It's called ETFE and is the plastic polymer that will change the face of modern architecture. From the Olympic Stadium in Beijing at the new headquarters of the Lombardy region.
It is transparent, self-cleaning, recyclable, has a high resistance to very high temperatures. It weighs 99% less than glass. It's called ETFE, ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, and is the material that is going to revolutionize the face of modern architecture. From Beijing to Cornwall, via Milan. It is now for about fifteen years that architects and engineers have begun to replace glass and other traditional materials with thermoplastic polymer in this futuristic and ambitious works in various parts of the world.
The most recent example is the spectacular National Aquatics Center in Beijing built for the 2008 Olympics. But attention to the extraordinary potential dell'Efte goes back a few years ago with the creation of the impressive Eden Project in Cornwall. Designed by architect Nicholas Grimshaw in 1996 and completed in 2001, the Eden Project is considered one of the most outstanding examples of sustainable architecture in the world. It is a greenhouse that recreates the world of plants in three hemispheres immense, resting on the bottom of an old clay quarry abandoned. The geodesic domes are composed of a metal framework that supports hexes Etfe interlinked with one another like a puzzle.
When in 1938 this material was discovered accidentally by Roy Plunkett in a bottle tetrafluoroetene occluded, the first application where you thought, given its extraordinary resistance to the most aggressive chemical, it was the military. It was then the American company DuPont to produce the first to furnish some amount the U.S. military engaged in the construction of the first atomic bomb, and then in the 70s as an insulating material for the aviation industry. DuPont But he made no attempt to exploit the potential that the material could be in the building. At this thought, however, more than 40 years later, Stefan Lehnert, the engineer of Bremen in 1982, he founded Vector Foiltec, a company specializing in the manufacture and design of enclosures and panels in ETFE, and today among the most sought among the studies and the architecture and construction companies around the world.
In the London studio of the architect Vector Foiltec meeting Tanja Pfitzner, coordinator, in collaboration with the office of Vector Foiltec of Turin, the work of the lining of the central square of the new headquarters of the Lombardy region. Designed by grouping Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Caputo Partnership and System Two thousand, the complex of the new headquarters consists of six buildings - among them the 42-story skyscraper and 161.3 m - in the center of which is the large square: 4000 square meters of surface area covered by a transparent eye-shaped, consisting of pneumatic cushions of Efte and supported by a metal mesh "Cover an area of this size with glass or other modern plastic materials was almost unthinkable twenty Years ago, mainly because of the heaviness that could result in a risk of collapse.
It would be equally impossible breathtaking structures such as the Eden Project, the Aquatic Centre in Beijing and the ambitious project of the Khan Shatyry Entertainment Centre in Kazakhstan, "he explains Tanja Pfitzner. But what exactly is the system Texlon invented by Stefan Lehnert? "It is in practice to coat buildings or large areas or panels with a set of pneumatic cushions of Etfe inflated with low pressure air, blocked from aluminum extrusions and supported by a lightweight structure." The greatest strength of this polymer is certainly the weight, with only 1% compared to glass, but it is also extremely durable, transmits more light will not degrade or under ultraviolet rays or to the aggression of pollutants in the atmosphere, and being self-adhesive, in addition, makes that the shell is self clean up in case of rain. "In our labs Bremen - tells Pfitzner - conduct sophisticated simulations and analysis of power and then realize roofing systems of every size and shape.
This design versatility combined with the flexibility of climatic envelopes offers designers the opportunity to design and create structures of rare lightness and elegance "It's a new chapter opens in modern buildings with more and more futuristic and spectacular. Among the most ambitious in progress there are the Institute of Science and Technology of Masdar and the control tower of Abu Dhabi, both in the UAE. While in Italy, in addition to the work of Milan, the cushions of Vector Foiltec were used to Sillene of Chianciano Terme and the cellars Ceretto of Alba.
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