Industry Partners Uncategorized

Construction Management students create fabric tension structure models

creating-fabric-tension-structures-1Construction Management students in the Construction Materials & Methods 2 course recently created fabric tension structure models, some of which will be constructed on a larger scale later in the semester.

Senior Instructor Jim Strapko says the project mimics what students will experience in industry.

“With each new project, construction professionals are presented with opportunities to use materials and tools in novel ways to improve the construction process,” he said. “One example is a fabric ‘sail’ system used to provide temporary enclosure for a pair of high-rise office towers currently under construction in the Minneapolis Downtown East project. A Dunwoody graduate, who is an assistant superintendent, is working on ways to more efficiently unfurl fabric strips to cover five stories of a building at a time.”


Students used basic structural concepts derived from tents and sailboats to create fabric tension structure models. The initial models were created using basic tools and materials like needle-nose pliers, side-cutters, awls, hammers, hot-melt glue guns, two-way stretch fabric, florist wire, T-pins, push-pins, and wood dowels.

The students exceeded Strapko’s expectations for the model project. “The Construction Management students were adept at model-building and showed a surprising sensitivity to aesthetic design,” he said.

The next phase is to design and build a mobile hard-shell structure with an optional fabric component. After completion of the concept and model phases, some of the designs will proceed to construction at a larger scale.

The multiple-phase project gives students experience taking an idea from concept through completion.


Students benefitted from the experience and guidance of Bruce N. White, past editor of the international journal Fabric Architecture and American Institute of Architects (AIA) member, who visited the class on multiple occasions to provide insight and feedback on the student’s designs.

Strapko invites more industry professionals to get involved in the project: “Students value the opportunity to interact with industry professionals especially in a lab environment,” he said. “They like learning how to do things and getting feedback from experts.”

Students are currently working on the concept phase of the hard-shell structure. The evaluation of drawings and models is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 27, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on campus (room to be determined). Larger scale construction of prototypes will follow during the final 10 weeks of the spring semester.

Industry professionals interested in getting involved during any of the project phases can contact Jim Strapko at or 612-381-3383.