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Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Many people ask us what the difference is between tensile roofs vs tented roofs.

Introduction to Tented Roofs (Non-Tensile)

Non-tensile tents are convenient, quickly assembled, easy to fabricate, and installation is usually inexpensive. As such, they may not have to abide by permanent building regulations and so may not be engineered for long-term protection.

For semi-permanent tents, general use is typically not rated or warrantied to resist high winds, snow, storms, or heavy downpours.

Non-Tensile Characteristics

The manufacturing of standard tents is a 2-dimensional patterning process which makes manufacturing easy and scalable.

To provide stability, traditional canvas tents usually have numerous connection points, with steeply sloping roofs and fabrics fixed to heavy timber substructures. However, all it takes is one mean wind, snow load, hail, storm, or a combination thereof, and the roof may be damaged or even blown away. It is therefore important to understand the site requirements (e.g. climate / topography) in order to evaluate whether a tent roof and structure need additional design-engineering to meet a client’s performance requirements to maximise durability and lifespan.

Some more flexible fabrics, such as shade-nets canopies and stretch tents, look great on initial installation as the elasticity creates dimensionality in the fabric. However, these also need to be correctly analyzed in conjunction with their sub-structure to meet the conditions of the specific environments that they are installed in. Canopies hold their shape if expertly patterned, made, and installed as part of a total system with their supporting sub-structure.

Introduction to Tensile Roofs

Tensile roofs offer stability and strength like permanent roof structures, typically made from steel sheeting, tiles, or thatch.

Tensile structures incorporate specially shaped, load-bearing tensioned roofs with lightweight engineered frames capable of spanning large distances and are easily transportable to remote sites and installed without needing heavy foundations where ground conditions allow.

A permanent or semi-permanent, tensile roof and frame structure, ideal for cladding an architectural envelope, creates an internal environment with comfort and performance metrics comparable to, and in some cases exceeding other more traditional structures.

Tensile roofs are designed as follows:

  • Certain loads are imposed upon the roof form based on the site (wind, snow, rain, topography), the regional building codes, and the position and shape of the membrane.

  • These loads are analyzed through an iterative computational process.

  • The fabrics, ropes, cables, and substructures are specified to comply with the site analysis.

  • Fabrics undergo bi-axial tests to determine the compensations for patterning.

  • A 3-dimensional patterning process then ensues.

Tensile Roof Characteristics

If design-engineered, expertly fabricated, and professionally installed multi-purpose tensile roofs fulfil many of the needs of permanent roof structures with the added conveniences of speed, versatility, and portability, values that regular roof structures may not offer.

Robust and long-lasting tensile structures provide extraordinary luxury and comfort.


We are not stating that non-tensile roofs cannot be engineered to withstand severe weather, we are merely providing information on how introducing tensile engineering technology into tent design may allow for more predictable behavior to suit a client’s performance and site requirements.


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