Compared with the well-known and proven construction materials stone, wood, steel, concrete and glass, membranes and ETFE films are a relatively young product in terms of construction history.
Today, membrane and ETFE architecture – also known as tensile architecture – is a highly developed technology that is used for constructions as diverse as pavilions, building facades and roofs– it has proven to be not only a reliable construction element but also an innovative architectural design element.
By definition, membranes and ETFE films are thin, stretched films, similar to the eardrum or the wing of a bat. Countless other forms and regularities found in nature have inspired architect Frei Otto and his team to research the foundation for a new structural technology and to develop it further for practical applications.
Textile fabrics made of tear-resistant polyester, fibreglass and ETFE films open up a new dimension in construction. Thanks to their high flexibility, their low weight per square meter yet high tensile strength and their transparency, it is possible to:
- cover great surfaces without support columns
- design rooms and spaces that are bathed in light
- realise completely new construction shapes
- create a memorable view thanks to design and colour
- set up temporary structures and buildings that can be reused at other locations
- construct efficiently with only as few resources
- open up completely new construction areas
The possibilities with this construction method are extremely versatile. Membranes and ETFE, mostly realised as roof or façade structures, provide lasting protection against the elements – and much more than that. Multilayer tensile membranes and ETFE air inflated cushions possess a high insulation value and added sound insulation. Aside from membrane constructions with added thermal insulation, membranes can be realised with high transparency or completely opaque. Plastic coated polyester fabrics are available in all colours, while coated fibreglass is mostly white. White or bright colours are often chosen because they are visually pleasant and feature an optimal transparency