Tag Archives: architectural membrane

Tented Canvas Structures

Our experiment the €5000 extension is up against many obstacles – not least coming in on a miniscule budget or having to deal with planning and bureaucratic issues , but compared with the issues my brother Graeme Labe faces in some of his  projects, We can count our blessings.

I have listened in awe to some of  Graemes’ descriptions about having to survey land which is so remote it is almost unmapped; His having to drive, camp and hike, with the company of a Maasai warrior for days in order to assess the viability of a site; Being vulnerable to wild animals and vehicle damage… And that is before the project work begins!


In this article we are looking at an interesting project that Graeme and his company FTK Design and Development  were commissioned to design. It is an Eco  Camp situated in the Wogakurya Hills in the north of the Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania.

The brief given to Graeme was to develop a tented Camp, environmentally friendly both in design and the use of materials. The accommodation units were to incorporate large glass frontage. The interiors of the tents were to have separate divisions for the bedroom and bathrooms

To get to this camp is no mean feat. It is located a 12 to 14 hour truck drive from the closest town Arusha , so logistics and construction materials had to be meticulously considered.                             tented camp  eco tourism  canvas roll form steel, Graeme Labe

Roll Form Steel and Canvas Construction

A Contemporary take on a Tented Safari Camp

Tented camps are traditionally built on wooden base structures with either mild steel or wooden upright poles.  The canvas fly sheet is placed on the frame-work and canvas body is hung from this frame sitting on the wooden deck.

In this project, however, there was a major concern with regard to the maintenance of the wooden substructure due to the high occurrence of termites. Graeme resolved this issue by making a steel substructure to lay the floor on.

floor canvas wall, roll form steel structureecotourism building materials sustainability floor canvas wall roll form steel structureecotourism building materials sustainabilityfloor, canvas wall roll form steel structureecotourism building materials sustainabilityfloor canvas wall roll form steel structureecotourism, building materials sustainability

Graeme decided to use the same steel structure for both the superstructure and the roof structure of the tent. The steel frames were then clad in canvas and where hard walls were required the frames were clad in plywood. The choice of using steel was  motivated by many reasons:

  • Lightweight and easily transportable
  • Environmentally sound: Eco-Steel is made from Recycled Galvanized Steel
  • It can be used with a combination of multiple finishing materials.
  • More design possibilities than traditional tent building techniques

roll form steeltented ecocamp canvas

Using the roll form steel he was able to design and build large multi leveled tented units which otherwise would not have been possible using traditional tent building techniques.

batterysolar panels tented camp canvas, roll form steelsolar panels, tented camp canvas roll form steel

The lighting and electrical design also had to fulfill the eco ethos of the Camp with all the Camp’s electricity being supplied through Solar power and central solar water boilers

To carry the theme through FTK Design and Development were also contracted to do the interiors of the Lodge.

 Using the roll form steel we were able to design and build large multi leveled tented units which otherwise would not have been possible using traditional tent building techniques.

IndustryBuildingStructural systemTensile architecture,canvas-wall-roll-form-steel-structureecotourism-building-materials-sustainability

For a more in-depth look at the development of this project click here

A Canvas Tent for The 5k Extension?

Graeme, the Eco Design Warrior, assures me that a tented structure could work in my damp, back garden in Dublin city. He does not recommend Rollform Steel for my project as that would be outside of our budget. He suggests looking in scrap yards for disused steel H beams,or timber to create the skeleton structure.

He advises that once we know the R-Value requirements, we can insulate between two sheets of canvas, with the most economical and effective insulation possible. (I have seen so many half used rolls of insulation on skips, it shouldn’t take long to amass enough) and then join them together. Or we could insulate between the canvas and economical plaster board to have a rigid interior wall.

The external Canvas would need to be water and fungal resistant, with ,a fire-retardant. Graeme suggested a teflon treated canvas called Ferrari. I made some enquiries from a company in the UK called Canvasman. They recommended  a product VIP-PVC_FR, which is available in many colours and comes in a width of 2.5 meters available at £15.12/linear meter so for 20 meters it could cost £302.00.

I wonder if we may be glamping in the back garden yet?

Have a look as well at my friend Francis Fullens’ company C I Structures , whose large high tensile framed membrane structures are dotted around Ireland. i have offered him my garden to build one..He has not responded..

Anyway, have a browse through the images below, and try not be too envious of Graeme Labe , who gets to hang out and work in locations like this one.

Kuria Hills Tented Camp