FLEX-G – Smart buildings through innovative membrane roofs and façades

Project /

© Hightex GmbH
Shopping center “Dolce Vita Shopping Complex” in Lisbon, Portugal with ETFE membrane elements. Each roof element provides potential for integration of either solar cells or electrochromic films.

The main goal of the Cooperative Research Project FLEX-G under the coordination of the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP is to investigate technologies for the manufacturing of translucent and transparent membrane roof and façade elements with integrated optoelectronic components. The focus lies on a switchable total energy transmittance (often referred to as the solar factor or solar heat gain, and g-value in Europe) and on flexible solar cell integration to significantly contribute to both energy saving and power generation in buildings.

A major trend in modern architecture is the use of large transparent and translucent façade and roof elements to make time spent in these buildings more pleasant due to bright and spacious rooms and appearance. When made of glass, these façades and roofs are functionalized with heat reflecting coatings to minimize their “g-value”. However, glass is not bendable enough to apply it to vaulted surfaces as design element and has a high weight that limitis its use. For these applications, fluoropolymers such as ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) are an alternative to glass providing a long lifetime and resistance to weathering.

In contrast to glass, fluoropolymers are difficult to handle in thin-film coating processes. For this reason, roof and façade elements of membranous material are rarely functionalized yet with energy-saving features such as thermal shielding layers or integrated solar modules. Until now, it was not feasible to optimize the energy budget of buildings featuring membrane roof and façade surfaces. A consortium of nine industrial and research partners has been formed to change that situation by functionalizing fluoropolymer web surfaces with optoelectronic components through thin film coating techniques.

FLEX-G will investigate processes that allow the deposition of electrochromic layer stacks directly on an ETFE film surface. The flexibility of the film enables the use of economical, efficient and high throughput roll-to-roll (R2R) fabrication processes. Finally, a 36 m² large ETFE membrane roof prototype will demonstrate both the electrochromic components for switching the total solar energy transmittance and the flexible organic solar cells for electrical power generation.

With integration of flexible optoelectronic components on vaulted building envelopes FLEX-G will contribute considerably to reducing the primary energy consumption of buildings. This is also in-line with the goal of the German federal government to reduce primary energy consumption in Germany to up 50% by 2050.

Project funding

The project FLEX-G started on June 1, 2017 under the federal construction technology initiative named ENERGIEWENDEBAUEN funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).

Funding reference: 03ET1470A

Duration: 3 years

Project Partners

  • Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung angewandter Wissenschaften e.V. represented by
    • FEP Dresden (coordination)
    • ISC Würzburg
    • IAP Golm
  • Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart
  • Coatema Coating Machinery GmbH
  • Hightex GmbH
  • Lamilux Heinrich Strunz GmbH
  • Heliatek GmbH
  • ROWO Coating GmbH
  • EControl Glas GmbH & Co. KG
  • Nowofol Kunststoffprodukte GmbH