Weathering the Storms: How PVF Film Technology Preserves and Elevates Building Exteriors

In an accelerated and real-time test, PVF film proves a multitude of aesthetic and structural benefits
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Sponsored by DuPont™ Tedlar®
By Erika Fredrickson
This test is no longer available for credit

Case Study: Colored PVC Film

A covered stairway at the Komoro Station railway in Nagano, Japan, is made with steel roof tiles laminated with colored PVC and specially shaped by press machines. The frontside and entrance of the stairway has colored ceramic tiles installed in 1994, the same year as the metal PVF rooftop on the stairway corridor. Color-matching of the ceramic roof tiles and the formed metal roof tiles with colored film—two very different styles of architecture—has withstood more than two decades of exposure to harsh weather conditions and heavy snow in Japan’s Northern Alps without showing any signs of corrosion, fading, or wear and tear.

Sublimated PVF Film Designs

Dye sublimation is a digital printing technology that allows for reproduction of colorful images on surfaces. The high-resolution quality provides something of a tattoo on architectural materials, including panels. (imagine having a color-saturated photograph embedded on a wall for a more personal effect). High-resolution dye sublimation inks can be diffused into PVF film to create these effects. Because it is in the durable and resistant film and not on the direct surface, the high-resolution image is encapsulated and protected by the clear film, making it a permanent design feature.

In the same way, sublimated dye can be diffused with clear PVF film and combined with embossed textures to create surfaces that resemble wood and stone. These high-resolution images can be uniquely created for a personal touch that does not feel like it was bought in a store.

Thermoformable Film and Conductive Inks

Some PVF film design features serve a functional purpose. Thermoformable film allows PVF film to be treated with heat and adhered to partially polymerized composite material that is not flat. The composite resin acts as an adhesive; the adherence between the material and PVF film is obtained through two pressing stages and a heating procedure. This process works well with small concave or convex radial shapes. For example, metal roofing that has dips and curves and needs to resist cracking can benefit from the PVF film thermoform process. But PVF film can also offer color and texture elements for design.

Conductive inks are another element that can be used with PVF film to provide both aesthetics and function. Conductive ink is created by infusing graphite or other conductive materials into ink. It combines the ability of conduction electricity with the utility of ink and is sensitive enough to capture energy created by the touch of finger. It is one way that a surface can be used to control an array of technologies. Conductive inks can be printed directly on the back of PVF film and then laminated and thermoformed, enabling lighting, temperature, and volume controls by way of touch.

Selecting Materials with Environmental, Durability, and Maintenance in Mind

Selecting durable building materials from the beginning of a building project benefits the structure’s lifetime, and it especially impacts building owners in terms of financial costs and savings. This section will explore how reducing the need for renovations and maintenance leads to both lower costs and better sustainability elements.

Selecting for Environment

When selecting materials for construction, it is important to consider the environment around you, including what problems may affect the material you choose. Living near the coast means you might encounter more salt and moisture, which leads to corrosion—one of the main causes of deterioration in coastal construction projects. Accelerated corrosion of reinforced steel will ultimately expose concrete and other materials that are vulnerable to the elements. This will weaken them and lead to safety hazards and high-cost maintenance. If you are on the coast or near other large bodies of water, flood and wind also can lead to major repairs.

If you live on the East Coast of the United States, you might encounter more issues with acid rain, which also can speed up corrosion and completely degrade other materials over time. An array of particulates can have similar impacts, and big cities and towns with polluting industries will see the most damage to their building structures. Even considering things such as graffiti or other situations where a building might be affected by chemicals can help inspire a better choice in materials to resist these assaults and last into the future.

PVF film can be laminated to make it resilient to physical damage, chemically inert, UV light reflective, flexible to handle thermal changes, and permanently adhere to substrates to help defend against many of the problems associated with the human environment.

Case Study: Wembley Stadium, London

Area of Application: Building and Construction
Year of Construction: 2007
Location: London
Surface Area: 50,000 square feet

Wembley Stadium in London is iconic for epic matchups and known for hosting extremely passionate fans. But above all of the action on the field is another tough player: PVF film. The stadium features more than 50,000 square feet of rooflights that are protected with a UV-blocking PVF film in order to provide resistance to weathering as well as outstanding chemical and pollution protection. The rooflights cover and brighten a significant area of the stadium directly beneath its iconic arch, providing 70 percent transmission of diffused natural light. The PVF film significantly reduces UV discoloration and weathering, which means that the stadium rooflights will look as good as the day they were installed—likely for more than 30 years.

Accelerated Tests and Real-World Examples

The high performance of PVF can be verified in accelerated testing in laboratories, simulating chemical, weather, and abrasion resistance. However, the real test for PVF—which has been around for four decades—is in the real world. This section will discuss results of lab tests and offer a case study that provides a clear illustration of PVF's success.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in July 2021