ETFE cushion roof

Written by Liam Patton on 16th April 2024 in ETFE

In the ever-evolving architectural landscape of the UK, the growth of tensile membrane structures has been part of a new era of innovation and design. Whilst traditional materials continue to be used, ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) foil has become a key component in the construction of visually striking and environmentally friendly buildings, thanks to its lightweight and flexible nature. This article explores the widespread use of ETFE foil in various architectural applications, showcasing its versatility and impact on contemporary design while saving money on traditional steelwork compared to other materials.


ETFE foil boasts impressive light transmission, surpassing traditional glass and becoming a popular choice for architects and designers worldwide. The high clarity of ETFE allows for efficient daylight transmission, creating luminous spaces that seamlessly blend with the environment. This transparency enhances the visual appeal of structures and offers reduced reliance on artificial lighting, improved energy efficiency, and the ability to create captivating, immersive experiences for occupants.


The growing popularity of ETFE can be attributed to its exceptional lightweight nature, which offers several advantages over traditional building materials. Weighing only a fraction of glass (>1%), using ETFE foil significantly reduces the overall load on the structure. This means that large-span structures can be designed and the construction process is simplified. This structural flexibility empowers architects and builders to construct visually appealing and structurally sound structures that were previously difficult to achieve.

Thermal Performance

ETFE cushions offer a high level of thermal efficiency that surpasses traditional building materials. This thermal performance is attributed to ETFE’s low thermal conductivity, which reduces heat transfer and minimizes energy loss. As a result, buildings incorporating ETFE foil experience improved insulation, reducing heating and cooling demands and promoting energy conservation. The thermal performance of ETFE systems also enhances occupant comfort by maintaining stable indoor temperatures and minimizing thermal bridging. Furthermore, some ETFE materials allow for the transmission of natural light while blocking UV radiation which enables efficient daylighting, reducing the need for artificial lighting. ETFE foil is empowering sustainable architecture, fostering energy-efficient buildings that prioritize both environmental stewardship and occupant well-being.


When it comes to the long-term maintenance of architectural materials, ETFE foil stands out as a reliable and low-maintenance solution. ETFE foil is resistant to UV radiation, extreme temperatures, and atmospheric pollutants, ensuring its longevity even in challenging conditions. Unlike traditional building materials, ETFE requires minimal upkeep, reducing maintenance costs and efforts over time. Its ‘self-cleaning’ properties allow dirt and debris to be easily washed away by rain, ensuring the material remains visually appealing without the need for frequent cleaning. Additionally, ETFE’s non-stick surface prevents the accumulation of dirt and grime, further simplifying maintenance tasks. This inherent resilience and low-maintenance nature make ETFE a cost-effective choice for architectural projects, enabling architects and building owners to focus resources on other aspects of upkeep and operation. Whether used in roofing systems, facades, or other applications, ETFE’s minimal maintenance requirements ensure that structures retain their aesthetic appeal and functionality over the long term.


In an era of increasing environmental consciousness, the recyclability of construction materials has become a significant factor in decision-making. ETFE foil offers a compelling advantage; as a thermoplastic material, it can be melted down and reprocessed multiple times without significant loss of properties. This in turn promotes the circular economy and reduces the demand for virgin materials. Furthermore, the recyclability of ETFE aligns with green building initiatives and environmental certifications, providing an avenue for sustainable design and construction practices. As the industry continues to prioritize sustainability, the recyclability of ETFE positions it as a responsible choice for future-forward projects, combining functionality, aesthetics, and eco-friendliness in one versatile material.

Solar Control

Efficient solar control is a critical consideration in architectural design, aiming to optimize energy usage and enhance comfort. ETFE’s unique properties allow for precise manipulation of solar radiation, enabling architects to strike a balance between natural light transmission and heat management. By incorporating different layers or coatings, ETFE can selectively control the amount of solar energy entering a building, reducing the reliance on mechanical cooling systems and minimizing energy consumption. This solar control feature also aids in preventing excessive glare and maintaining visual comfort within interior spaces. Moreover, ETFE’s ability to diffuse and distribute light evenly creates a harmonious environment, reducing the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours. As sustainable design practices gain momentum, ETFE’s effective solar control properties make it an attractive choice for architects, helping to create energy-efficient, visually pleasing structures that prioritize occupant well-being while reducing environmental impact.

Fire Performance

Ensuring fire safety is paramount in any construction project, and ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) foil has proven to be a mainstream construction material that excels in fire performance. With its inherent fire-resistant properties, ETFE is highly resistant to ignition and limiting the spread of flames. In the event of a fire, ETFE does not release toxic gases or emit excessive smoke, contributing to the overall safety of occupants and emergency response teams. Additionally, ETFE has a high evaporation point of 260°C, providing structural stability in fire situations. Upon reaching the evaporation point the ETFE foil will evaporate and could possibly be used as part of a fire safety plan, giving the building another exit point. By incorporating ETFE into building designs, architects and builders can meet stringent fire safety regulations while creating visually striking and functional spaces.

Off-Site Fabrication

Off-site fabrication, also known as prefabrication or modular construction, has gained traction in the construction industry for its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Whether it be an ETFE system made up of ETFE Cushions, or a single layer of ETFE film, ETFE lends itself well to off-site fabrication processes. Off-site fabrication of ETFE offers several advantages, including reduced construction time, improved quality control, and minimized on-site disruptions. With precise measurements and cutting-edge technology, ETFE elements can be manufactured to exact specifications, ensuring accuracy and consistency. This method also allows for concurrent site preparation and component fabrication, accelerating the construction timeline and delivering projects faster. Moreover, off-site fabrication minimizes waste generation and improves sustainability by optimizing material usage and reducing on-site activities.


Want to know more about ETFE? Check out our ETFE Foil: A Guide to Design for practical advice about the benefits, drawbacks and considerations when designing and constructing an ETFE cushion roof.

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Author: Liam Patton

Liam is a key member of the Sales Team with a strong background in architectural aluminium and steel.

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