The term ‘membrane building’ is used for spatial structures made out of tensioned membranes. In this type of construction flexible and thin sheet materials are used, which are easily plastically deformable and are only statically stressed by tension, not by pressure. Membranes can be different in this respect; for instant they can be films or (coated or uncoated) textiles (fabrics, knitted fabrics and other textile fabrics) — e.g. polyester fabric having PVC coating, glass fiber fabric having PTFE coating, PVC film and ETFE film. In traditional tent construction (also known as ‘tentage’), animal skins or leather and hides have also been used as membranes.
The terms membrane construction and textile architecture are often used almost synonymously. However, they are not really the same. For example, membranes made of fiber-free film or leather are not textiles in the strict sense of the word; and, conversely, rope nets or woven textiles can be used in textile architecture, but not in membrane constructions. However, in the case of coated woven textiles, the concept of the membrane has now become established.