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Birdair Tensile Roofing Structure Remains Intact 35 Years Later

Birdair Tensile Roofing Structure Remains Intact 35 Years Later

University of La Verne Boasts World’s First Permanent Tensioned Membrane Roof

Published: January 26, 2009

The world’s first permanent tensioned membrane roofing system––engineered, fabricated, and installed by Birdair, Inc., the leading specialty contractor of lightweight long-span roofing systems and tensile structures throughout the world––remains in very good condition 35 years later at the University of La Verne, La Verne, CA.

The iconic tensioned membrane roofing system, installed by Birdair in 1973, covers the University of La Verne structure officially known as the Sports Science and Athletics Pavilion, which students and faculty affectionately refer to as the “Super Tents.”

The design that was state-of-the-art in 1973 still remains innovative today, as seen by the recent $8 million renovation to the facility’s interior which left the exterior untouched. The curved roof design, comprised of four billowing cone-shaped fabric membrane peaks, continues to function as a highly durable, visually appealing addition to the campus.

As part of the 2006 renovation, the “Super Tents,” which were previously used as a student service center, gained one-third more useful space. The lower level now includes classrooms, a conference room and an athletic equipment storage area, while the upper level features a basketball court and exposed views of the roof.

“The roof has held up surprisingly well,” says University of La Verne assistant director of facilities Robert Beebe. “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the University, as they’ve had to do extremely little maintenance on the structure over the past 35 years.”

Throughout the past three and a half decades, the tensioned membrane roof structure has proved to be a more economical roofing option than many other conventional roofing materials, having exceeded its lifecycle by five years and having required only minimal maintenance during that time.

“We’ve cut samples out periodically over the past 30 years to test the fabric membrane’s durability,” explains David Ricci, Birdair director of customer service and warranty. “The fabric’s strength and ability to weather well are reasons that the University has no plans to replace it any time soon, despite considerable renovations to the structure’s interior.” 

In order to ensure maximum durability, Birdair provides the University with follow-up service and support, offering ongoing inspection, maintenance and routine testing of the structure. This allows the University of La Verne to enjoy the many benefits of their tensioned membrane roofing system, including ample natural daylighting, energy savings, and an exceptional aesthetic appeal.

In addition to its role as the world’s first permanent tensioned membrane roofing system, the University of La Verne’s forward-thinking tensile membrane system was also the first to incorporate PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) as a roofing material.

PTFE is a Teflon®-coated woven fiberglass membrane that is extremely durable and weather resistant; it is capable of withstanding temperatures from -100°F to +450°F, is immune to UV rays and is waterproof.

Since the first installation at the University of La Verne, permanent tensioned membrane roofing systems have steadily increased in popularity, serving as a unique aesthetic and functional option over more traditional roofing materials supported by posts and beams. Smooth, flexible fabric roofing integrates tension for support, and can be attached to any building envelope, with virtually unlimited design possibilities. Advancements in the industry now allow for enhanced functionality and sustainability, in addition to unparalleled aesthetics. 

As a full-service specialty contractor, Birdair continues to play a major role in the tensile architecture industry, offering complete design and engineering assistance and solutions throughout the design-build process. In addition to the University of La Verne’s Sports Science and Athletic Pavilion, Birdair has completed more than 300 major tensile architecture installations in more than 30 countries worldwide. 

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About Birdair: Birdair, Inc. is the leading specialty contractor of custom tensile structures throughout the world. In addition to pre-construction services such as design assistance, budgeting, construction methodologies and project scheduling, Birdair provides design-build solutions in all aspects of project design, engineering, installation and maintenance. The company offers a selection of architectural fabric membranes, including PTFE fiberglass, ETFE film, PVC and Tensotherm™. Birdair, based in Buffalo, NY, is a member of the Taiyo Kogyo Group, with operations serving North and South America and other international locations. For more information about Birdair, like us on Facebook, call 1-800-622-2246 or visit www.birdair.com.