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New transparency: foils replace glass roofs

"I was involved from the very start of the planning phase and had the opportunity to accompany a very special project," says Geoffrey Walters, Sales Engineer and Sales Manager at Vector Foiltec. Because despite the fact that the Bremen-based company implements unique projects worldwide and the installation of foil roofs is a fundamental part of its business, the conditions in Cologne were very special: "In Europe, we normally span areas of 300 to 1,500 sqm with our Texlon® ETFE system. The passage area of 2,500 sqm at Koelnmesse is considerably larger than this." However, the particular challenge was above all the requested service package: The refurbishment project already started with the dismantling of the old glass construction. "Building in an existing construction is completely different to building from scratch. There is no such thing as normal," says Walters, reflecting upon the past few months, which were dominated by a tight and precisely timed schedule. After all, the aim was to be ready in time for gamescom at the start of fall.

The North German company was helped in this task by its many years of experience: Since the 1980s, Vector Foiltec has been building facades and roofs from foil. And the constructions are located in many places all over the world. One example is the latest New York architectural project "The Shed" with a special foil outer skin. It is mobile and comes from Bremen.

Self-cleaning and resistant againt pigeon droppings

The roof foils of Passage 4/5 consist of 40 air-filled foil cushions and an internal supporting structure made from steel. The film material ETFE was originally developed for the aerospace industry and is now gaining in importance for transparent roof or facade constructions in particular. The upper film of the passages is printed to 50 percent with round dots in a silver-gray color. This means that although daylight can pass through, large portions of UV light are absorbed − comparable to with a glass roof. At the same time, it is very dimensionally stable and can therefore also support several meters of snowfall. In addition: "The weight per unit area is just one twentieth of that of glass," explains Walters. For day-to-day trade fair operations, this means new suspension points in the arcades and thus a major benefit for daily operations and one of the main arguments in favor of this implementation. In addition, ETFE has an almost universal chemical resistance and is also resistant against aggressive pigeon droppings. The film material, which belongs to the Teflon group, is so smooth that a normal rain shower is sufficient for extensive cleaning. This reduces operating costs over the entire service life.

"We are proud of the fact that our films do not require any plasticizers during production and are fully recyclable," says Walters, referring to the certification with the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which has so far only been awarded once worldwide for transparent building coverings. "In addition, our materials have been in use for more than three decades and have proven to be very durable and resilient in all climates". Anyone who wants to see for themselves how durable the films are can do so in Cologne: the Westgate office and commercial building at Habsburgerring 2 was fitted with a Vector Foiltec roof in 2008.