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The Shenzhen East Huaqiao Water Park in China illuminated at night.

Interior of the Shenzhen East Huaqiao Water Park.

Aa facade using ETFE foil.

By adjusting air depth within cushions, two fritted panels are aligned to vary solar transmittance.

MakMax ETFE tensile architectural membrane

MakMax ETFE foil is emerging as one of the most popular new materials in the building and design industry. ETFE foil was specified for China’s Shenzhen East Huaqiao City Indoor Water Park for its extraordinary flexibility as well as its logistical, economic and environmental benefits.

Facade and roofing solutions with MakMax ETFE can be provided as single-layer membranes supported by a cable net, or as a series of two- and three-layer pneumatic cushions. ETFE cushion systems offer both insulation properties as well as light translucency, due to the fact that they contain a layer of air and can be tailored using fritted coatings to change both the solar and thermal transmission.

Cushions are continually filled with air through a master pumping system. A series of pipes connects each ETFE cushion to the main fans. These pipes are housed within the steelwork of the structure and within the aluminium extrusion running along the perimeter of each cushion. Fans are used alternately to maintain an even pressure, using the same amount of energy as a single light bulb.

The ability to adjust the air pressure within each cushion is controlled by a central computer, which reacts automatically. By adjusting the depth of air within the cushion, one can align two fritted panels to vary the solar transmittance, allowing maximum light transmission or increasing the shading coefficient dramatically. ETFE foil takes its name from the copolymer ethylene tetra fluoro ethylene (ETFE).

This material is a thermoplastic fluoroethylene copolymer of tetrafluoroethylene and ethylene. ETFE foil maintains comparable chemical resistance and electrical properties to PTFE and FEP in addition to improved mechanical properties and workability that exceeds PVDF.

This compound has a very low fire danger: it is considered self-extinguishing and will not create dangerous molten drips or any toxic fumes. ETFE foil is an extruded foil and, unlike traditional architectural fabrics, ETFE foil does not have a base cloth, making it extremely thin (100 to 300 microns).

ETFE foil presents U-values from 5.8 W/m²°K to as low as 1.47 W/m²°K. When applied horizontally this product has a better insulation value than triple glazing. Thermal transmittance can be further limited by adding more layers of foil or applying surface treatments such as texturizing, adding a matte finish, a colour tint or a fritted finish.

ETFE foil is more energy efficient than traditional materials such as glass, wood or steel. ETFE foil also has an excellent life expectancy – in excess of 30 years. ETFE foil is unaffected by most types of environmental weathering including UV light and atmospheric pollution. The smooth surface created by extruding the foil also gives it stain-resistance properties, meaning the ETFE foil surface is very low maintenance.

ETFE foils can improve the environmental performance of a building in many ways. Most importantly this product has an extremely low carbon footprint due to the energy savings in producing a smaller, lighter structure in comparison to a cumbersome alternative. The cradle-to-cradle manufacturing approach has been adhered to, allowing this product to be recycled and reused with negligible environmental impact.