This is a kind of structures where very thin ( 0.5-1mm) coated fabric in tension forms an integral part of the structures. They are also called tensioned fabric structures. Membrane structures have been used for buildings such as sports stadiums, exhibition halls, convention centers, shopping complexes, terminals, community halls, amphitheaters, resting areas and many others.
The main features of this kind of structures are their lightweightness ( 0.5 -1.5 kg/m2) and translucency. Lightweightness makes it highly suitable for use in roof structure covering very large column-free area. Tanslucency results in an interior which is filled with diffused natural light during day time and a glowing exterior during night time. Apart from being light and translucent, surface of membrane structures could be formed into a great variety of shapes due to the flexible nature of the coated fabrics.
The world first permanent membrane structures was erected in La Verne College, California, U.S.A. in 1973. A test carried out in 1993 showed that even after 20 years in use, there is virtually no deterioration in the membrane materials.
Currently, the world largest membrane structures is the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, U.K. which was completed in 1999. It has a diameter of about 320m.
In Malaysia, the largest membrane structure built to date is located at Bukit Jalil Sports Complex which was completed in 1998 for the Commonwealth Games.