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Tenting in the tropics

December 1st, 2008 / By: / Project Briefs

Mahaffey Fabric Structures builds a sturdy tent around an ancient tree.

Under the oldest tree on the island of Kauai, partygoers gather to enjoy a lively luau show. And they can now do so without worrying about the rainy Hawaiian nights, thanks to Mahaffey Fabric Structures, Memphis, Tenn.

Mahaffey’s client, based in Honolulu, needed a covered environment to entertain the audience of its luau show, but could not risk damaging the old mango tree that was in the center of the proposed space. Luckily, the client found Mahaffey on the internet and was able to tap into Mahaffey’s previous experience of tenting around a tree.

“We had done this before, building around a tree,” says George Smith, Mahaffey’s vice president of sales. “We were very confident that we could make it work.” Plans began for a 100-by-148-foot clearspan structure attached to a building.

A number of problems arose during the process. “There were a few challenges with the engineering,” Smith says. The team had to account for added weight from the lighting and sound equipment, as well as higher wind-loading requirements. The tent was designed to be permanent, so it needed to be absolutely rock-solid to withstand any tropical storms.

“We used concrete anchors for this project, pouring special concrete footings (piers) to anchor the tent,” Smith says. Prior to the installation, the Mahaffey team visited the site to ensure the construction company was setting the piers in the right places. In addition, Mahaffey installed the tent using cables rated with superior wind loads to keep the structure from bending and to prevent any type of collapse in the event of hurricane-force winds.

Another main concern of the client was that the structure would not look like a tent. The installation team devised a way to powder-coat the rafters and other sections to blend in with the roof, and the coated framing was then covered with bamboo-type poles to add extra ambiance.

“The customer was exceedingly pleased with the finished product,” Smith says. “It was a perfect combination of an upscale setting with an ‘aloha’ vibe.”

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