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Airtecture is a term registered by the company FESTO AG & CO, an international company that makes pneumatic components. The term stands for any portable and prefabricated non-metal buildings and the component parts required to construct them, chiefly non-metal stabilizing pillars, columns, supports, bars and braces stabilized by gas or air, roofs, walls and floors.
The term, formed by combining "Air" and the ending part of "Architecture" is used to define air-construction-based structures and any other building-like facility or structure that is supported by air or any other gas.
First official airtecture project
Festo's is a project in this field was the Airtecture Exhibition Hall (1996 - Esslingen, Germany). The design of this structure, presumably the very first air-supported building with a cubic interior and with a supporting structure, consisted primarily of air-inflated elements.
The appearance, construction and design of this structure was deliberately made to reflect the technological background and purpose of the hall while differentiating it from any other previous pneumatic or air construction at the time. The hall has a floor area of 375 m2 and a height of 6 m, resulting in a total volume of 2250 m3. The covered exterior dimensions are 800m2 with an external height of 7.2 m. With a total dead weight of 7.5 kg/m2, the structure is considered to be light. The hall was erected on the company ground; other applications are intended. The two end walls of the hall consist of two L-shaped elements each leaving a free space between them measuring 3m x 6m. These two wall openings are used as entrances; above one of them the ducts for supply and exhaust air enter the hall. A 4 m high transparent PVC membrane serving as a roll-up gate is connected to a steel frame independent of the air structure.
The hall consists of approximately 330 individual air-inflated elements, most of which come under the six categories of wall components, transparent window cushions, Y-shaped columns, roof beams with translucent, intermediate membranes and pneumatic tension elements (so-called 'muscles'). They all have different volumes and internal pressures.The load-bearing structure of the exhibition hall includes 40 Y-shaped columns and 36 wall components with parallel faces along both longitudinal sides. 72,000 distance threads per square meter hold the double-layer walls in place at an operating pressure of 0.5 bar. The slits between the opaque wall components are filled with transparent cushions made of Hostaflon ET as window elements; slide locks allow easily installation. The load-bearing structure has many new features. These include among others the use of double-wall-fabric as a load-bearing element, flame-inhibiting elastomer coatings, a new translucent levaprene coating (EVA = ethylene-vinyl acetate coating), and computer-controlled pneumatic tension elements ('muscles') and the concept of a building actively responding to environmental forces. The building was designed for a snow load of 50 kg/m3 and a simultaneous wind speed of 80 km/h.
Today, many companies worldwide are developing air-inflated structures for various fields. Buildair S.A. is a Spanish company located in Barcelona that currently dedicates all its investigation efforts and technology to the development of such structures. The inflatable buildings and pavilions made today do not necessarily rely on "muscle" support structures; in fact most companies now build the whole building in inflatable membranes well designed to resist many adverse weather conditions. The main use today for such structures is to hold events of all kinds, mainly high impact outdoor events, but they are also used for private temporary or permanent locations or as marketing or advertising tools.