The green movement has gained considerable traction in the design of new buildings, from office properties and residential construction to warehouses and tension fabric storage facilities.

The hallmark of green building comes in the form of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council, which is achieved by meeting various design and operating criteria. But even for those building owners who choose not to go through the LEED process, greater energy efficiency and the subsequent reduction in operating expenses have become their highest priorities when erecting a new building.

Naturally Green Fabric

For storage structures, warehouses and other locations where goods are handled, a certain level of energy efficiency is achieved simply by installing a building with a tension fabric roof. Both polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene (PE) fabrics continue to improve in quality, and their natural properties make fabric roofs suitable for green-conscious building users.

The primary advantage of these structures from a sustainability standpoint is that fabric offers a high solar reflectance, keeping the roof cooler and reducing the heat island effect in the area by reflecting sunlight’s heat away from the building. Along with reflectance, tension fabric’s high thermal emittance also contributes to the roof absorbing less heat. During peak summer weather, these properties can combine to keep fabric roofs about 50 to 60 degrees cooler than roofs built with conventional materials, thereby reducing the need for temperature control measures inside the building.

Although fabric roofs are reflective, they also offer up to 12-percent translucency to allow natural light to permeate the structure. Direct sunlight offers about 10,000 footcandles of illumination, so even at 5-percent translucency, a fabric roof will let approximately 500 footcandles into a building on a sunny day — well above the minimum 20-footcandle guideline for lighting inside a warehouse.

Most structures will still need artificial lights for nighttime work and to provide adequate illumination on stormy, overcast days, but during normal daylight hours, fabric roofs effectively eliminate the need for artificial lighting. By taking advantage of natural sunlight, tension fabric contributes to reducing the electricity bill and making a building more energy efficient.

These benefits also help to rapidly accumulate points on the path to LEED certification.