Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene. It certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue – but what “ETFE” lacks in linguistic simplicity, it absolutely makes up in performance. ETFE foil (aka ETFE film) is the fluorine-based plastic polymer that’s forced countless architects to reassess the way they think about plastic polymers.
Today, it’s widely celebrated as a dynamic, durable, and cost-effective alternative to glass. And it’s opened a new world of possibilities for architects who want to incorporate more natural light into their designs.
The Basics of ETFE Foil
Imagine the possibilities of working with a building material that offered similar light transmission as glass but with only 1% of the weight. ETFE foil is an innovative architectural membrane that does just that. It’s a highly translucent fabric – up to 95% – that’s extremely practical for a wide range of building applications, including (but certainly not limited to):
- Replacing Old Glazing (and Bringing Old Buildings Up to Code)
- Roofs and Coverings for Indoor/Outdoor Spaces
- Covered Walkways, Entryways, and Waiting Areas
- Windows and Skylights
- Tensile Facade Panels and Exterior Cladding
- Greenhouses and Agricultural Centers
- Solutions for Earthquake Prone Locations
ETFE foil is generally applied as either a tensioned single-layer membrane or as air-filled/pneumatic cushions. The design choices depend on the project goals and requirements.
The Benefits of ETFE Foil
To help you start evaluating whether ETFE foil could be ideal for your next project, here’s a quick overview of its many benefits.
Durability – ETFE has an excellent life expectancy. In fact, many lab tests have suggested lifespans of 40-50 years without degradation, loss of strength, becoming brittle, or discoloring. The membrane is generally unaffected by UV rays, pollution, and weathering.
Eco-Friendly –ETFE foils are ideal for environmentally conscious projects. The membrane is 100% recyclable. And its lightweight nature reduces the amount of materials needed for the framework, which in turn reduces construction waste and lowers the amount of carbon necessary to transport the materials to the project site.
Energy Efficiency – ETFE can be used to reduce solar heat gain. There are many options for printing/fritting, tinting, and applying surface treatments that help to reflect heat-inducing UV rays and reduce the need for A/C.
Light Transmission – ETFE is up to 95% transparent and transmits UV light without being damaged by it. As more studies continue to connect health and wellbeing with access to natural light, ETFE (and other tensioned membrane architectural solutions) will become even more attractive.
Safety – ETFE meets (and often exceeds) many of the strictest safety codes and standards. It maintains its strength in extreme hot/cold environments, is self-extinguishing in the event of a fire, and has a relatively high melting temperature.
Maintenance – ETFE is a low-maintenance solution. While it’s not technically self-cleaning (like TiO2-coated PTFE membranes), it’s pretty close. The membrane’s low friction coefficient prevents dust and dirt from sticking to the surface, and it’s highly resistant to corrosion.
Cost-Effectiveness – ETFE is an economical alternative. Not only is it substantially less expensive than glass; the lightweight membrane means less dead load on the supporting structure, which translates into major cost-reductions in the necessary structural framework. Additionally, if a tear or puncture occurs, it can often be patched without having to replace the entire film.
Of course, ETFE foil isn’t the best choice for every project, but it is one more innovative solution to add to your “architect’s pallet” (so to speak). If you want to learn more about the endless opportunities of tensioned membrane structures and facades, we want to talk!
Are Tension Structures Right for Your Next Project?
In the Tension Structures Division of Eide Industries, we specialize in design, engineering, manufacturing, and installation of structurally complex and creatively challenging commercial, government, and prototype design projects. We provide expertise and support for architects, landscape designers, general contractors, and property owners to develop their custom tensile membrane project ideas and construct iconic structures.
Explore the options for your next project. Contact one of our experts today by calling 800-422-6827.