Feature Article - March 2007
Find a printable version here

A Plan Four All Seasons

Four-season design for recreational enclosures

By Kelli Anderson

Cost-effective building solutions

Another reason for the STN Sports Dome's air-supported structural choice was even more compelling—economics. "We wanted an economical and large space," Eaton explained. "What we got was more economical than steel."

In general, four-season structures are a cheaper building alternative to traditional construction, with the added advantage that they can be built faster.

The most cutting-edge material—not yet utilized in the United States but already stunning ski resort and spa patrons in Germany—is ETFE-foil (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). The façade of the state-of-the-art Allianz Arena football stadium in Munich, Germany, is constructed of nearly 2,900 ETFE-foil inflated air panels. The panels can be individually lit with white, red or blue light, a tool the stadium employs to distinguish who's playing.

Although initially expensive, the material is so lightweight that a little goes a long way, translating to lower per-square-footage costs than conventional construction. Add to that its almost magical transparency and impressive R-factor (or thermal resistance factor), and you've got another four-season construction contender on the U.S. horizon with a first-ever project planned for this year in Iowa. (For more information, visit the Lightweight Structures Association Web site at www.lightweightstructures-ifai.com.)