But there is plenty more development to be done. The makings of ETFE as a long term construction material will lie in the development of various high-tech coatings and methods of printing which will modify not just the translucency but also the thermal and acoustic properties of the fabric itself.
By increasing the number of layers and by incorporating ‘nanogels’ is it possible to increase the thermal properties of ETFE foil. Its use in an internal setting has yet to be fully discovered partly due to its current lack of acoustic absorbtion properties. The latter is a major selling point for foil for traditionally noisy areas like indoor sports halls and swimming pools – the echoing noise now simply escapes through the roof – However when noise exclusion is required eg airports, external traffic noise and heavy rain and hail, ETFE currently struggles. However, noise and rain suppression systems are now being incorporated into external structures with successful results and there is much potential for this to be developed further to improve acoustics.
Architen Landrell are running an active test programme to develop IR reflective coatings that will allow multilayer ETFE systems to transmit visible light yet block (insulate) infrared transmission. Current systems have similar insulation levels to conventional glazing products so the search is on for products that will dramatically improve on these values
Pictures are provided of some existing projects to incorporate EFTE and aerogels. Aerogels provide insulation.
All these developments will move ETFE into wider product areas.
What is clear is that the world is not short of architects, designers and contractors who want to specify ETFE foil in their projects. Demand is high and with demand comes increasingly adventurous design briefs which constantly push the boundaries of what can be achieved.
ETFE is still in its infancy but these are exciting times and there is much more potential to tap into. It continues to open new horizons for architects and designers which will ensure that it remains in the architectural sphere for the foreseeable future.