June 24 2008

What is Ethylene Tetraflouroethylene (ETFE)?

EFTE_Image 24

Ethylene Tetraflouroethylene, commonly known as ETFE, is a type of plastic that is extremely corrosion resistant and very strong. The material is self cleaning because of its chemical composition (very similar to teflon). In addition, ETFE transmits even more light than glass and weighs only 1% of a comparable glass panel. Installation costs are between 24% and 70% less than for glass panels.

In most architectural applications the material is used in ETFE Pillows. This configuration is a composite of two layers of ETFE that are pressurized to form a more rigid unit. Typically, aluminum strips are sandwiched along the edges to seal the pillows with just a small pressurization hose penetration left open.

ETFE can be coated with a variety of 'frits' to modulate light transmission and appearance. Such strategies can help buildings appear very dynamic as spatial elements. In the case of the National Aquatics Center in Beijing the ETFE pillows are fritted according to a solar / programmatic study to make best use of solar heat gain for pool heating. In another case, at the Duales Pavilion for the Hannover Expo 2000, ETFE panels "had a positive/negative leaf pattern printed on the outer two of the three-layer system. These foil cushions, with a 3% pattern overlap, where pneumatically able to transform the wall envelope from a translucent to an opaque system." This configuration allows designers and building owners to design a 'program' for the building facade.

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ETFE_Image 01_Duales_01

The most dramatic application of EFTE in a dynamic facade is perhaps the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. In this project the ETFE panels are backlit using color variable LED lamps. The entire facade of the building can change colors to display any selection the operators desire.

EFTE_Image 05_AllianzarenacomboEFTE_Image 06_800px-Allianz_Arena_2005-06-10

ETFE is completely recyclable and the assembled system is even made using some recycled material.

For more information visit Wikipedia or manufacturer Vector Foiltec.

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July 10th, 2008 at 3:05 PM

Joan Cwi

I'm very interesting in the product you used for the Brown Center at MICA. Is this it? I love the building, but am writing about a possible second feature of the type of glass used. Does it help birds see the structure and thereby prevent bird strikes? Joan 410-467-5352

July 10th, 2008 at 3:25 PM


Joan- I was not an architect with Z/S at that time but I do know that the Brown Center is a Glass Curtain wall system. A special frit was used to both shade the interior and as well as for aesthetics. I do not know if this helps birds to be more aware of the building and hence avoid bird collisions. I would suspect that there is a point where birds would become aware of any frit applied to glass. Whether the threshold was reached at Brown Center I do not know. I am glad you asked this question. Next time I select a building's exterior material I will consider bird collision as a significant factor. It is amazing how many birds are affected by what we consider 'modern' architecture / steel and glass. Do you know of any organizations publishing data on the visibility of translucent materials etc for birds? I would love to do a post on the subject. Thanks- Jonas

July 23rd, 2008 at 1:23 AM


Can ETFE be used to earn a LEED credit? Which credit? Thanks, Cat

March 19th, 2009 at 10:19 AM

last ghost

thank's for all this informations about etfe

January 12th, 2010 at 6:08 PM


What is name/location of the project shown at the top, I am an architect looking to use this material on a project of the same scale . . . thanks

December 11th, 2011 at 8:03 PM

Mireya Perez Power

Mireya December, 11, 2011 ETFE !Perfect for Our Piag Museum ! Thank you. Es diferente, moderno, resistente y mucho más economico que el vidrio. Los felicito.