Tension Structures
Components / Technology / Sail and Membrane Material
While we call our products SkyShades … across the industry they are often referred to as shade sails, tensioned membrane structures, tensile structures, fabric structures, etc. These are various names for structures that are supported by the use of tension applied to a surface membrane. The use of tension as opposed to compression and bending utilized in traditional building method is what enables SkyShades Hawaii to create such free flowing, exciting shapes.
A typical SkyShades Hawaii structure consists of the sail or canopy fabric, steel cable, mounting hardware, stainless steel fittings and structural supports which are usually columns or specially fabricated attachments to an existing structure. Each design is tailored to the meet the needs of your particular situation.

High amounts of tension and catenary curves designed into the perimeters of the membranes are what enable us to design a strong, safe and long lasting installation. To obtain this tension, it is important that the structural elements are sound and secure.

The structural columns are typically made of steel, aluminum or sometimes wood timbers. They are set in concrete footings, which can be quite large. The columns are engineered for proper size based upon the size of the sail area, number of sail attachments, wind load conditions and local building codes. For finish, they can be hot dip galvanized, painted with an industrial quality paint or powder coated. We ensure that installations in proximity to the sea are properly protected from the salt and marine conditions.

Hardware and attachments consist of marine grade stainless steel components. History has proven that these will maintain an attractive appearance and provide many years of low maintenance service. Except for very large sails, it is relatively simple to remove sails in case of severe storms or other potentially dangerous conditions.


Our tension membranes (sails and waterproof canopies) are made from the very best commercial grade fabric available in the industry. It could be either HDPE (high density polyethylene) shade fabric or fully waterproof PVC composite fabrics. They come in a variety of designer colors. We can even provide certified flame retardant material if this is required for your site.

Our sails are fabricated with integral perimeter sleeves with stainless steel tension cable passed through. The sails are connected and tensioned to the structural columns or existing structure attachment points. The size and shape of the sails are virtually limitless and each design is unique and tailored to fit your existing conditions.

(If you would like more information on our membrane material, please see the sections on sail materials at the bottom of the Products section. You will also find color choices and shade factors there.)
Create your own “functional art”.



Sail & Membrane Material

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Shade Fabric: Shade fabric helps block out solar heat and provides a cool environment. The shade fabric we use for our SHY SHADES Structures is the best in the industry and will hold up to our strong Hawaii sun. This High Density Polyethylene shade cloth is specifically designed for overhead shade structures, and provides excellent protection from U.V. radiation. Our fabric is superior to all other shade fabrics due to its 100% Monofilament weave. Some competing shade fabrics use a weave of monofilament & monotape rather than 100% monofilament product. This inferior weave is subject to more rapid U.V. degradation of the monotape portion of the fabric, which can reduce the UVR blocking by more than 30% within 3 years. Our durable knitted fabric is lightweight, water resistant, and porous. Rain, wind, and translucent light will pass through the fabric.

  • Up to 92% shade factor
  • Up to 94% UVR block
  • Water and air permeable
  • Mildew and abrasion resistant
Our fabrics have a low shrinkage factor and high dimensional stability and are unaffected by most sprays and chemicals. All these factors combine to give our clients one of the most durable outdoor shade fabrics in the world.
Create the Look and Comfort you Deserve:
  • Woven lightweight and durable fabric with a life expectancy exceeding 10+ years.
  • Up to 94% UVA/B protection (varies with color) while allowing warm air to pass through rather than being trapped underneath.
  • Creates a cool and inviting environment.
  • Economical and attractive solution.
  • Will run-off a large portion of rainwater provided well designed fall angles, etc.


Note: Colors may not reproduce accurately on different computers so please use these samples as a guide only, and make your final fabric color selection based on actual samples.

Fire Retardant High Density Polyethylene (FR/HDPE)

Fire Retardant (FR) shade fabric is also available. This innovative fabric has the same characteristics as standard HDPE shade fabric and has additional flame retardant properties. This product is California State Fire Marshall approved. Using the very latest in new generation flame retardant additives that are compatible with the UV stabilizers, this fabric also provides 95% UV protection.

Flame retardant shade fabric may be used in areas where building codes require fire resistive construction methods. Some typical applications where Fire Retardant shade fabrics may be required are large volume public areas such as shopping centers, tourist attractions, theme parks, restaurants and schools.

Color Options are: Sandstone, Porcelain, Midnight Green, Blue Gum and Aquamarine.

PVC Composite Fabrics

Where a waterproof solution is required, we typically rely on PVC composite fabrics to provide a solid impermeable waterproof surface. This high quality architectural grade material has superb performance characteristics (soft and pliable, resistant to UV light) and is typically used to meet specific aesthetic designs or functional applications. The fabrics are versatile and may be applied to any scale of project. PVC composite fabric may be used for a residential shade sail, an auto dealership outdoor showroom, or even a large convention center or airport. These fabrics are more complex and costly to produce thus are more expensive than standard HDPE shade fabric. PVC composite fabric will make a dramatic statement when used in high profile architectural designs.

PVC composite fabrics contain chemical additives that make it UV resistant, mold resistant, and fire retardant. Some fabrics are made with additional chemical additives that make the surface self-cleaning. These additives help maintain the original color and finish of the fabric.

PVC composite fabrics come in two versions: solid impermeable waterproof surface or micro perforated water resistant surface. The fabric type is selected based upon the project's intended use and or specification. A wide range of architectural and designer colors is available.

For additional specifications, technical information, and color options, please select the link below to visit the fabric manufacturer website:


We all know the saying, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. That concept very clearly applies to the world of tensioned membrane structures. To ensure your shade sails will stand the test of time, SkyShades Hawaii only uses shade sails stitched with Tenara thread. This is the same thread used by NASA for their space suits!

The Ultimate Thread!

Regardless of how durable the fabric and how skillfully it’s sewn, it’s only as good as what holds them together. The quality of thread selected is a major factor in how long the sail will last.

Outdoor shade sails are exposed to UV radiation, cleaning agents, pollution, saltwater, air, rain and snow. These elements are harmful over time to both the fabric and seam thread, but the thread usually fails first.

That’s why we insist on Tenara thread, the same thread used to sew NASA spacesuits.

This amazing product is made from 100% expanded PTFE fiber, PTFE is the chemical name for Teflon. The one significant difference between conventional Teflon threads and Tenara sewing thread is that Tenara sewing threads are manufactured from 100% expanded PTFE. Expanded PTFE is two to three times stronger than conventional PTFE.