Design of Tensile Structures

A 3 month course to show you how to design tensile structures using RFEM. The main aim of this course on Membrane Structures is to impart knowledge and proficiency to the participants so that they can design lightweight structures to meet rising demand of the modern architecture.

  • Domain : CIVIL
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A Quick Overview

Grounded in the latest advancements, today’s architects are harnessing structures in the form of sweeping roofs, dramatic canopies and dismountable and relocatable pavilions. Due to their dramatic shapes, It is observed that there is a great demand for membrane and lightweight structures. With its different forms, Membrane structures can be used for covering huge open spaces with minimal intervention and minimal construction time. Especially in tropical and sun-drenched countries, the market is growing rapidly.

The technologies of textile building have been advanced and developed enough to be used as an important building material in construction all over the world. Cover pages of architectural magazines are filled with the appealing design and spectacular buildings of this craft. But only a few experienced people and companies can finally implement these challenging projects.

From an architectural aspect, they are light, beautiful, and non-conventional. From a civil engineer’s point of view, membrane structures can overcome large spans and are uncommon in their design and fabrication processes, both of them influenced by special requirements associated with these structures. From a point of view of a developer of computer FEM software, these structures represent a great challenge, as it is necessary to cope with their large nonlinearities in structural analysis, and develop special tools for form- finding and cutting pattern generation. More than anywhere else, the cooperation of all these professions can be observed as the shapes of tensile structures are driven by the will of nature and its physical laws more than by the will of a man. 

The main aim of this course on Membrane Structures is to impart knowledge and proficiency to the participants so that they can design lightweight structures to meet rising demand of the modern architecture.


Get a 1-on-1 demo to understand what is included in the course and how it can benefit you from an experienced sales consultant. The demo session will help you enroll in this course with a clear vision and confidence.

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1Course overview, History & Evolution

  • Overview of  tensile membrane structures
  • History & Evolution
  • Types of Tensile Structures
  • Behavior and Mechanism of Membrane structures

2Conceptual understanding of FEM Elements

  • Introduction to Finite Element Analysis
  • FEA Elements & their behavior - 1-D, 2-D & 3-D
  • Degrees of Freedom
  • Stages of FEM - Pre-processing, Computation & Post-Processing
  • Types of Loads
  • Types of Supports
  • Concept of stiffness and Stiffness matrix formulation
  • Understanding Results - Principle forces.
  • FEM for tensile membrane structures
  • Types of Anlysis

3Introduction to RFEM Program

  • Introduction of RFEM 
  • Modelling, Analysis & Design of Steel Structure

4Form finding methodology, Methods

  • Conceptual Development of Tensile Membrane Structures
  • Continuum Mechanics
  • Principle of Virtual Work
  • Finite element discretization of membrane structures
  • Form Finding
  • Structural Analysis
  • Cutting Patterns
  • Module Requisites

5Form Finding Methods

  • Concept of Minimal Surface
  • Methodologies - Physical Models, Soap films & Computational methods
  • Geometric Non-linearity
  • Form-finding methods - Categorization
  • Force Density Method
  • Assumed Geometric Stiffness Method
  • Updated Reference Strategy Method
  • Form-finding Vs Form-dictating
  • Searching for equilibrium prestress
    • Number of form-finding steps
    • Elastic Control
    • Element Size Control
  • Projection Method
  • Tension Method

6Implementation on RFEM

  • Prelimnary Form-finding
  • Default Form-finding
  • Comparison of GSM Method, Hybrid Method and Analytical Methods
  • Demonstration - Form-finding of Cone structure


  • Isotropic, Orthotropic materials and applicability
  • Different materials available in the market.
  • Demonstration with different materials

8Structural Analysis

  • Structural Analysis of Membrane structure for dead, live and wind loads
  • Understanding the phenomenon of wrinkling of membrane structures
  • Demonstration - Analysis of membrane structures for a existing structure.


  • Cutting Pattern Phenomenon
  • Approach
  • Cutting Lines - Planar , Geodesic lines
  • Flattening Procedure - Mathematical flattening, Physical flattening
  • Special requirements of flattening procedure
    • Effect of Orthotropic directions
    • Seamlines compatibility
    • Compensation
    • Assembly Allowanes - Welding Requirements
  • Evaluation of cutting patterns

10Examples on Patterning

  • Patterning procedure with RFEM
  • Demonstration - Patterning of a Cone structure.

11Tensile Structures under uncertainties

  • Understanding on CFD
  • Wind Simulation using CFD on membrane structures - Theoretical

12One Complex Example

  • Modelling & Form finding
  • Results & Patterning

Projects Overview

Project 1


Perform Form-finding and structural analysis structure of multiple masts.

Project 2


Model a membrane roof with cables. The student is expected to use modeling, form-finding tools and create the cutting patterns for the structure.



  • Students of civil engineering in first, second, third, or final year.
  • Employees in civil engineering firms who are looking to upscale in their profession.



RFEM tool will be used for all conceptual understanding and also real-time examples. The tool has presence in more than 100 countries, major share being Europe.

Note: Software will not be provided to the student


  • Top 5% of the class will get a merit certificate
  • Course completion certificates will be provided to all students
  • Build a professional portfolio
  • Automatically link your technical projects
  • E-verified profile that can be shared on LinkedIn

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Frequently Asked Questions

1Who can take this course?

Graduate Civil Engineering and PostGraduate Structural Engineering and relevant courses students from final year and freshers.

2What is included in this course?

Overview of Tensile Membrane structures, Design of Membrane structures of different shapes and uncertainties like non-linearities and WFD. Most of the course concepts would be explained with the FEM tool.

3What will the student gain from this course?

The concept of form-finding and how different shapes can be obtained applying different pre-stresses. Also patterning, which is transferring the obtained shape to 2D.

4What software skills are you teaching and how well are these tools used in the industry?

RFEM tool will be used for all conceptual understanding and also real-time examples. The tool has presence in more than 100 countries, major share being Europe.

5What is the real world application for the tools and techniques will you teach in this course?

Tensile structures are preferred for the structures to be unique, often as roof structures. Applications are limitless from temporary structures, Interiors, Stadium covers, Domes, Open air art, Facades & building envelopes etc.,

6Which companies use these techniques and for what?

Most of the reputable companies in structural engineering use these techniques, most preferred for aesthetic sensitive projects.

7How is your course going to help me in my path to MS or PhD?

The field of tensile membrane structures is becoming increasingly popular with time and it has lot of research scope to meet these increasing demands to support more complex shapes and uncertainties

8How is this course going to help me get a job?

This course provides a bigger perspective of Tensile Structure Design and / or you may apply this knowledge for your project activities also. These efforts can help you to get an interview call from myriads of different reputable structural engineering companies.

9What is the ratio of theory to hands-on practical content?

In this course, the ratio is almost 35 / 65, however, the quality and impact of pragmatic content is more.

Flexible Course Fees

Choose the plan that’s right for you


2 Months Access


Per month for 3 months

  • Access Duration : 2 Months
  • Mode of Delivery : Online
  • Project Portfolio : Available
  • Certification : Available
  • Email Support : Available
  • Forum Support : Available

Lifetime Access


Per month for 3 months

  • Access Duration : Lifetime
  • Mode of Delivery : Online
  • Project Portfolio : Available
  • Certification : Available
  • Individual Video Support : 12/ Month
  • Group Video Support : 12/ Month
  • Email Support : Available
  • Forum Support : Available
  • Telephone Support : Available
  • Dedicated Support Engineer : Available

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