Iconic PTFE canopy greets and protects travelers

October 1st, 2016 / By: / Case Studies, Exteriors

An inverted cone canopy roof is the finishing touch to the new Rental Car Center at the San Diego International Airport. It welcomes travelers while providing protection from the elements. Photo: Birdair.
An inverted cone canopy roof is the finishing touch to the new Rental Car Center at the San Diego International Airport. It welcomes travelers while providing protection from the elements. Photo: Birdair.

The San Diego International Airport (SDIA) wanted to make life easier for travelers needing rental cars by providing a one-stop centralized hub that would be quick and easy to access. They developed the SDIA Rental Car Center, a two million square-foot complex that houses all car rental companies and vehicles and enables them to provide a single shuttle service to transport passengers to and from curbside.

As part of the design, SDIA wanted a covered walkway curbside that was unique and welcoming while providing protection from the California sunshine. The design team turned to tensile structure specialist Birdair Inc., Buffalo, N.Y., to create and install an inverted cone canopy.

The PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) fiberglass membrane features 17 inverted cones on a steel supporting structure. Covering approximately 16,700 square feet, the dramatic fabric roof form is curved between supporting elements in a manner reflective of the flow of tension forces within the membrane.

Not only visually appealing, the fabric structure offers a number of environmental and economic benefits. PTFE fiberglass is Energy Star and Cool Roof Rating Council certified and can reflect as much as 73 percent of the sun’s energy.

The lightweight membrane is also cost-effective, because it requires less structural steel to support the roof or façade, enabling long spans of column-free space. In addition, construction costs are less compared to traditional building materials.

Julie Swiler is a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minn.

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