The benefits of Phifer Incorporated’s SheerWeave sun-control fabrics are already well-known in the industry: decreases in solar heat gain, glare, and UV rays help reduce energy costs, increase productivity, and extend the useful lifetime of interior fabrics and surfaces. Now, Phifer has advanced its SheerWeave line, introducing products that utilize Dow Chemical Company’s bio-based plasticizer Ecolibrium.
“The plasticizer is what gives a vinyl product its flexibility,” says Bill Strickland, Phifer’s national market manager of sun-control products. “It’s the difference in a rigid PVC pipe and a flexible fishing worm.” Until Ecolibrium, all plasticizers on the market were petroleum-based, and while PVC-free window treatments are available, the majority of the market has continued to gravitate towards the advantages of vinyl-coated fabrics.
Enter Phifer’s SheerWeave 4000/4100 and 4400 sun-control fabrics with Ecolibrium. “With the Series 4000 products, we are still manufacturing a traditional vinyl product, but using a new, greener technology. It’s a greener vinyl,” Strickland says.
Using a corn- or soybean-based plasticizer creates a more sustainable product by reducing petroleum consumption and lowering overall greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 percent. Using Dow’s lifecycle analysis of Ecolibrium, Phifer is able to calculate the total petroleum savings and greenhouse gas avoidance achieved over traditional vinyl on a project-to-project basis. “It’s a valuable tool for the architectural community that can give tangible environmental impact,” Strickland says.
Most surprising is the ease with which Ecolibrium was incorporated into Phifer’s product. According to Strickland, there was “no compromise in the product’s overall performance,” and there were even some surprising advantages. Removal of a petroleum-based ingredient brought an increase in the natural flame retardancy of the fabric. Ecolibrium is also naturally phthalate-free, and even the final product’s odor has improved. Phifer currently offers SheerWeave made with Ecolibrium in nine colors and three openness factors and plans to introduce more options in the future.