Architecture, Culture and Tectonics Research Group

Zero Carbon Architecture

The use of coated fabrics and foils in architecture opens new scenarios in the reduction of the environmental impacts of the building sector. ETFE foil building envelopes, when compared with glass, can provide equivalent performance with a low self-weight which allows larger spans with a reduced size and weight of the supporting structure.

Zero Carbon

In collaboration with several industrial and academic partners, we are constantly involved in research projects focused on the simulation and optimization of the environmental performance of ETFE building components based on innovative printing techniques and structural connections in order to minimize the embodied energy and the depletion of natural resources.


Verona Winter Garden – Data Logger to measure the internal environment

Title: Monitoring andretrofitting of an ETFE envelope, Crown Plaza Hotel, Verona, Italy.

Industrial Partners: Maco Technology srl; PA.T.I. s.p.a.

Year: 2016


This research investigated the thermal performance of an existing ETFE roof in Verona and the subsequent retrofitting of the structure in order to meet the targets of solar shading specified by the client. The research activity included the monitoring of the structure before and after the installation of a new set of cushions manufactured with a bespoke silver ETFE designed in order to reduce the solar gains and improve the overall level of comfort during the warm season.

The solar irradiance has been recorded through two Pyranometers Kipp & Zonen CMP3. The data has been used to calibrate the digital model of the building and to provide the specifications for the new bespoke silver ETFE produced by PA.T.I. s.p.a. in order to achieve the required optical performance.

The post-occupancy evaluation confirmed the success of the intervention which represents one of the few intervention of this type on an ETFE structure.

ACT members:

Key publications: 

BECCARELLI P. and MAFFEI R. ,2017, Retrofitting of ETFE roofs, In: International IASS Symposium 2017 “Interfaces: architecture . engineering . science”, 25-28 September, Hamburg, Germany.

Verona Winter Garden ETFE roof

3D model of the Verona Winter Garden by FormTL


External view of the ETFE roof replaced by Maco Technology srl
External view of the ETFE roof replaced by Maco Technology srl


Monitoring activity with the  Kipp & Zonen CMP3 Pyranometers

Monitoring activity with the  Kipp & Zonen CMP3 Pyranometers 

Data loggers to monitor the performance of buildings

Title: Data logger based on Raspberry-Pi

Industrial Partners: Holscot Fluoroplastics Limited; Maco Technology srl;

Year: 2014


As part of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership- KTP9213 (2013-2015) funded by InnovateUK to “design, develop and implement a modular self-supporting  structural-construction system comprised of linked ETFE foil encapsulated panels” the University of Nottingham and Holscot Fluoroplastics Limited decided to develop a new data logger based on the Raspberry-Pi single-board computer.

For the ACT research group, this project represented an interesting opportunity to investigate this type of computing platforms originally designed to inspire a new generation of coders and tinkerer and to test his potential in Digital Architecture. The development started with a set of two temperature/humidity sensors and two pressure sensors connected to Raspberry Pi and equipped with a wireless, USB and LAN connection. Future developments included the possibility to include up to four load cells and three displacement sensors.

The project confirmed the expectations on Raspberry Pi  and demonstrated that it could be successfully used in research and commercial applications.

ACT members:

Key publications: 

BECCARELLI P., MARTIN B., LAU B., CHILTON J., BONARDI S. and MAFFEI R., 2015, Single-board microcontrollers applied to biaxial tests for architectural membranes In: International IASS Symposium 2015, 17-20 August, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Maco Technology Raspberry PI data logger
Raspberry PI data logger by Maco Technology srl


Maco Technology Raspberry PI data logger sensors
Detail of the sensors connected to the Raspberry PI data logger 

  • Knowledge Transfer Partnership – KTP10169 (2015-2016)

Title: Knowledge Transfer Partnership to design, develop and implement a passive heat recovery and storage system for the ETFE foil encapsulated greenhouse façade/roof using phase change material.   

Funder: InnovateUK

Total value: : £59.880

Industrial Partner: Holscot Fluoroplastics Limited;

Years: 2015-2016


In the recent years Holscot Fluoroplastics Ltd has developed a modular ETFE-foil encapsulated panel which has many benefits in construction due the properties of the ETFE material. However, without adequate ventilation, ETFE foil enclosed structures have a tendency to suffer from overheating in daytime and also suffer large heat loss at night due to convective and radiative heat transfer.

