Tensile structure technology has advanced enormously in the last 50 years, driven by the development of durable, high strength architectural fabrics. Osborn Consulting has been heavily involved with this area of knowledge in general, and membrane structures in particular, and the company’s engineers have developed a great depth of experience in the area.


Within Osborn Consulting’s design office, these structures are divided into two types: architectural tensile structures, and agricultural/commercial hail and sun protection structures. While the laws of physics that govern the behaviour of both types of structure are constant, the distinction is found in the purpose of the structure and what our clients hope to achieve with it.


Osborn Consulting offers the whole range of services associated with these structures, including design, fabric patterning, cable and hardware detailing and steel shop detailing. Our staff are familiar with the requirements of the different fabric types from teflon coated fibreglass through facade mesh to knitted hail net. As well as having designed these structures in all states of Australia, Osborn Consulting has also designed membrane structures in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Lebanon, Italy, England, the United States of America, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand.

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Whoa Studios Urban Park
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New Lynn Bowling Green Cover
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Gympie Aquatic Centre
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My Town kl3
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UWC Playing Field Singapore Seating Cover
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Tung Chung Apartment Fabric Sunshade
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Parap Pool Redevelopment Project
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St Margarets Roman Blinds Under
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Qatar Schools Fabric Shades
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New Lynn Bowling Green Cover

Canopy Structure

New Lynn Bowling Club was faced with declining membership, and decided to do something to make their facilities more attractive.  They decided to sell one green, and use the money to cover one of their other greens.  Being in Auckland, with hot summers and rain at any time, a covered green allows for continuous availability, and comfort in summer. The vinyl fabric was chosen to allow enough sunlight to avoid needing artificial lighting during the day.

Being about 40 metres square, bowling greens present an interesting challenge for structural engineers to produce an attractive and economical structure.  In this case, we went with a two-dimensional frame consisting of Vierendeel trusses.  These trusses are a signature product of Shade Systems, and so provide them with a subtle advertisement, visible only to those in the industry.

Whoa Studios Urban Park

Canopy Structure

Osborn Consulting Engineers first heard of this job when we were asked if we could design the support structure for the largest trampoline in the Southern Hemisphere.  The trampoline turned out to be more wild and wonderful than anything we had expected.  We did not have wild crocheted fabric in our materials library, but we did our best to model the children loading in accordance with Eurocode EN1176.  The roof is a conventional vinyl fabric.

The operators of the park say the structure is a commercial success, and working on it helped put a spring in the step of the staff who worked on it.

Parap Pool Redevelopment Project

Canopy Structure

The Parap pool canopy structure was designed out of our Brisbane office and presented a complex challenge due to its large span (55m+) and location in a cyclonic region. This PVC canopy provides a shaded area over the 50m FINA compliant swimming pool, supported by rolled 457 diameter CHS which converge to a compact plinth over concealed pad footings. The result is a slender and elegant structure which is pleasing to the eye. It officially opening on the 26/01/2018.  

Department of Agriculture & Food WA, Northam

Protection Canopy Crop Research Trials

Osborn Consulting Engineers worked with Armstrong Parkin Architects to design and supervise the construction of a lightweight tensioned protection canopy. Tasks included briefing subconsultants, drafting and designing the canopy, writing a specification, checking shop drawings, reviewing tender submissions and inspecting work on site. The tensioned cables were anchored into the granite rock present on site using rock anchors and the canopy walls were reinforced with for the first metre of height to protect against small animal and rodent entry. OCE Director Peter Osborn ran the project, travelling to WA as required throughout planning and construction.

The MyTown Event Space


The MyTown Event Space Canopies, located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were designed and patterned by Charles Ting and Michelle Chung, with the drawings and shop detailing carried out by Mark Allen, all from our Brisbane office. The structure consists of four large inverted fabric conicals, each surrounding a main mast and supported by a perimeter ring held in place with compression struts and support cables. The structure was built by Sail Canopy, with construction completed in 2016. With a total fabric area of over 2200 square meters, not only does the canopy provide ample shade at the entrance of the MyTown Shopping Centre, it also gathers a significant amount of rainwater which is channelled down the central mast. In combination with surrounding features and colourful illumination, the structure creates a striking entrance. 

Gympie Aquatic Centre

Shade Structures

This project involved the design of a number of shade structures located over the Water Play Area as well as a bus shelter structure and the main solar ribbon canopy. The solar ribbon canopy proved to be a difficult design as a significant span between supporting columns was required while retaining a relatively low profile. The structure not only provides shade and cover from rain, it also supports numerous integrated solar panels. The upgrade to the Aquatic Centre has been well received by the client and the people of Gympie alike.

