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(Photo credit: velacreations)

Concrete is the world’s most commonly used construction material. As the world’s resources become increasingly scarce, the need for the efficiencies and material savings offered by fabric formworks is increasing.

Fabric formwork replaces conventional rigid forming materials such as plywood or steel panels with a thin, flexible sheet of fabric.

When a thin fabric membrane contains concrete, the flexibility of the container naturally produces a set of beautiful and structurally useful tension geometries.

When a tensile membrane contains wet concrete, the fabric deflects into precise tension geometries. This produces efficient structural curves and extraordinary surface finishes.

As fabric is a pure tensile element without the neutral and compressive planes of rigid forms, dramatic efficiencies are obtained.

Fabric forms can be used to form columns, walls, beams, slabs and panels in both precast and in-situ construction.
From a structural/architectural perspective, fabric formwork awakens concrete to its fluid origins, introducing new horizons for architectural form and structural expression.

While several 19th and early 20th Century patents exist for fabric formwork, the first practical applications occur in the mid-Nineteen Sixties with the introduction of fabric formwork for erosion control and pond liners.

The work of B. A. Lamberton, E. W. Bindhoff, and others in the field of geotextiles led to the first commercial use of fabric formworks.

In the 1970’s the Spanish architect Miguel Fisac used thin plastic sheets as formwork for textured wall panels.

In the late Nineteen-Eighties and early Nineteen-Nineties, three men working independently and unaware of each other, invented a variety of techniques for forming above ground structures in fabric forming.

This work represents the first broad flowering of this technology for above ground structures.

Kenzo Unno, an architect in Tokyo Japan, invented a fabric formwork system for in-situ cast concrete walls.

Rick Fearn, a builder and businessman in Canada, invented a number of fabric formwork techniques, leading to the development of a series of foundation footing products now manufactured and sold by Fab-Form Industries in Surrey BC.

Mark West, an artist, architectural educator, and builder invented a series of techniques for constructing fabric-formed walls, beams, columns, slabs, and panels. He is now the director of the Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology (CAST) at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture, in Winnipeg MB, Canada. CAST is the first research centre dedicated to fabric formwork technology and education.

In aboveground structures, fabric formwork is used to form:

  • Foundation footings
  • Columns
  • Beams
  • Trusses
  • Walls
  • Panels
  • Domes
  • Shell structures
  • Furniture
  • Composites

In surface and marine applications, fabric formwork is used for:

  • Revetment blankets to prevent riverbank and shore line erosion
  • Underwater pile jackets

Advantages of fabric forming

  • Material Reduction: Fabric forms use hundreds of times less material than conventional rigid formwork. Forming more efficient curved geometries can also conserve concrete and steel.
  • Cost Savings: Fabric forms cost far less than rigid forms due to the efficiency of the tensile-only membrane. In addition, certain fabrics can be reused many times over.
  • Improved Concrete Quality: Permeable fabrics improve surface finish; compression, strength and impermeability by filtering air bubbles and excess mix water from the wet concrete.
  • Waterproof Concrete: Inexpensive plastic-coated fabric forms provide a permanent waterproof shield when left on a concrete cast – useful, for example, in damp-proofing foundation footings.
  • Beauty: Fabric-cast concrete is distinguished by its soft curves and immaculately detailed surfaces, offering unique forms of architectural beauty to concrete products and construction.
  • Source : structuremag.org and Modern Built Environment

(this article written for 1BINA.my)