The aim of this project is to develop a passive heat recovery and storage system for the ETFE foil encapsulated façade/roof by embedding a thin layer of phase change material (PCM) into the existing ETFE foil panel. It will provide good daytime light transmittance, store unwanted heat and maintain a more comfortable condition within the greenhouse. Heat stored during the day will subsequently be used during the night for passive heating. At night, as the phase change materials turn from transparent liquid into semi-translucent solid, it will reduce heat loss from the greenhouse to the ambient environment.

Through recent research activities,  Holscot Fluoroplastics Ltd has developed new intellectual knowledge and capability in the construction methods of ETFE foil covered panels and as a result, has developed a strong product. The collaboration with the University of Nottingham aims to fill the knowledge gap about Phase Change Materials (PCM), how they are formed, how they can be used with fluoropolymers such as ETFE, or how these materials and production process will need modifying to encapsulate the phased fluids. Additionally, the collaboration between Holscot Fluoroplastics Ltd and the University of Nottingham will investigate how this innovative medium can be integrated into a flexible structure of ETFE foil, which would be an innovative and novel application of the materials.

Research activity includes:

  • Developing a heat recovery and storage system using PCMs
  • Selecting suitable PCM for heat recovery
  • Testing facilities and methods of heat recovery system
  • Analysing the PCM and its based heat recovery through testing and evaluating its performance data

ACT members:

 Key publications: 

MARTIN B. A., MASIH D., LAU B., BECCARELLI P. and CHILTON J., 2016. An Evaluation of Thermal and Lighting Performance Within an ETFE StructureIn: DASTBAZ M. and GORSE C., eds., Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design: Selected Proceedings from the International Conference of Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design for Society (SEEDS) Springer International Publishing. 47-58.

LIU H., SUN Y., WU Y., MARTIN B., CHILTON J., MIRZAEI P., ZANG X., BECCARELLI P. and LAU B., 2016. Thermal and Optical Analysis of a Passive Heat Recovery and Storage System for Greenhouse Skin Procedia Engineering. 155, 472-478

Outdoor Test of the ETFE panel with Phase Change Materials
Outdoor Test of the ETFE panel with Phase Change Materials

Tests in the Laboratory
Indoor tests on Phase Change Materials combined with ETFE

  • RCS Pavilion Expo 2015

Title: RCS – Corriere della Sera Pavilion, Expo 2015, Milan

Industrial Partners: Maco Technology srl; Monica Armani;

Year: 2015


In 2015 Monica Armani designed Casa Corriere, the pavilion for the main Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" at the Milan EXPO 2015. The project was a heap of the most advanced and emerging technologies in the building sector in order to minimize the environmental impact of the pavilion and to promote a new way to think of temporary architecture.

One of the key challenges was to find an effective way to manufacture the large transparent windows with a technology able to minimize the environmental impacts due to the short life span of the project (6 months).

The collaboration with the University of Nottingham and Maco Technology srl resulted in a high-performance pneumatic envelope based on inflated PVC Crystal cushions fifteen times lighter than an equivalent double pane glass façade. On the roof, the two large skylights have been designed with an intermediate printed layer able to be moved and stop the solar radiation in order to minimize the heat gains during the hot summer days.

ACT members:

Indoor environment PVC crystal clear
Indoor environment of the RCS pavilion designed by Monica Armani Architects 

Installation Casa Corriere pavilion Milan Expo 2015
Installation of the RCS pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015

PVC Crystal clear ETFE Envelope Expo 2015
Detail of the PVC Crystal envelope of the pavilion

Sun Shanding Corriere Pavilion Expo 2015
Detail of the solar blinds. Photo by Andrea Liverani

  • Lightweight  ETFE Envelopes for buildings - PhD Jan Flor Jan-Frederik
  • Environmental performance of lightweight Buildings - PhD Mariangela Devita

Key contacts

Architecture, Culture and Tectonics

The University of Nottingham
Faculty of Engineering
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 74 86257