Hyperbolic Horse Arena in Bathurst

"Hypar" Membrane Structure

This striking canopy covers an arena for dressage and other horse riding events. Located in open country near Bathurst, it measures 27 metres by 70 metres. The canopy shape consists of linked hyperbolic paraboloids, or hypars as they are commonly known in the membrane business. Hypars can form pleasant aesthetic shapes, but have the practical disadvantage that the edges of the membrane are not level. This means they’re unsuitable for many applications, and therefore are not seen as often as conicals and barrel vaults. The canopy is supported by columns with backstays. This elegant and aesthetic method of supporting membranes requires room for the backstays, and so is often not viable for urban areas, where space is at a premium. The bushland setting for this structure not only allows the use of backstays, but vastly enhances the visual appeal of the structure. Osborn Consulting Engineers client for the project was Sunwing Australia.


Burwood RSL Club Shade Sails

Fabric Shade Sails

Osborn Consulting Engineers detailed this complicated awning at Burwood RSL for Membrane Structures Australia.

From a distance, it looks like it might be all flat sheets of fabric, but on closer inspection it can be seen that things are more complicated than that. This project illustrates the successful use of dark coloured fabric. It demonstrates that dark fabric can look effective, but the time and place has to be chosen carefully.


Brisbane BMW

Classic Car Shades

Classic shade cloth car park shades, with thoughtful detailing and structures designed to last — just like the cars they are shading. Osborn Consulting Engineers client was Copelands Pickers.


English Schools Shades

Conical Shade Structures

Osborn Consulting Engineers British client, Keep It Kool, has sold numerous small standard fabric structures to English Schools and Kindergartens. Vinyl conical structures are popular. The conical shape may have cable edges or perimeter frame; one or four legs per peak. The two examples shown here can be seen to help soften otherwise hard landscapes, in the way a tree in that position might have done. They also provide shade in summer, and a covered area on wet days.


Richmond Airforce Base Curtain Wall

Curtain Wall for a Demountable Hangar

Osborn Consulting Engineers had two tasks on this temporary maintenance hangar at Richmond Airforce Base.

The major job was the curtain wall at one end of the hangar. The hanger is a demountable fabric and aluminium structure supplied by Universal Fabric Structures. The standard end wall supplied with the hangar did not allow large transport aircraft to be moved in and out without dismantling the wall, so Osborn Consulting Engineers designed a 10m high fabric curtain, complete with curtain track and frame, for the end wall. This curtain can be opened to the full width of the hangar. The other task was to design and detail safety cables above the plane fuselage and wings, so maintenance workers could attach fall safety harnesses. This task was complicated by the light aluminium and fabric structure of the demountable hangar.


New Doha International Airport

Carpark Roof

In Doha, just like Sydney, the existing airport was too small and surrounded by built-up areas.  In contrast to Sydney, the Qatari Government decided to do something about it, and built a new airport on reclaimed tidal flats at the edge of town.

The New Doha International Airport was a huge project.  While Osborn Consulting Engineers role, as the designer of the roof over the multi-storey carpark, was relatively small, the design of these structures was a major project for the Brisbane office.  Leaving aside hail protection structures, the 29,000 square metre roof area is larger than any other fabric structure designed by Osborn Consulting Engineers. The structural form is the classic hypar, of Ferrari 1302 around the edges and Ferrari 1202 internally, and aluminium louvres over the walkways.  Each carpark has 69 hypars, and the carparks are mirror images of each other.  Osborn Consulting Engineers clients were Sail Canopy and Alfasi, both based in Singapore.


Hemmant Boat Shed

Operable Curtain

This is one big curtain — 19 metres high. Constructed for a yacht construction and maintenance facility at Hemmant, Brisbane, the curtain provides an economical and space-saving means of fully opening or closing one end of the building.

The curtain was constructed of shade cloth reinforced with webbing, by Copelands+Pickers. The curtain can be opened and closed from ground level by hand-operated winches. The curtain track is curved so that the full height of the building can be utilized. Osborn Consulting Engineers engineer Charles Ting developed an open and closing mechanism which operates on the curved track, and does not obstruct the full height opening.


Hong Kong Science Park, Hong Kong

Shade Sails

Osborn Consulting Engineers was engaged by L. S. International to provide a roof system for the pedestrian link bridge between buildings Lakeside 1 and Lakeside 2 of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation is a statutory body set up by the HKSAR Government in 2001. The corporation enable science and technology companies to nurture ideas, innovate and grow, supported by the R&D facilities, infrastructure, and services and programmes across five key technology clusters.  The designed roof system consists of a steel support frame, a glass paned roof cladding and shade sails for shade and architectural value.  Osborn Consulting Engineers were initially commissioned to detail the fabric only, but eventually were given the lead on the design of the whole roof structure, since its structure required re-design to accommodate the loads from the fabric panels. Osborn Consulting Engineers values work with our local and international clients and aims to provide shade structures that are practical, visually appealing and economically responsible.


