< Tensile Roofing

Dedmon Athletic Center in Radford, Virginia, USA

When considering new roofing options for the 52,000-square foot Dedmon Center — nicknamed "The Bubble" by students and faculty — energy efficiency, moisture resistance and sound dampening topped Radford University's list of priorities.

Dedmon Athletic Center in Radford, Virginia, USA

In addition, the University wished to maintain the aesthetic appeal and translucency of the structure's original air-supported roof, which was installed by Birdair in 1981 and outlasted its 20-year expected life-cycle by seven years. TENSOTHERM™ system with LUMIRA® aerogel offered the perfect solution.

Developed by our experts, along with Birdair and Geiger Engineers, TENSOTHERM system consists of our LUMIRA aerogel sandwiched between two layers of structural PTFE fiberglass membrane. This creates an insulated, energy-efficient inner layer that maintains translucency and promotes natural daylighting. The insulated fabric composite is less than 50 millimeters thick, yet it provides a very high thermal insulation performance value of R-12, compared with the original roof's value of under R-1, plus a natural light transmission value of 3.5%. This durable, fade-resistant material also offers maximum moisture control and superior sound insulation.

By retaining cool air in warm conditions and warm air in cold conditions, the structure meets increasingly demanding energy and building code requirements. It can also contribute to LEED® certification, garnering credits in categories including insulation, green materials, innovation and daylighting. In addition, LUMIRA aerogel is a Cradle to Cradle Certified™ product.

Dedmon CenterAesthetically, the TENSOTHERM system allows the Dedmon Center to maintain the look of its previous air-supported roof while internally the roof's supporting steel truss system adds a new level of visual interest to the athletic structure. "From the outside, the roof is very similar to what was there before," explains Roy Saville, Radford University director of facilities planning and construction. "Internally, the trusses now create a nice aesthetic with a unique focus."

Functionally, the TENSOTHERM system will contribute significantly to overall cost savings in mechanical systems as well as long-term operational cost reductions due to increased energy efficiency. The material has additionally allowed the facility to incorporate air-conditioning, which had not been possible in the past. "The new roof has many operational advantages," continues Saville. "Our objective was to be able to air-condition Dedmon Center. The use of the TENSOTHERM system allowed us to meet our goal. Students, faculty, coaches and fans have all been very impressed." 

"The TENSOTHERM system now makes fabric membrane roofing a viable mainstream roofing option," says Martin Augustyniak, former Birdair director of operations and engineering. "The material's ability to insulate like standard roofing while maintaining natural daylighting creates an unparalleled interior environment."

  • Technical details: Light transmission: 3.5%. R-value: 12. Fabric: PTFE less then 5.0 millimeters thick.
  • Owner: Radford University
  • Partner: Birdair