Engineering at Sperry Fabric Architecture

Safety concerns have been steadily on the rise in the tenting industry in recent years.  Safety has, of course, always been a concern with responsible craftsman.  However, with growing experience and modern science, we have been able to limit our dependence on good luck and expand our awareness much more efficiently.  Although inconsistencies between tent permitting laws in various towns and cities can make the process unpleasant, the code enforcers are vigilant for the sake of the persons underneath the tents – something every tent manufacturer should care about.  These permitting codes call for Fire Safety certificates, wind load predictions, and site plans – among other important details.

An early sketch of our popular Savannah Series line.

Over the last few years we have been working on engineering more and more of our products.  Small home awnings rarely require such documentation, as the engineering will add to the cost of each custom structure and a private homeowner is likely to take down their awning in unpleasant or wintry weather regardless of its rating.  For our larger projects engineering at the manufacturing level has become very important.  With the technological advances of the last few years, engineering has become more accessible as well.  Precise computer programs aid a great deal in the verification of wind loads and structural stresses.

The Engineered Drawing for one of the largest standard Sperry tents.

Location has a great deal to do with determining which weather events are more likely than others.  For example, a year-round structure in a coastal location in the Northeast will likely have extremely variable winds – especially in the winter time.  During the design process we also consider drainage and angling so that water, ice, and any slush in between will progress swiftly off the canopy of the structure.  On the West Coast, seismic ratings are of a higher priority, due to the higher likelihood of earthquake activity in that area.

A recent weight test to place a measured amount of strain on a section of frame.

While the guidelines and permitting processes for a permanent structure are different from a temporary structure, the way we design and build is based on the likelihood of use and exposure to the elements.  Through some practical tests and some highly advanced modern computer programs, accurate estimations can be made about the kind of weather and force that can be borne by our fabric structures and their frames.

With all the technology available to us, we are able to eliminate the sense of fickle chance that must have plagued tent-makers and architects in the olden days.  As we move forward with our ever-expanding repertoire, we are able feed our file of engineering certificates.  And while our vigilance for safety will not falter, the science of safety brings a certain peace of mind.


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