Kembla Grange, NSW

Hail Protection Canopy

Over the years Osborn Consulting has maintained a close partnership with NetPro Protective Canopies – our partnership inspires innovation, reliability and cost effectiveness in the design of protective canopies. This canopy for Patricks Autocare at Kembla Grange, NSW is no exception; it’s designed to provide shade and protection to a large volume of vehicles under the canopy from severe weather events including hail. Using NetPro’s patented Pitch System, hail is diverted and controlled using a pitched roof pattern, allowing the hail to fall between parked vehicles (see image). For more information on NetPro Canopies visit their website at http://www.netprocanopies.com/ 



Merbein Public Pool

Pool Shade Sails

Shade cloth sails on steel poles are the simplest form of fabric structure, but they still can be aesthetically very pleasing. In this example by Irymple Canvas, over the Merbein Public Pool, shape and colour complement each other to create a striking structure. One clever feature of these sails is where sails have a triangular shape in plan, they actually are four sided sails, with two connections to the one pole. These twisted four sided sails maintain their pretension better than simple triangular sails, and seem to look better.


Molesi Development in Samoa

Shade Structure

In 2012 Osborn Consulting Engineers designed this continuous hypar shaped canopy spanning between the two buildings of the Molesi Development in Samoa.  Specifically, Osborn Consulting Engineers designed the steel posts, backstays and the fabric connection components along with the actual sail pattern. Because of the cyclonic winds in Samoa, substantial work went into the design process. Very large hardware was used for the fabric connections.  This canopy has already survived a cyclone event which occurred in early 2013.


Nerang Pool

Pool Canopy

Osborn Consulting Engineers designed this vinyl canopy over the council pool at Nerang for Architectural Fabric Solutions. The canopy measures 22 metres by 32 metres, and the steelwork was carefully detailed to minimise corrosion caused by the chlorine laden atmosphere.


Qatar Schools Courtyards

Fabric Shades Over Courtyards

Schools in the Persian Gulf region are built as a series of buildings surrounding an internal courtyard. Given the hot climate in this part of the world, the courtyards would often be uncomfortable places. Osborn Consulting Engineers client, Specialized Architectural Systems, won the contract to build fabric shades over the courtyards of 17 schools in Qatar, a small emirate on the western shore of the Persian Gulf. Shade cloth is not ideal for this part of the world, because it tends to get weighed down with wind born sand, so the shades are PVC coated polyester fabric. The conical shapes and catenary edges offer a pleasing contrast to the rectangular concrete buildings.


St Margarets Sydney

Large Scale Roman Blinds

Osborn Consulting Engineers cannot lay claim to inventing this type of shade — it was popular in Roman times. This example provides some casual shade to an urban space at St Margarets, Sydney. This type of shade is a simple type of operable shade, which can be retracted when not required. The mechanism required is basically a winch, wire and some pulleys. Such a simple mechanism is economical and low maintenance. Building owners often enquire about operable shades, but the complexity and expense of the mechanism required usually persuades them to settle for a static structure. The disadvantages of Roman blinds are that they are inherently not waterproof, and lack the interesting curvy shapes of modern fabric structures.


Apartment Building in Tung Chung

Fabric Sunshade

Osborn Consulting Engineers designed and patterned this unusual fabric sunshade and ceiling over a suspended walkway that runs along the length of an enormous apartment building in Tung Chung. Tung Chung is a relatively new suburb of Hong Kong, near the airport. The patterning and the fabric erection were complicated by the fabric being penetrated by the circular building columns and by steel hangers supporting the walkway. In addition, the building is not straight, as it may appear in the photos, but is slightly curved in plan. The tropical climate of Hong Kong is eminently suited to fabric structures, but unfortunately the prevalence of typhoons results in the supporting steelwork tending towards a bulky appearance. Specialist engineering input before the shape is finalized could also help in this regard.

The fabric here is Verseidag teflon coated fibreglass, and our client was LSI International.


Seating Cover at UWC Playing Field, Singapore

Roof Canopy

Osborn Consulting Engineers carried out the structural design, shop drawings and fabric patterning for this roof canopy over seating at the UWC playing fields, Singapore. Our client was Sail Canopy. The appearance of the simple barrel vault shape is enhanced by the three bay catenary extension at each end of the structure. The fabric is teflon coated fibreglass, erected in two parts, with a field joint over the central rafter. Teflon coated fibreglass is relatively more popular in Singapore than in Australia, where a structure like this would probably be covered with PVC coated polyester fabric.


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