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The future of air-supported structures

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Asked what they would like to see in the future for air-supported structures, both Tectonik’s Kelsall and Inflate’s Crosbie see the integration of flexible photovoltaics as the gold standard. “Once flexible PV becomes cost effective,” says Crosbie, “that, for us, is the ‘Holy Grail.’ Then these structures can become both dynamic and self-sustaining.”

Another technical challenge that is soon to be a non-issue is super-insulated, energy efficient fabric structures. “One area we are very excited about,” says Kelsall, “is the insulated, energy-efficient structure. This opens up a whole new range of possibilities—from portable refrigerated/frozen storage to permanent dwellings that fully comply with building codes. We may even see people living in inflatable houses in the near future. This has been made possible due to advances in flexible insulation technology that are considerably less bulky and yet robust enough to survive repeated packing and handling.”

Bruce N. Wright, AIA, the former editor of Fabric Architecture magazine, is a writer and editor and his firm, Just Wright Communications, is consultant to architects, engineers and graphic designers.

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