Textiles paved the way for architecture
A revolution is currently under way in the construction sector. The requirements placed on the shapes, properties and potential of today's buildings are becoming ever more stringent, and can frequently be fulfilled with innovations from the textile industry. Thanks to textiles and entirely new fibers, the classic construction materials wood, stone, concrete and steel can be ideally reinforced – in order to realize building projects that would have been unfeasible only a few years ago because the materials needed for their construction did not yet exist.
Fiber technology is revolutionizing construction
extile construction has picked up a great deal of speed over the past few decades, and this is largely due to fiber technology. Since time immemorial, the tent has been a means of protection from the weather, yet the limits to this kind of protection have always been set by the availability of long-lasting fibers for fabrics or nonwovens. Plant or wool fibers are not resistant enough against tensile forces or the effects of weather, and cannot be used to make long-lasting structures. Low water resistance and also sensitivity to natural ultraviolet radiation also pose additional problems here.
The balance between the structural strength and the weight of a fiber has always imposed a natural limit on textile construction potential: after all, pitching a tent requires enough sturdy poles and taut lines. To design large tents made from natural fiber to be secure enough for securing with ropes, the strength of the fabric has to be reinforced – but this involves adding more weight and thus more of a load on the bearing construction.
Lightweight and more stable
It was only with the development of suitable synthetic fibers with higher tensile strength and lower weights that the construction of buildings with decisive textile elements first became a feasible prospect. Imposing constructions such as roofs made from high-tech membranes for football stadiums are common examples today. The service life of such membranes is still limited, however: They can resist the weather for around 30 years, but then they have to be replaced.
In the high-quality construction sector, materials such as woven fiberglass with a PTFE coating are used – this protective layer of polytetrafluorethylene is more commonly known as Teflon. Silicon coatings are also used to protect the fibers. Less complex membranes usually consist of polyester with a PVC coating.
Durable nonwovens on the advance
Textile membrane elements at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
In recent years fabrics have played a major role in the construction sector, but recently the importance of nonwovens has also been increasing. So-called "durable nonwovens" are benefiting from the latest developments in fiber research. Islands-in-the-Sea fibers, processed mechanically via hydroentanglement, needling or a combination of the two, are given properties that make them ideal for use as, say, a tent material. This type of tent nonwoven is already being used by the military. As an alternative to fabric, nonwovens made from Islands-in-the-Sea fibers also have great potential in the lightweight construction of industrial halls.
Boom in nonwovens for buildings
Alongside the future application of durable nonwovens, nonwovens in general are already creating all kinds of possibilities in the textile construction sector. In fact the construction industry is already the second most important sales market for nonwovens after cloths for wiping. The big sellers here are polyester nonwovens: they replace the foaming of cavities in old and new buildings and are ideal materials for keeping to ever stricter heat-insulation and soundproofing guidelines. This is because they can be processed easily and quickly, they adapt easily to contours, they have good insulating properties, they replace plaster, and they can also bridge cracks and fissures. The big advantage of polyester nonwovens is their resistance to environmental influences and their consequences – for instance, problems caused by mold and mildew. They are also very easy to recycle.
Insulation layer made from nonwovens, between two wall layers
Smart textiles are the future of architecture
The use of nonwovens as an insulation material or as sturdy and yet lightweight solutions for roofing applications is just one aspect of the huge potential of today's construction textiles. A further promising facet of textile construction is the use of so-called "smart textiles". Integrated conductive strips that react to light, mechanical load or moisture ingress open up all kinds of possibilities for the future. Safety aspects can be taken as much into consideration here as comfort requirements.
Here are some examples of common applications for nonwovens today in the textile construction sector:
|Army tent||Hydroentangled nonwoven |
|Military||Outside, visible||Tearproof, flame-resistant, breathable, water-resistant|
|Ramparts for military purposes; walls for flood and erosion protection||Needled staple fiber nonwoven|
200 - 400 gsm
|Military and civilian use||Outside, visible||Tearproof, dimensionally stable, weather-resistant, UV-resistant, corrosion-resistant|
|Insulation of walls in structures, prevention of moisture penetration and mold||Three-layer composite made from PP fibers, cover layers needled; product weight 100 – 1,500 gsm||Panels, walls||Outside, invisible||High permeability, easy handling, rot-proof, resistant against natural substances and organisms|
|Sarking membranes, underlays, facade membranes and vapour checks||100 - 200 gsm||Roof||Intermediate, invisible||UV-resistant, vapor-permeable, water-bearing, resistant to aging|
|Insulation nonwoven||Thermally-bound insulation nonwoven, consisting of 100% polyester fibers; volumetric weights of 15, 20 and 40 kg/m3||Panels, walls||Inside, invisible||Thermal insulation properties, excellent acoustic properties|
|Bitumen roofing membranes||PET spun nonwoven, needled and thermally fixed||Roof||Intermediate, invisible||Moisture barrier but air-permeable; resistant to mold and mildew; form- and temperature-stable, fatigue-resistant, shock-resistant, cut-resistant|
|Renovation nonwoven for inside and outside||Fine Denier polyester spun nonwoven, fine fiber: 1 - 4 dtex, weight: 25 - 200 gsm||Panels, walls||Inside and outside, invisible||Unbreakable, unbendable, pleasant, skin-friendly|
|Textile concept for curtains, shutters; blinds for interior sun protection||Combination of needling and hydroentanglement, microfibers (PA/PET)||Interior fixtures||Inside, visible||High UV protection, soundproofing properties, simple preparation, no fraying, washable|
|PVC-free wallpapers||Combination of needling and hydroentanglement, microfibers (PA/PET)||Interior fixtures||Inside, visible||Abrasion-resistant, tension-resistant, dirt-resistant, brilliant colors, high-resolution quality thanks to compatibility with numerous printing technologies, conceals uneven wall areas|
|Cover webs for painters||Multiply needled thermally fixed recyclable fiber nonwoven integrated with melt fibers, with PE new foil mounted on the entire surface. Approx. 300 gsm||Aids||Inside, visible||Abrasion-resistant, safe, highly absorbent, solvent-resistant, Made in Germany|
|Venetian blinds made from flax fibers, based on nonwovens||Flax fibers, hydroentangled||Interior fixtures||Inside, visible||Natural UV resistance, positive ecobalance, very good cooling effect|
|Textile outdoor wallpapers for permanent facade renovation, sound absorption and heat protection||Needled recyclable fibers||Panels, walls||Outside, visible||Weather and temperature resistant, low heat conductivity, highly flame-resistant, suitable for allergy sufferers because no problems caused by moths, household dust mites or mildew|
|Protective, filtering and draining functions||Needled PE fibers, 150 - 2000 gsm, roll material||Terraces, balconies, ceilings, tunnels||Outside, invisible||Rot-resistant, resistant to aging, insensitive to moisture, chemical-resistant, no mildew formation|