Innovative and efficient air domes

Innovative air domes promise significant energy savings 

China has seen an unprecedented growth in its economy in the past 20 years. This has led to an influx of people into cities, but urban planning has not kept up with the demand for recreational facilities for the new residents.

It was this fact that inspired Beijing Yuedun Metaspace to develop the Air Dome structure which saw it being named as one of five Climate Solvers by WWF China earlier this year.

Traditional recreational facilities are costly to build and to operate. The Air Dome saves on construction time and cost, taking just one week to build. More importantly, due to the airtight feature and high efficiency insulation system, the MetaSpace Air Dome can save 2/3 of the energy cost compared with conventional sports facilities of the same size.

MetaSpace Air Dome uses high performance architectural fabric as the dome’s “shell”. This is prefabricated off site, and then assembled and inflated by an intelligent mechanical unit to form the envelope of the structure. Neither columns nor beams are needed. The Air Dome combines advances in aeromechanics, new materials, ergonomics, energy saving and environmental protection to provide space for recreational facilities, logistic and warehousing centres.

Unusually for a Climate Solver winner, the Air Dome concept is not new. It was first developed in North America in the 1990s. What makes it unique, however, is the way in which Beijing Yuedun Metaspace has adapted the product to take into account the particular needs and challenges in China.

These adaptations have seen it being awarded 13 patents. Included in the innovations are an air purification system, designed to cope with the high air pollution in many of China’s cities. Another innovation which has proved to be extremely popular among serious sportspeople, is the Oxygen Tank Effect, which decreases the equivalent altitude inside the dome by over 1000 meters. In a country where the cities on the plateau are as high as 4500 meters above sea level, this is a significant benefit.

The team at Beijing Yuedun Metaspace spent ten years developing their system, and had to overcome many challenges. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome was the fact that the Air Dome concept was completely new in China and most potential customers were reluctant to play the guinea pig. Another challenge was finding ways to adjust the air flow within the dome to cater for different sports’ requirements. Badminton, which is one of the most popular sports in China, requires a much more stable air flow that tennis or basketball, for example.

Another challenge, faced by many of the Climate Solver innovators, was the fact that small startup businesses are often short of funds, and the management team had to go without salaries during some of the more challenging early months.

Most of these challenges have now been overcome, with the MetaSpace products widely acknowledged as the leaders in the industry. The domes have also been adapted for use in other sectors, including industrial storage and commercial exhibition space.

“MetaSpace’s commitment to ‘green space, healthy life’ is evident in their products,” says Stephan Henningsson, senior advisor for the WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative. “Since 2012, the WWF has recognized 14 Chinese companies for their innovative technologies and commitment to tackling climate change.”

Compared to a conventional structure, the MetaSpace Air Dome can save 30% to 90% of the energy consumed due to its air tight and patented insulation system. The domes are already receiving international attention, with a multi-function dome pre-fabricated in China and constructed in Zambia and in use as an exhibition and recreation space.