  • LEED Environmental Quality 4.1: Low-Emitting Materials: Adhesives and Sealants
    • Door Transition Package (VOC) Certificate
  • Additional innovation credit for the ability of this building to be dismantled and reconstructed demonstrated by the reuse of the Canyons Ski Resort.

Over the past eight years, new advances in technology since this certification have only increased the sustainability properties of this energy-efficient building system.

Occupant Well–Being

The following two examples highlight the benefits to occupants of tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structures. The first is one of many churches that have adapted these buildings as worship facilities. The second is a corporate office that pushes design and maximizes the use of natural daylight to create a state-of-the-art open office facility.

Photo courtesy of Sprung Instant Structures, Inc.

The pastor of New Life Christian Center in Turlock, California, reports that the “facility is state of the art, half the cost of traditional construction, and three times faster to build.”

Ministry Not Mortgages

Dr. Brett C. Avery, executive pastor at New Life Christian Center in Turlock, California, is enthusiastic about the tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structures chosen for their ministry. This is an “innovative, highly creative, kingdom-focused building. The team gave us a permanent facility that exceeded our expectations and allowed us to invest in ministry not mortgages,” he says. “This facility is state of the art, half the cost of traditional construction and three times faster to build.” After evaluating the cost of a new structure for a growing congregation, the pastor chose an unusual alternative. This 150-foot-wide by 212-foot-long building includes an open-concept foyer with daylight panels that serves as a gathering area.

The facility is comprised of a three-story mezzanine core. This core includes a state-of-the-art worship center with seating for 1000 people, a cafe, an expansive lobby, and a kid’s space. The facility provides more than 31,000 square feet on the first floor and more than 8,000 square feet of mezzanine space. The third floor provides space for the mechanical systems. The core of the building is constructed of traditional building materials, and this mezzanine is designed to allow parishioners to overlook the meeting areas and sanctuary.

Photo courtesy of Sprung Instant Structures, Inc.

The design of the New Life Christian Center includes an impressive open-concept foyer that serves as a gathering area.

The design includes an impressive open-concept foyer that serves as a gathering area. This high-ceiling daylit space provides access to a break area, meeting rooms, and leads into the sanctuary. The sanctuary seats almost 1,100 people and houses a large platform stage, a prayer room, an usher’s room, and a nursing room with a view to the sanctuary. The long-term cost of ownership was a major consideration for this congregation. The insulation factor and eco-friendly construction provided both a lower dollar per square foot initial investment and significant savings in heating and cooling in the hot, dry climate of the Central Valley in California.

Photo courtesy of Sprung Instant Structures, Inc.

This 150,000-square-foot fully insulated tensioned membrane aluminum frame supported structure equipped with two manufacturing wings and office space meets the stringent environmental and occupational goals of its owners.

 

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Originally published in Architectural Record

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