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Structural Design of Membrane Structure


Engineering Services

Special Structures Lab provides a wide range of services that specialise in the fields of lightweight structures for:

Temporary structures such as tented roofs, grandstand seats, exhibition trailers

Temporary access systems for construction, maintenance or cleaning access

Permanent lightweight roofing such as structural fabric membrane roofs and facades on tensile and tension fabric roofs. ETFE panelled roofs.

Permanent lightweight space frames for exhibition, structures and domes

Design Services-we manage the design, manufacture, installation and project management of complete structures either direct for clients or as specialist providers of specialist services.


Our experience and dedicated focus on highly technical fabric membrane projects are often used by other engineering and architecture consultancy’s, often as part of a wider design team. The SSL service is often a collaboration between Rudi Enos Design and Alan White Design, see www.sigmasenmo.com. The company has expertise in all areas of structural engineering with emphasis on lightweight, temporary and portable works. The company has specialist skills in the field of portable and membrane structures and in the design and deployment of innovative specialist access systems. To see in depth the design process for structural membranes see the tab in this section, The Design Process.

Our design team utilises state of the art equipment to provide the following services:

 Portable Structures for the event industry. These include Event Venues, Demountable Seating, Exhibition Trailers and Exhibition Set Design.

 Specialist advice to the construction industry. This includes Fabric Structure design, Air Structures, Cable Net structures, Grid Shells, and all types of temporary works, in particular innovative access systems.

 Finite element analysis of fabric membranes, to calculate wind and snow loading.

 Structural analysis on all forms of unusual and in particular, mobile constructions.

 3 Dimensional computer aided design.

Presentation quality graphics for that extra edge in obtaining work.

Expert witness.

Loss adjustment on insurance matters.

Advice on occupancy levels, exit and entry requirements, licensing and crowd control.

 Feasibility studies. Advice on new legislation, law, and liabilities as they relate to the outdoor show business.

Feasibility Study

A growing part of our work is to provide clients, other engineers and manufacturers with specialist knowledge and software based analysis in the form of feasibility studies. This provides an accurate appraisal of the technical and economic risks associated with bespoke projects. It allows the client the comfort of working with known parameters rather than guesswork, and along the way, often quite inspiring visuals to help sell the project. The feasibility study does work that would be done anyway, and provided the project proceeds does not increase costs.


The planning of membrane structures and or the membrane roof element of traditional buildings requires and expertise in the subject using experience gained over many years and projects. In many cases the cost of a membrane can be further offset by savings made over the life of the structure such as by reduced maintenance or the daylight electricity savings of a translucent roof. Modern membrane materials are a complex mix of chemical compounds which perform well under a wide variety of environmental conditions. They provide a high level of translucency, typically from 10% to 30% and even greater where required to special order. They provide many benefits to whole of life costs in many installations where savings can be made on reduced electricity costs, etc. Quality standards of all goods supplied for a particular job must be stated prior to contract, and effective inspection methods carried out to ensure compliance. Some membrane materials can have design lives greater than traditional materials. A specific design life should be a negotiated with the designers, and a specific manufacturer's warranty agreed. Tests should ideally be made to check material properties. Structural steelwork specifications must meet the required codes for the locality. Surface finishes must be laid down and specified in the design brief. Type and quality of fixings should be agreed.

Project Management

We are often chosen to take a clients vision and make it into reality. This generates innovative structures which perform to the maximum of the projects ability and allows for structures which are economic, functional and durable while exhibiting the typical style that we produce for clients. We often provide a complete service for the client including bill of materials, component lists, budget costings and liability consultancy.


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