Pneumatic Structure

Pneumatic structure

A structure held up by a slight excess of internal air pressure above the pressure outside; it must be sufficient to balance the weight of the roof membrane and must be maintained by air compressors or fans.

Pneumatic Structure


a soft envelope whose internal volume is supplied with atmospheric air from pumping equipment (fans, blowers, or compressors) to provide stability and resistance to external loads (supporting capacity). The first such structures were used in 1946 by the engineer W. Bird (USA) for the housing of a radar antenna structure. They subsequently became popular in many countries.

The envelopes of pneumatic structures are made of industrial fabrics coated with polymers, including rubber, or from reinforced films. Threads of synthetic fibers, or less frequently glass fibers, provide the reinforcement for the films and fabrics.

Pneumatic structures are divided into two types: air-supported structures, in which air under low pressure (excess pressure, 0.1–1 kilonewton per sq m [kN/m2]) is fed directly under the envelope, and air-inflated structures, in which air under high pressure (excess pressure, 30–700 kN/m2) fills only the supporting elements of the structure.

In the erection of air-supported pneumatic structures, the envelope is tightly fastened to the foundation. Airlocks are constructed for entering and leaving the building. Air-inflated structures are subdivided into inflated-frame and inflated-panel types. Also in use are hybrid envelopes of air-supported and supporting structures, as well as reinforcing cables, nets, stays, and membranes.

The advantages of pneumatic structures are light weight, the possibility of covering large spans without internal supports, complete prefabrication, rapid assembly, portability, transparency to light and radio waves, and low cost. Their disadvantages are the need for continuous maintenance of excess pressure in the envelope, the relatively short service life, and the poor fire resistance and acoustic insulation.

The use of pneumatic structures is expedient for permanent and temporary buildings for a variety of purposes (production and storage areas, as well as halls for performances, sports, trade, or exhibitions), mobile buildings (maintenance stations, medical aid stations, clubhouses, and libraries), transportation and hydro-engineering structures (bridges, dams, and gates), and auxiliary facilities in performing construction work (hoists, winter shelters, and formwork).


Otto, F., and R. Trostel. Pnevmaticheskie stroitel’nye konstruktsii. Moscow, 1967. (Translated from German.)
Pnevmaticheskie konstruktsii vozdukhoopornogo tipa. Moscow, 1973.
Dent, R. N. Principles of Pneumatic Architecture. London, 1971.


pneumatic structure

A very lightweight enclosed structure, usually fabricated of a membrane of an impervious material and supported by the difference in air pressure between the exterior and the interior of the structure rather than by a structural framework. Fans must maintain the interior pressure slightly in excess of normal atmospheric pressure to prevent the structure from slowly deflating and collapsing. Used primarily as a temporary enclosure or to house sports facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools. Also called an air-supported structure.
References in periodicals archive ?
The Postagriculture proposal suggests a pneumatic structure with differentiated layers to allow different temperatures and atmospheres to be achieved internally.
2) Students Amy Coates, left, Angela DePietro, Andrianne Akers and Juan Romero relax in their pneumatic structure Tuesday morning.
General, Part I Pneumatic Structures, Introduction, Characteristics of Pneumatic Structures, Types of Pneumatic Structures, Structural Materials and Coatings, Fans and Pressure Control, Doors, Lighting, Other Aspects, Erection , Anchorage Design, Maintenance, Temperature and Sound Control, Analysis of Pneumatic Structures, Trends in Pneumatic Constructions, Failures of Air-Supported Structures, Part II Membrane Structures, Introduction, Analysis of Net and Tent Structures, Factors to be considered in the design, Examples of Membrane Structures, Examples of Large Scale membrane Structures, Membrane Materials, Typical Joints and Edge Details, Design Standards for Membrane Structures, Other Practical Considerations, References