Marquees are a popular solution for wedding receptions, music festivals, conferences, exhibitions and a host of other gatherings, but the unpredictable UK climate presents a few problems for organisers. There is probably no month of the year when you can be 100% sure you won’t want heating, or cooling, to keep your guests comfortable.
The modern tensile fabric structure is not necessarily temporary. Materials and technology have evolved substantially, and they are often the architecture of first choice for shopping malls, bus stations, sports stadia, airports and a host of other permanent constructions large and small. Ingenious methods of minimising their energy requirements have been found.
Ironically, heating remains a challenge in temporary erections like marquees. The main concerns are fire safety and carbon monoxide poisoning. Contact burns are also a risk in crowded spaces.
Types of Heater
Ideally, heating appliances are installed outside the marquee, feeding in warmed air through fireproof ducting. Both gas- and diesel-powered heaters are available for this purpose, and for a short-duration event the hire charges are reasonable.
Electric heaters are an option if there is access to a suitable power supply. They must be positioned where they cannot pose a local hazard to the structure or its occupants. Some are designed for suspending at a safe height from the structure’s supporting posts. Heat should be spread throughout the space with fans rather than allowed to concentrate in certain areas.
Propane patio heaters are sometimes used, but gas-burning appliances should only be permitted in marquees with sufficient ventilation. In sealed and lined marquees they could pose a carbon monoxide risk. However, carbon monoxide alarms can be installed alongside them.
Space heaters should be avoided. They pose a bigger carbon monoxide risk and are more difficult to isolate at a safe distance.
Specialist fabric architects like http://www.fabricarchitecture.com/ will gladly help you design your event marquee and advise you on its HVAC requirements.
While marquees are officially classed as “Temporary Demountable Structures”, the applicability of various bodies of legislation can be a complex area (see https://www.aisolutions.co.uk/Community/Forums/CDM/Temporary-Structures). Event planners should familiarise themselves with the Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM2015).
Check gas heaters conform to the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations of 1994, and diesel heaters should conform to BS799. Both types should be annually PAT tested.