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Thursday October 7 2021

The textile facade: a flexible, light, resistant and versatile architectural component to discover

Textile facades are an unfamiliar architectural component in Quebec, despite the fact that they possess many remarkable qualities, including the capacity to contribute to a sustainable construction process. Outside the country, membrane facades have been proliferating for several years now, and we aim to highlight the many advantages inherent to this innovative construction system. Not only are tensioned facades – including textile bioclimatic facades – very light and quick to install, but they also affect the overall energy efficiency of a building, contributing to the comfort and well-being of its users. To top it off, textile facades are incredibly versatile, offering uncharted aesthetic possibilities and truly exhilarating creative freedom, opening the door to a wide range of architectural proposals, from the most sober to the most daring.

The use of bioclimatic facades is booming in Canada, and we are currently working on the development of large-scale projects here in Quebec and Western Canada. Over the past few years, Sollertia has had the chance to develop its expertise in the study, manufacturing and installation of textile facades, notably through the installation of membrane weather barriers in the COGECO amphitheatre in Trois-Rivières, the membrane walls of the Parc national du Mont-Tremblant amphitheatre, the retractable textile membrane walls of the Place du Citoyen amphitheatre in Chicoutimi and the renovation of the Canada Pavilion at Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal. We can’t help but notice that our first textile façade projects, installed several years ago, are still impeccably taut and looking great. The studies we carry out, combined with the high-performance membranes we use and the tensioning systems we utilize or customize, allow surfaces to maintain their tension over the long term. Extremely resistant and durable, these architectural membranes carry a ten-year warranty and have an average lifespan of 20 plus years.

Thermal comfort and energy efficiency

Acting like a skin that covers the building, the bioclimatic textile facade is made of micro-perforated membrane with important solar filtration properties that effectively supports thermal regulation, contributing to the building’s overall energy efficiency throughout the year. Visual comfort is also enhanced since the membrane reduces the effects of glare while preserving visibility towards the outside. In summer, the bioclimatic facade reduces the need for air conditioning and prevents the building from becoming a heat island.  In winter, it protects the building from the cooling effect of the wind. The savings generated in the medium and long term thanks to textile facades are truly remarkable, making them an interesting alternative in terms of sustainable development. Indeed, membrane facades have a low environmental footprint, considering their various properties (comfort, intelligent consumption, bioclimatic design, recyclability of membranes, etc.).

Versatility, flexibility and architectural identity

If the envelope of a building serves to mitigate the impact of the physical outside world on the building (humidity, air circulation, etc.), it also has the task of conveying the visual and aesthetic identity of the building to the outside world. A whole range of solid or micro-perforated architectural membranes, printable and available in a wide array of colors, can transform a facade into an effective communication tool. Whether for the construction or renovation of a building, the textile facade can be used for branding, either via a direct reference to a company, or through an eye-catching and memorable architectural proposal. Because of the lightness and speed of installation of stretched membrane facades, renewing the visual and aesthetic identity of a building can be done in a flash.

Architectural membranes can be installed directly onto a mounting system on site or prefabricated, in which case the membranes are stretched in the workshop on custom-designed metal frames. In either case, the lightness and low density of the architectural membranes reduce the weight of construction, guaranteeing faster installation than with traditional materials, as well as a reduction in installation costs and construction deadlines. Several aluminum installation and tensioning systems are available and can be adjusted according to the project’s requirements.

The versatility and flexibility of the membrane are a key part of the ingenious nature of textile facades. Weather-resistant (wind, snow, hail, significant temperature fluctuations, etc.) and resistant to tears and deformation, this flexible composite material allows for the creation of impeccable large monolithic flat surfaces, or a wide variety of three-dimensional architectural forms, from the most basic, straight-edged prisms to curved, arched, even resolutely organic figures. For those who seek to offer striking and original architectural designs, the textile facade truly offers endless creative possibilities.

From a strictly aesthetic point of view, the fluctuating and evolving nature of the membrane is particularly striking. During the day, the textile facade comes to life thanks to shadows and light. Throughout the day, the facade can change depending on the quality of the light (natural and/or artificial), the position of the sun and the viewing angle of the building. If it sometimes resembles an opaque surface supporting the play of shadows and light, at other times the surface will reveal its translucent nature when struck by a diagonal beam of sunlight. At night, a textile facade can add an element of depth, the transparency of the surface making it possible to see the interior of the building.  Or conversely, the textile facade can act as an opaque support for ambient lighting, either through a projection of images or lighting effects, in direct projection or rear projection, thus contributing to the luminosity of the surroundings.

Parc national de Mont-Tremblant amphitheatre project – Smith Vigeant Architects

Flexible stretched composite materials are an inexhaustible source of inspiration for all sorts of building facades. These flexible, strong and durable membranes are truly an opportunity to develop a variety of unique architectural signatures, offering versatility and performance for environmentally conscious architectural designs that are sensitive to the needs and comfort of users. Here at Sollertia, we are committed to a sustainable development strategy and believe that bioclimatic textile facades, by their lightness and efficiency, represent an innovative solution for projects with environmental considerations.  Our teams have expert knowledge of the various stages of design, manufacturing and installation of stretched and bioclimatic textile facades. We are ready and enthusiastic to work in synergy with all those who are inspired by this innovative architectural component.

**Header photo: COGECO amphitheatre – Architect: Paul Laurendeau