ETFE Membranes: When performance prevails

ETFE Membranes: When performance prevails

In a previous post I presented the idea of sustainable materials as an alternative for better building performance for a future. This time, sustainability turns to system performance and confusingly produce a material called ETFE which contains toxic components and at the same time much more biodegradable than a plastic bottle. Cheers for that.

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Formerly introduced polymer in construction was PTFE, which is a fluoro polymer or what we commonly call Teflon which originated after the invention of Texlon Transparent Cladding Systems by Vector Foiltec. As my mother used to remind me every time, to always discard a frying pan that looked like its teflon was dismantling (as for bad pans), this article makes her idea more punishable in my head. Teflon is toxic to ingest but really resistant to high temperatures!

ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) Membraneoriginally invented by DuPont as an insulation material; is a plastic and polymer-sourced material based on fluorine and intentionally designed to withstand corrosion under various temperatures which when burned, releases hydrofluoric acid.  ETFE has a self cleaning and recyclable coating film with a serious elasticity capability that extends 3x its length. In addition, the resins that coexist with the film, are highly ultraviolet light resistant. Read here for more deep insights on performance capacity. 

As displayed in the next graphic, ETFE is used for architectural passive designs for all previous properties the system provides. If you read up close, ETFE can also act as a greenhouse and avoids condensation when applied as a pillow for interior or exterior.

Detail of a built ETFE cushion. Source: http://mumagi.net/watercube/img/

Detail of a built ETFE cushion. Source: http://mumagi.net/watercube

Sustainability in this case is not exactly directly on the material but the whole system itself. The holistic design venture between interior + exterior space, environment and Architecture combined with ETFE’s properties; has promised to be a great performative system for more than 25 years now.

Here showing, are a few buildings erected with this type of technology with beautiful designs:
Eden Project by Grimshaw Architects in UK, Water Cube by PTW Architects in Beijing, Allianze Arena in Munich by Herzog & De Meuron Architects  and many others.

Eden Project The Biomes: by Grimshaw Architects, UK

Eden Project The Biomes: by Grimshaw Architects, UK

Water Cube by PTW Architects. Image by portalplanetasdna.ar

Water Cube by PTW Architects. Image by portalplanetasdna.ar

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Allianz Arena by Architects Herzog & DeMeuron in Munich

Allianz Arena by Architects Herzog & DeMeuron in Munich

I wouldn’t worry much for the degradability of this material, as this structures will last a looooooong time standing. And for the time being these structures won’t be necessary anymore, a huge Recyclebot will turn these pieces into new 3d printed pieces and send it to a Plastic Bank.

Check out AMT by INmatteria, the magazine on Adaptive Manufacturing Technology for more info on recyclebot and new recycled filaments.

 

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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.