Bond University PVC shade structure installed by Versatile Structures

The many plusses of PVC shade sails

 Jamie Howard      In , ,

Polyvinyl chloride, aka PVC, coated polyester has been around for over 50 years, and is probably the most used substrate in tensile membrane structures because of its excellent strength, flexibility, transparency, durability and waterproof properties. With a range of benefits for any commercial, industrial, or residential property, PVC is a highly cost-effective and versatile tensile fabric due to its excellent chemical endurance and elongation abilities.

And there’s more – most PVC membranes are also mould and bacteria resistant, meets a large range of colour and application needs, both permanent and temporary, and can be treated to be stain, fire, and UV resistant.

What type of PVC is strongest?

Both schedule 40 and 80 PVC are used widely around the world. Each one has its benefits in different applications. Schedule 40 pipe has thinner walls, so it is best for applications involving relatively low water pressure. Schedule 80 pipe has thicker walls and can withstand higher PSI (pounds per square inch).

Life span

The approximate design life of PVC coasted polyester fabric is between 15 and 30 years, depending on grade of PVC selected, the location, exposure to environmental pollution and if has been regularly maintained. While PVC fabric warranties can range anywhere from 5 to 15 years, depending on the supplier and application.

Solar Transmission

PVC fabric reflects around 89% of solar energy and allowing around 9% visible transmission through the fabric. The rate of transmission is dependent on the colour of the fabric, printings, environment, and coatings. The coatings can contain anti-fungicides and therefore, the stronger the self-cleaning properties of the fabric, the less light transmission is interrupted by dirt adherence and aging of the fabric.


PVC polyester is used on structures all over the world and in every environment. Applications include: covered walkways, car park structures, entrance features, outdoor classrooms, play areas, sport court enclosures, swimming pool enclosures, and event spaces. Due to the fabric’s strength, PVC can be folded, which makes it ideal for retractable and temporary structures such as tents, warehouses, remediation, and mining structures, as they often need to be demounted and stored.

With the ability to print on the fabric with ease, PVC is often used in projects where branding is required.

Sound Absorption

PVC can be altered to manipulate the sound absorption rate of the structure. Various coatings can be applied to PVC based on the requirements of the structure. For example, an indoor aquatic centre will use PVC that has been specifically treated to absorb as much sound as possible, while a small room or area can also benefit from strong acoustic retention.


PVC coated polyester is low maintenance, although it requires more frequent maintenance than self-cleaning PTFE and ETFE. Frequency of cleaning is dependent on the location of the structure, exposure to environmental pollutants, and the coating on the fabric. Lacquers and other coatings can be added to the fabric to significantly increase the lifespan and decrease the need for maintenance.


PVC is classed as a recyclable fabric and is therefore an increasingly popular choice for green building as an alternative to rigid roofing. Although there are many processes of recycling PVC, the most common practice involves melting down the fabric to be reproduced. The process does not affect the lifetime of the recycled PVC.


  • Versatile Structures Headshots

    Jamie Howard - Director

    Co-founder and Director Jamie has been hands-on in the shade and steel industry since leaving school. With over 15 years’ experience in shade, membrane and steel projects, Jamie is excited about the design opportunities shade structures offer in the commercial and industrial sectors. Jamie’s extensive design skills give him a competitive edge in situations with technical design complexity. He has won two personal industry awards for his designs, alongside many company-won awards.