How to get the most value from your ETFE structure

Access North Structures - ETFE Roof Alton Towers

How to get the most value from your ETFE structure

ETFE (or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene to give the membrane its full name) continues to dominate headlines when it comes to modern architecture.

Widely referred to as a ‘next generation’ material, the ETFE polymer is being increasingly used to provide visually impactful coverings at stadiums, shopping centres, airports, schools, theatres and leisure complexes, to name just a few places.

And the praise it has received is justified. With exceptional light transmission and the diffusion of good UVs, its transparency and solar control means it can easily be a great alternative, and inexpensive substitute for glass for instance. It is also incredibly lightweight which reduces the need for excessive steel support, without compromising on the robustness of the structure. This adds to the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of ETFE – a material choice renowned for its recyclability, energy efficiency and minimal carbon impact and harm to our Ozone layer. (Montreal Protocol Class II)

In truth, the list of benefits could go on and on. But one of the overriding reasons that this membrane is being increasingly specified on projects, is its durability, UVA transparency and inexpensiveness.

Whilst ETFE films are extremely elastic, they demonstrate impressive tensile strength and, even when repeatedly exposed to chemical, thermal or environmental elements, they remain structurally resistant. In fact, over 35 years later, and if designed-well, with a design life in excess of 50 years, many self-cleaning ETFE structures can still be intact and in use without any degradation.

ETFE membrane inspections and maintenance

ETFE ripped seam - Access North Structures
ETFE Inspections - Access North Structures

That’s not to say ETFE structures do not require attention. With an ETFE membrane an annual inspection and maintenance regime are always required. In other instances, an incident as simple as a bird-pecked hole could present the need for a pillow repair. Whatever the scenario, upkeep work is usually straightforward and cost-effective, providing it is carried out by specialists who understand the nuances of different ETFE systems.

To achieve the most value from an ETFE structure it must therefore be treated and managed as a valuable asset. That’s why the advice of our own experts – who have been working with this membrane for over 10 years – is that preventative rather than reactive maintenance is crucial.

Of course occasional emergency call outs may be required to replace pillows or conduct repairs, when the unexpected happens. But, on the whole, structured annual or biennial maintenance regimes will ensure the optimum performance of the ETFE structure, before issues arise. Light and temperature readings can be monitored, for instance, as can plenums and pumps. Such routine inspections then highlight the maintenance works that should be proactively carried out , as and when required. This reduces repair costs in the long term, and will help uphold the properties of the membrane, for years to come.

Did you know… our technicians are IRATA-trained rope access professionals, who can climb and work on even the tallest and most complex ETFE structures safely and efficiently.

For more information, or a free membrane inspection and advice, contact us on 01484 506282 or drop us a message.