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Motorized retractable roof stands up to elements

Exteriors, Features | December 1, 2013 | By:

When the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), needed to enclose a large courtyard to be able to use the space year-round, they turned to J. Miller Canvas Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif., to make it happen.

The solution: a motorized, sliding panel roof system, engineered to be covered or retracted to “exposure B” (85 mph) wind conditions, since it sits less than 100 yards from the Pacific Ocean.

Project managers Ray Aronson and Lupe Diaz decided on Serge Ferrari’s Précontraint® 502 fabric, champagne colored, to create the sliding, overlapping panels and make them waterproof and structurally sound.

The courtyard area is surrounded by buildings, and is used for many school functions. Fabricating a 4,225-square-foot retractable roof system posed a number of challenges, especially due to the height of the structure. Doors and frames had to be removed to bring in scissor lifts big enough to reach the center of the roof. The custom track system for the motorized panels used more than 4,000 feet of powder-coated galvanized steel tubing. All of the stainless steel hardware was custom designed to work with the existing steel structure.

The roof has 22 moving panels that stack on top of each other when in the open position. Each panel seals together when closed to create a waterproof system that has been in use for about a year already without a single leak. The translucent fabric gives the covered courtyard a light, airy feeling without sacrificing weather protection. The entire roof can be opened or closed in 60 seconds, and the space is now being used 365 days a year.

J. Miller Canvas won an Award of Excellence for this project in IFAI’s 2013 International Achievement Awards competition.

Kathy Carlson is a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minn.

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