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Seeing the light

Features | February 1, 2016 | By:

A Tensotherm lightweight membrane can be advantageous for small to long-span applications—it limits the need for a heavy supporting structure, minimizing material usage and cost. Images: Birdair Inc.

There’s always something going on at the John J. Dillon Field House at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. The 30,300-square-foot facility is used for basketball, tennis, volleyball, track and other athletic activities year round.

First constructed in 1987, the field house outlived original expectations and was in need of a renovation. Mount St. Mary’s closed it over the summer and made a number of upgrades, including new LED lighting, HVAC equipment and flooring.

The school also wanted to replace the silicon-coated fiberglass roofing system in order to reduce noise levels and improve heat retention. To achieve these goals, the university chose a Tensotherm™-insulated translucent membrane roofing system. Made by Birdair Inc., a Buffalo, N.Y.-based specialty contractor of custom tensile structures, the insulated membrane provides diffused glare-free natural daylight and enhanced temperature control. It also offers acoustic and sustainability features.

Tensotherm consists of a thin translucent blanket embedded with aerogel and placed between a PTFE fiberglass membrane exterior skin and a thinner and lighter acoustic or vapor barrier interior liner. This makes for a thin, flexible and transparent product that provides superior thermal insulation and diminishes sound reverberations.

Birdair worked with university facilities staff to remove the existing roofing system. The company provided in-house design, fabrication, installation and maintenance capabilities to complete the project on time. The facility re-opened on October 6, 2015, with a rededication ceremony. With better thermal efficiency, the university estimates they will save more than $10,000 in energy costs annually.

Julie Swiler is a freelance writer and editor from St. Paul, Minn.

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