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Innovative plastics for sustainable stadia

Frans Adriaansen, design engineering service team leader of the Specialty Film & Sheet business at SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business unit, reveals why environmental responsibility is of paramount importance and how plastics can be used to increase energy efficiency


What does your company offer to the industry?
SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business is a leading, global supplier of engineering thermoplastics with a 75-year history of breakthrough solutions that solve architects' and builders' most pressing challenges. Building on the company’s impressive three decades of success in delivering state-of-the-art high performance Lexan polycarbonate sheet materials, SABIC helps stadium architects and designers to improve safety, durability and enable design freedom. Virtually unbreakable, lightweight, transparent, high-performance Lexan polycarbonate sheet is used for roofing, walls, security fences and many more applications. With design and engineering support for architects and engineers around the world, SABIC can offer tremendous value-added services in addition to manufacturing high quality products. One of the best and recent examples of this is the new Aviva stadium in Dublin for which SABIC won the European Polycarbonate Sheet Extruders (EPSE) Award for the Best Project and Innovation.

Could you tell us an interesting fact about your company?
SABIC ranks among the world’s top petrochemical companies, and is a global market leader in the production of polyethylene, polypropylene, advanced thermoplastics, such as Lexan polycarbonate, with a global footprint in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific.
What trends do you see emerging in your particular sector of the stadium industry?
Sustainable building designs and construction technologies are increasing in importance and visibility across the world. Architects and builders are looking for new solutions to satisfy public demand for environmentally responsible structures, which meet current and upcoming regulatory requirements and achieve recognition through programs such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system.

The best eco-innovations also bring other benefits, notably aesthetic improvements, design enhancements and cost advantages, which allow architects and builders to create structures that are beautiful and practical as well as sustainable. Lexan* polycarbonate sheet products from SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business unit offer architects and builders many ways to increase energy efficiency and extend useful life, while also providing greater design freedom, enhanced aesthetics and system cost reductions.

Can you tell us about your involvement in the Slaski football stadium in Poland?
Today’s sports stadia and arenas combine unique design concepts, with tough requirements for safety, weather and code compliance. Lightweight Lexan sheet products require less supporting structure (glazing bars, etc.), which reduces raw material consumption. A good illustration is provided by Poland’s Slaski football stadium, which utilises specially designed, ultra-stiff Lexan multi wall sheet for the freestanding roof. This 25mm-thick product weighs only 5kg/m2 and can sustain a wind/snow load up to 5000N/m2 at a sheet width of 1500mm. The sheet may be as long as twelve meters and does not require intermediate support profiles. The Lexan multiwall sheet absorbs all the roof movements caused by thermal expansion/contraction, wind and snow load without the risk of cracking and/or breakage.

What are the biggest challenges you are facing in your particular sector of the industry....and how are you able to overcome them?
Solar radiation has a particularly significant effect on polymeric materials, initiating degradation by causing superficial surface crazing. Lexan polycarbonate sheet has two-sided protection from UV light, giving excellent resistance to outdoor weathering. This unique protection ensures long-term optical quality under intensive UV exposure and maintains the superior toughness of the material.

Research into the long-term effects of weathering focuses on measuring product performance based on changes in material properties such as mechanical strength, impact resistance, colour retention and transparency. SABIC offers options for 10-year, 15-year or 20-year written limited warranties for Lexan sheet products against discoloration, loss of light transmission and loss of impact strength due to weathering.

The Shanghai South Railway Station in China utilises a Lexan sheet for its massive, round, transparent roof. The sheet’s impact and weathering resistance, plus its clarity and outstanding dimensional stability, made it the top choice of both the architects and the Chinese authorities involved in this project.

What new technologies or strategies have you used in any recent projects?

Coating technology.

Easyclean coating: This extraordinary hydrophobic coating on the outside surface of Lexan sheet reduces the surface tension of the polycarbonate and increases the contact angle of water. This causes larger droplets to form and wash away dirt as the droplets roll down the sheet.

Dripgard coating: A Lexan sheet can be produced with a specially developed coating on the inner surface that reduces the formation of condensation droplets. It is an excellent roof glazing material in any application where dripping water is unacceptable. This coating works by increasing the surface tension of the sheet.

Solar control: In the area of solar control, the goal is to admit as much natural light as possible while selectively blocking the infrared spectrum that carries heat. The proprietary additives used in Lexan Solar Control* IR sheet selectively absorb a large part of the near-infrared spectrum of sunlight and significantly reduce heat build-up, while transmitting diffused daylight. The specialised Lexan Solar Control IR PC sheet grades significantly reduce solar heat build-up, helping to maintain comfortable interior temperatures and reduce air conditioning costs in the summer.

What is your favourite stadium/sport venue and why?
My favorite arena is the Aviva stadium in Dublin, Ireland. Here, the Lexan sheet enables outstanding design freedom due to its ability to be cold formed and thermoformed without losing impact or weathering properties. The sheet can be cold line bended (like metal), using hydraulic press break bending equipment. Large panels up to 6m long were produced using the cold line bending technique for the cladding panels of the Aviva football stadium in Dublin. The bend improved the stiffness of the panel and therefore, fewer support profiles to withstand wind/snow load were required.
Where do you see the stadium market in 10 years?
The drive to reduce energy consumption to cut costs and environmental impact is one of the highest priorities in building and construction today. Analysts are predicting an upswing in green building across the world, as more countries implement incentives for sustainable practices and there is increasing emphasis on refurbishing existing buildings to be more sustainable.

Another trend is lifecycle analysis, from raw material extraction through disposal and decomposition; to further explore which building materials are the most sustainable. This effort is being driven by predicted increases in the use of sustainable materials. Builders must balance the increasing demand for designs that admit large amounts of light with concerns about energy costs. The use of specialised polycarbonate glazing can achieve both, through improved thermal insulation and solar control.


SABIC Innovative Plastics will be exhibiting at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012, 8-10 May 2012. Visit the company at Booth 4022


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