Fabric roofing technology

Fabric roofing has been around for a while, with new technologies making it better and more acceptable as an alternative to iron sheets and concrete. It is also immune to rot and decay.

Materials like fiberglass cloths T272 Stitch-bonded Polyester (Tietex type), woven roofing fabrics, mat roofing fabrics, asphalt coated fabrics and resin coated fabrics can make roofing tiles that are waterproof and reinforced for strength.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, features a membrane roofing system made entirely of fabric material.

In the roof of the stadium are 230,000 square feet of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)-coated fiberglass fabric membrane, with a cable system to drain rainwater and protect spectators from the elements. Other examples include the roof of the Mercedes Benz Arena in Stuttgart, Germany, and that of the Hong Kong International Airport. In Kenya, the popular TV programme, Churchill Show, is normally held under a tensile tent. Similar materials are used to make car sheds and canopies for buildings and outdoor dining areas. Membranes also conform readily to irregular surfaces, resist acid and heat and are compatible with other roofing products, meaning that they can be used as reinforcement.

230,000 – Square feet of polytetrafluo-roethylene-coated fiberglass fabric membrane in the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in South Africa, built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Otherwise known as tensile fabric architecture, the technology, thanks to continuous research and development, has welcomed a new generation of fabrics far more advanced than what was used over 30 years ago. They include:

·         PVC coated polyester with a TiO2/ Nano coating for easier cleaning.
·         PVC coated polyester with a Low E treatment for better thermal performance.
·         High light transmission PVC polyester and ETFE foil.

Membrane roofings have the following advantages:

·         Very high tensile strength.
·         Easy to handle due to their light weight and flexibility, ensuring savings in costs.
·         Easy to repair, clean and replace, unlike traditional roofs.
·         Easy to form into unique architectural designs.
·         Can cover large surfaces at lower costs than traditional roofing materials.

About the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, often abbreviated to NMB Stadium, built to serve as one of the ten playing venues of the 2010 World Cup. The stadium officially opened on 7 June 2009. It was designed to depict the protea, South Africa’s national flowerFabrics for building — also referred to as roofing membranes — are designed to resist external weather forces such as heat, wind, rain and snow, and call for the lowest possible tension, expansion and resulting membrane curvature in the finished structure.

Flat roofs get added protection, insulation and sound-deadening features from thermoset, thermoplastic, or modified bitumen membrane roofing materials. Thermoset membranes are chemically cross-linked, while thermoplastic membranes have the seams welded together with solvents or heat. Membranes made with polyvinylchloride (PVC) or glass fibers are more common.

They are highly resistant to punctures and impacts, have flame resistance, leak prevention, durability and ultraviolet (UV) ray reflection. They are also very flexible at low and high temperatures and are generally more attractive.

If you opt for fabric roofing, you must ensure that the finisher is well qualified and experienced. Questions to ask him/her include:

·         How does the fabric react to sunshine, wind and rain?
·         What bonding methods or materials, including sealing strips or other materials, were used?

Finishing includes coating and lamination and has a direct link to the quality of the roof membranes. PTFE fiberglass membrane roofing is a common feature in major airports, sports facilities, and convention centres. The material is stronger than steel, yet weighs less per square metre, lets in natural light, and keeps out heat, making it an energy-efficient roofing alternative.

A properly maintained PTFE fiberglass roof can last 30-35 years, compared with 20-25 years offered by conventional roofing materials. It is also non-flammable, making it safer than many roofing options.

The journey towards my first house in Kenya

Today, I share my story, I strongly believe it shall be of benefit to someone. It is always everybody’s dream to have the peace of mind at the serenity of their homes. I am not an exception as for a while, I had always wanted a low-cost house that would suit my budget.

I had searched all property marketing websites in Kenya, but seemingly none had a house equivalent or near my budget. After the futile search, I decided I would do it from scratch. In 2017, I conceived an idea of building a house. I designed a simple one-bedroom plan, which I intended to minimize the cost. After pondering and calibration, I took the first step of faith and made 3,000 bricks with assistance of friends during school holidays. The gradual, but consistent, progress gave me fulfilment.

I assembled material, slowly, from sand, ballast and 10 bags of cement of which I did the foundation and paused for a while to, of course, gather more resources. After securing 8 more bags I started on the walls. Despite the short halt due to financial constraint, my dream to be a homeowner persisted. Since the house foundation had been examined by a National Construction Authority contractor and verified, I had no idea of quitting. My property had to be completed. I did the lintel. I paid deposits for securing iron sheets of which I targeted 32 pieces, and later for doors, windows at the welder. I paid in installments since I didn’t have enough funds to pay instant once and for all. I also had the other extra expenses funds in mind which included transport of construction material and labour. Intense construction of my house began in October 2017, and by November 2017, I was moving in my new house. I did the fittings and finishing when I had already moved into my house.


What is the point here? You might be having insufficient savings but want to build your house. A house is always a real estate investment that can never depreciate. With a simple continuation, you can later extend to build houses for rentals. Small beginnings are always not to be despised. You may get stuck, but remember, just begin. Martin Luther said Faith is taking the first step without seeing the whole staircase. It may take time, but with patience and resilience, your dream will stand out. For those who may still be hunting for a rental home in Nairobi, you can check this pocket friendly places to live in Kenya

The cost of construction material might be high, but remember, there are always cheaper and efficient options. For instance, it is okay to use ordinary iron sheets (mabati) than versatile ones. Cheap does not mean low quality. It is always about what you can get, not what you admire. As the Swahili adage goes, Mtu hujikuna ajipatapo.

Right now, my house stands proud. It is simple, not complete but habitable. I look at it and nod in pride, thankful for the effort that went into erecting such a modest dwelling!

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