Architects are leaning towards alternate materials usage compared to the current construction materials. Sustainable building materials are energy efficient in the manufacturing process and have less impact on human health and the environment.

Many varieties of alternative building materials are available now. The materials are now a better, durable, sustainable, and cost-effective method of construction. The materials have less impact on the environment and also ensures the usage of limited resources. Alternate materials with a sustainable approach can help to conserve energy and save money in the long run. It can be produced in an eco-friendly way to help our surrounding environment and air quality. 

Alternative Materials: Cellular Lumen Fabric Sheet1
The Cellular Lumen Fabric_ ©

Following are some of the main advantages of using the alternative materials:

  • Cost-effective 
  • Durability and Better Strength 
  • Minimum use of materials (Less wastage) 
  • Easy construction process  
  • Less energy-intensive 
  • Less labor use 
  • Eco-friendly materials

About the material: Cellular Lumen Fabric

Cellular Lumen is a cellular, Poly thread material. The material is sustainable and energy-efficient for usage. It also can be made from recycled cellular fibers/yarn into fabrics. The material is eco-friendly and also offers some relief from the heat. It is the most used material nowadays for roofs for temporary forms, tensile structures.


Cellular fibers consist of a porous wall that surrounds a central cavity (lumen). The material is sustainable, energy-efficient, and protects against harsh sun lighting. The material is preferred by many architects due to its light weight and aesthetic nature, transparency, strength & stiffness, adaptability to heat and sunlight, better durability, eco-friendly and Sustainable nature.


The cellular lumen fibers knitted together form different forms of the same material. The fibers are in the form of fabrics, tubular forms, and canopy cellular components. Irrespective of the size and shape, it’s easy to work with. The fibers present add extra strength and stability to the material. The material can be recycled or made using recyclable materials.

Poly thread

It is the most common method of producing cellular lumen fabric by knitting the lightweight material and holding it in tension with integrated fiberglass tubing. It is done manually or sometimes by a robot manufactured process (larger scale) also. The process of material is easy and fast. This poly thread method is used in fabric construction by engineers.


The lightweight nature and the strength of the material help implementation in many ways. The material can be used for roof forms, covering, canopy, temporary structures, façade design, installations (interactive installations). The material has a wide range of applications in many fields that include the construction industry. 

Alternative Materials: Cellular Lumen Fabric Sheet2
Tensile structure using the cellular lumen fabric_©
Alternative Materials: Cellular Lumen Fabric Sheet3
The Cellular lumen fabric used as an interactive installation_©

The Lumen, New York City (2017)

The Lumen is designed by the firm Jenny Sabin Studio. The canopy is made using cellular web components that wrap MoMA PS1’s courtyard in Long Island City, New York. The fabric is a part of The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1’s 2017 annual Young Architects Program. The project is known for integrating many fields that seem more like the future.

Alternative Materials: Cellular Lumen Fabric Sheet4
Lumen Fabric Canopy that is spread across the courtyard_ ©

The canopy structure was constructed using 1 million yards of digitally knitted fiber. The cellular canopies consist of 250 hanging tubular structures, 100 robotically woven recycled spool stools, and a misting system that responds when people are close.

Alternative Materials: Cellular Lumen Fabric Sheet5
Canopy Plan of the installation in the courtyard_©

The architect uses different fields and technology to form the web-like canopy installation. Various fields included in this project are materials science, biology, engineering, and mathematics. The inferences/ inputs from these fields and technologies integrate to create a better performing, sustainable and adaptive material.

Alternative Materials: Cellular Lumen Fabric Sheet6
Night view of the colors displayed by the interactive installation_©

The canopy is made using recycled photo-luminescent fabric that collects solar energy and produces light (glows) of shades of pink, blue, purple and is visible at night. The appearance of the canopy is different during the day and night. It is a socially and environmentally responsive structure that can adapt to the density of bodies, heat, and sunlight in various forms. 

Alternative Materials: Cellular Lumen Fabric Sheet7
The web like canopy installation made from cellular fabric_©

In the future, we can expect more advanced building materials to be developed and applied. The fabric materials developed with integrated biology, mathematics, engineering knowledge can lead to an eco-friendlier material creating a sustainable environment. The temporary roof forms, outdoor exhibition spaces, roof covering, façade design, complex roof forms mainly use cellular fabric material. 

The future we envision is more sustainable, eco-friendly, seems more like technology-integrated, sustainable, eco-friendly surroundings. The creation of these different materials day-by-day can cater to the building construction future.


Arpitha is pursuing her bachelor's degree.She has passion for writing and design.She interests herself in designing and writing about architecture. She believes architecture has a prominent impact in any person's life and we architects have the ability to create change. She loves exploring new ideas, concepts, thoughts and believes there is no end to learning!!!

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