Engineering for External Facades and Architectural Projects

Envisioning and designing awesome and inspiring external facades or architectural projects is one thing, but bringing them to life is another.

Making it all come together successfully requires solid structural analysis and engineering expertise. This means a lot of work has to be done at the design stage, before a project even starts, to ensure that the installation is successful and that it will last the distance. We believe that good buildings are created by good communication and collaboration.

Here’s an outline of some engineering considerations we at Tensile use for external facades and other outdoor projects.


The first step entails analysing the viability of the idea and identifying the best solutions. Understanding the influencing factors for every project we are involved in, is critical, so that we can truly understand our client’s needs, concepts and goals.

This may involve feasibility studies, as well as formulating plans for the project process, installation and maintenance.

Structural analysis

Engineering expertise is needed to determine what will work and how the structural elements will behave in the finished project. A lot of calculations and assessments need to go into this process.

Here are some examples of this process for an external facade.

  • Site assessments. This includes considering building characteristics (for example height and size), the impact of local climate and natural forces, and the level of access for maintenance equipment.
  • Facade loads. This covers transient loads, such as wind, weather and movement. It also covers dead loads – the final weight of all the elements including plants, substrate, planter boxes, and/or sculptural features.
  • Building load capacity. This needs to be assessed to ensure the installation will not cause damage to the building, especially with the passing of time.
  • Pre-tension loads (the tension held in an external facade support structure) must be precisely calculated.
  • Includes defining the shape of rope and net structures and determining the best materials for the job.
  • When it comes to external facades, there are two different building systems – the solid structure and the wire cable or net. Expertise is needed to manage the meeting of these two systems to ensure the installation integrates with the rest of the project. This applies to the behaviour of the tensile structure, as well as to the life-cycle and maintenance.

Examples of engineered external facades in Australia include Platinum Tower in Melbourne and the Women’s College at Sydney University.

Engineering for External Facades and Architectural Projects / Tensile Design & Construct

Of course not all outdoor architectural installations involve creating building facades. Other types of projects include catenary lighting installations such as at Henley Square in Adelaide, art installations e.g. Steam Mill Lane, and even sculptural projects such as at Arc by Crown.

Inspection and maintenance

One of the great benefits of using Jakob stainless steel products is that they have such good longevity and robustness.

This means when they are used in a properly engineered project, the maintenance requirements will be low. In many cases, this means the structure only really requires a regular (e.g. annual) inspection to check for any issues.

Inspections may involve checking for any breaks, tears, kinks, damage, corrosion, incorrect tensioning, and that end-connectors are correctly tightened.

Other considerations for external facades

As well as the above, there is a lot more that goes into the planning and construction process for external facades and other outdoor architectural projects.

This includes estimates, scheduling, project management, coordination between all the various trades, and site supervision.

At Tensile, we are able to provide a scope to ensure the successful execution of your project, from the initial design concept right through to installation. We are genuinely passionate about tensile architecture, the drive to design and build creative solutions. With a wide network of suppliers from across the globe we are able to source the best products for your projects. If you have an external facade or outdoor architectural project design in mind that you’d like to bring to life, please contact our team.

Engineering for External Facades and Architectural Projects / Tensile Design & Construct

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