The ETFE Skin

The EFTE is a plastic with high chemical and mechanical resistance, great stability to temperature changes and high resistance to ultraviolet rays, a great material for the future … and the present!

Hi, the people say that the irony does not understand of pleasures, only understand of revenge. I don’t think so; I think that the irony is a means of expression as any other, in fact, much better than others that we use commonly, such as arrogance, for example. I am not ironic when I tell that I would love to make a building in the Bouvet Island than is the most isolated of the world (do not believe me? Look at the Atlas).

Should be impressive if we could put ourselves in the skin of a Mafia Boss, as did Marlon Brandon, Robert De Niro or Andy García in the famous series «The Godfather» of Francis Ford Coppola, you do not be afraid, but I, Rodolfo, I could put me in situation, in terms of economic well-being of course, as to be an outcast of the law… No. But speaking of skins, today I bring you a very special skin for our buildings; I speak of a skin of ETFE (or plastic).

 MediaTic 1

Eighth stop: the ETFE Skin

The skin protects us from external agents, of the knocks and the diseases, protects us from the world, for me, the ETFE is like a skin for the building. The first time I saw «in situ» the material, I was strolling through Barcelona, some friends advised me to visit the MediaTIC, they were sure that I was not going to waste time, and so it was, I owe them a dinner because I did not lose the time and it was also totally profitable.

The building was designed by the architect Ruiz-Geli (see firm architectural e-cloud9) and was promoted by the consortium of the free zone of Barcelona. Basically the construction aims to the encounter between professionals and companies in the sector of the digital world and new technologies. The form enveloping is cubic and the structure is made of four cross rigid frames separated 14 meters each other, each gantry has large iron beams ranging from plant 7th to 8th leaving (cannot be otherwise) large workspaces. All the facades of the building are different and have in common the imaginative deployment of the author.

The function of the bags of ETFE is primarily the filter the solar radiation, this bags «swell» of nitrogen when increases the temperature, this process is automatic through a network of light meters with energy autonomic that detect the fluctuation of the degrees Celsius. This skin of 2,500 m² save up to 20% of energy consumption (all a joy for the coffers) and avoids that the atmosphere receive 114 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) a year (a joy for the environment).

 MediaTic 2

What is the ETFE?

The Ethylene Tetra Fluor Ethylene is a plastic with high chemical resistance and mechanical (supports 400 times its own weight), very stable to temperature changes, high resistance to UV rays, high transparency, self-cleaning and, as if this were not enough, recyclable. All these features make it a very interesting material in construction but other important question is that its weight is one hundred times less than the weight of the glass, and we know that weight is one of the major handicaps in the architecture. It has an excellent thermal insulation which increases as you add more layers of material (in fact the number of layers optimum is 2 or 3).

Its most curious advantage is that you can «patch up», that is to say if we break a certain area it can repair it by welding with other layers of ETFE.

Among its drawbacks (which also there are) we have that the acoustic protection is very bad and the ETFE is easily damaged by sharp items, although this last can be solved in many different ways.

 Allianz arena


When it was decided to place about the Allianz Arena the ETFE surely the responsible didn’t think in that it would cause the reaction of scientists. The high energy consumption that occurs with the illuminating of this vast surface make that the imagination of the ITMA staff see the light (ironic, no?).

The future of this material is located in Spain, and is that «the boys of the ITMA» (technological Institute of the materials of Asturias) have been proposed as a goal achieve maximum efficiency of this material by combining with nothing more and nothing less than photovoltaic cells and lamps of LEDs (always LEDs), and reduce the high electric spending that suppose the lighting of this plastic by spotlights with colour filters. We would have ETFE with lighting almost free… I cry of joy!

The project is so interesting than the European authorities that provide subsidies to the I + D have granted an aid of 2.1 million euros. The project has an initial cost of 3.2 million and has been required the collaboration of the multinational Acciona Infrastructure, the companies manufacturers Taiyo Europe and Solarium and the foundations Greennovate! and CENET-CIEMAT. The staffs of ITMA have four years to show us that they are able… I will be on the lookout!

As always is time of say bye but not before remind you that thanks to my work of research we are at the forefront of the construction. Is the EU going to thank for my collaboration? Bye bye.

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