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Michele Roth, business development manager and marketing manager at Birdair, describes why renovation is big business, why tensile membrane roofing is increasing in popularity and how La Plata stadium is finally complete after 10 years on hold

 

What services does your company offer to the industry?
Birdair is a leading specialty contractor of lightweight long-span roofing systems and tensile structures of all sizes throughout the world. We offer a full range of services including design assistance, engineering, fabrication and manufacturing of tensile membrane, project management, construction, and support and service. Our expertise as a design-build specialty contractor provides a solid platform for both consultative and contract services of all stages of a project lifecycle.
 
Could you tell us an interesting fact about your company?

Birdair has designed, engineered, fabricated and installed more than 40,000 square metres of permanent tensile membrane structures throughout the world, which include more than 55 stadias/sports facilities. Longspan tensile roofing structures by Birdair remain a popular stadium design choice and with breakthrough technologies with unparalleled experience we create structures that meet both facility and patron requirements.

What trends do you see emerging in your particular sector of the stadium industry?
Renovating and retrofitting existing stadia and arenas in the industry are big right now. The building and constructing of brand-new stadiums and arenas here in the USA are far and few between. More than ever, existing sporting facilities – especially at the collegiate level – are being looked at from the point of view ‘How can we improve the appearance and functionality of our existing facilities?’ This provides a great advantage for our area of expertise because Birdair can transform or enhance the appearance of those arenas and stadia using tensile membrane technology.

Can you tell us about a recent success story for your company?
La Plata Stadium, located in La Plata, Argentina, originally opened in 2003 and was initially to include a tensile membrane and cable-supported roof system from Birdair but due to economic problems in 2000, the construction of the roof was on hold and stored in crates for approximately 10 years. Until 2010, the stadium was temporarily closed to convert into an all-seater stadium and to feature a 29,000 square meters of tensile membrane roof. As a result, Birdair was remobilised to install the PTFE fibreglass membrane roof, and the 53,000-seat stadium officially re-opened in February of 2011, ahead of schedule for its first match to be played six days later. La Plata Stadium was designed by architect Roberto Ferreria in conjunction with Weidlinger Associates and is one of the premier venues for football in South America.

What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in your particular sector of the industry – and how are you overcoming them?
A big challenge is getting architects that typically use conventional roofing materials to think outside of the box and envision tensile membrane on their projects. As a full service specialty contractor, we thrive at presenting our capabilities to architects around the country to take a chance at using tensile membrane on their structures/buildings. Birdair has the ability to take an architect’s dream and make it a reality when it comes to using tensile architecture.

What new technologies or strategies have you used in any recent projects?
We are in the process of constructing a new membrane structure in Yonkers, New York at the Empire City Casino which will feature an ETFE Porte-Cochere. ETFE or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene membrane is not so much a new technology, but it is an up-and-coming trend here in the USA. Although it’s popular overseas in markets such as Europe and Asia, the use for ETFE in the USA could allow architects to create unique memorable structures. ETFE membrane can last over 20 years without losing its transparency or strength. Due to its non-stick surface, ETFE resists airbone pollutants, making it chemically resistant and naturally self-cleaning.


What’s your favourite stadium/sports venue and why?
My favourite stadium is Red Bull Stadium in Harrison, New Jersey. Birdair served as the project’s specialty roofing contractor under a design-build contract to engineer, fabricate and install the athletic facility roofing system. It is my favourite because it features three different types of architectural fabric membranes that make up the roof and façade. These include FEP-coated PTFE mesh on the roof’s leading edge, silver metallic-coloured PTFE glass on the roof and upper façade and silver metallic-coloured PTFE glass mesh on the lower façade. In total, approximately 30,000 square metres of fabric forms the tensioned membrane roof and façade systems.

Where do you see the stadium market in 10 years’ time?
I see the stadium market to be focused on retrofits and renovations to existing stadia. We view this as a potential up-and-coming market and for Birdair – we can provide the market with the ability to create that signature look for a university or a team’s stadium/arena. We are currently working on a few retrofit projects. Although there is still a large market for construction of new-build stadia, renovating existing stadia could be a prospective for an even bigger market for stadium construction.
 

Birdair will be exhibiting at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012, 8-10 May 2012. Visit the company at Booth 4014.

 

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