Jan 092011

Credit: Copyright Fraunhofer Gesellschaft IFAM)

Films for Façades: New Building Material Offers New Design Options

The plastic film ETFE is experiencing a boom these days because it gives architects completely new design options. You can use this material not only for futuristic sports stadiums, but also to insulate and for the heating control of buildings.

Films instead of walls. This is an idea that fascinates architects all over the world. The Eden Project in Southern England, the National Aquatics Center built for swimming events at the Olympics in Beijing and the Allianz Arena in Munich are only three examples of what you can make from plastic sheets. Ethylene tetraflourethylene (ETFE), a transparent membrane, is especially popular because it enables buildings that shine in all colors as in Munich and Peking. But, we are not just talking about colors. You can use this new foil for an intelligent improvement of existing buildings — by regulating heat, coolness and light precisely according to needs. Experts see film construction as a market poised for the future.

Whether this market develops and if so how quickly is not a question of taste but of the technical possibilities — the financial options. Films will have to be low-cost, easy to process and free of health hazards for them to have a chance in the international construction business. This is the target that six Fraunhofer institutes are working jointly toward in the Multifunctional Membrane Cushion Construction project.

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