Construction Market Report

By Karen McIntyre, Senior Editor | March 26, 2014

Nonwovens manufacturers continue to build their businesses with construction.

The role of nonwovens in construction has a been a constant in recent years. Whether it’s the housewrap material covering the walls, roofing material, window flashing or the like, nonwovens manufacturers enjoy high volumes in the construction market, which has been plagued by the ups and downs of a roller coaster economy in recent years.

Still, experts predict that construction, the largest nondisposables market for nonwovens—is set to post double-digit gains, fueled by a recovery in building construction, providing opportunities for nonwovens in house wraps and roofing products.

While U.S. housing starts have fallen during the first months of 2014, a rebound in building permits offers some hope for the rest of the year. Groundbreakings have fallen due to an unusally cold winter but experts predict them to begin increasing this spring as a shortage of homes on the market fuels growth.

Johns Manville

Johns Manville’s vertical integration in fiber manufacturing coupled with its expertise in fiber sizing chemistry allows continuous improvement in glass mat design. The company’s diverse nonwovens portfolio can be matched to a varied range of performance criteria including acoustical, dimensional stability, moisture resistance, permeability, reinforcement, surface aesthetics, thermal and more. 

“As the construction industry is a very regional business (e.g., building codes on national level), JM has set up its construction-related nonwovens business on a regional basis so that we are able to serve our customers with country-specific know-how and flexibility, regardless of whether a customer is producing for markets in Italy, Germany, Poland, Finland, Russia, Turkey or the U.S.,” says Martin Kleinebrecht, marketing leader nonwovens, Europe. “Our sales and technical service personnel cover North America, Latin America, Asia and all of Europe and our inside sales office reacts to customer requests mostly in local languages. Product quality, customer service and technical assistance are key elements for Johns Manville.” 

Johns Manville’s Applied Technology Laboratories are an important component of its quality assurance, performance and product development initiatives. The company has teams of scientists and engineers who work closely with customers to provide a broad understanding of material behavior.

“We have the capability to test full-scale, complex product solutions under various conditions and orientations,” says Kleinebrecht. “As long-standing members of the technical community, an experienced staff works with industry professionals to deliver the most cost-effective and reliable solutions.”

While many of the markets JM serves have completely recovered from the crisis at this point, the construction industry in Europe has been severely hit and is only just now at the threshold to the path of sustainable recovery, according to Kleinebrecht. “It is important to understand that significant regional differences exist in Europe,” he says. “While dramatic declines in construction output continue in Italy and Spain, Germany reached pre-crisis levels quite a while ago. We have sensed positive signals from the roofing industry over the last couple of months also linked to favorable weather conditions in large parts of the continent. Overall economic indicators in Europe are pointing upwards and also the formerly somewhat depressed mood in the construction industry has brightened up, so JM is moving with a lot of confidence into the upcoming European construction season.”

According to Steve Payne, JM’s business leader, roofing nonwovens, the U.S. market continues a steady recovery although residential construction has not yet returned to the historical highs of the mid-2000s. “While new construction is an indicator in the residential roofing sector, replacement business and storm activity also influence business activity,” says Payne. “Calendar year 2013 was a historically low storm season, which drove softer market conditions. Similar to Europe, U.S. economic indicators are pointing upwards for the coming years.”

JM recently launched a cost-effective glass/polymer-fiber hybrid nonwoven to boost performance in resilient flooring production. “A lot of our product developments for the construction industry are tailor made and customer specific,” says Payne. “It is only logical that given the difficulties of the construction industry in Europe, many of these developments focus on productivity improvements for our customers—be it via higher line speeds or reduced area weight of our nonwovens while still fulfilling the critical technical requirements of the different applications. An innovative tailor-made product was jointly developed with an Austrian customer via a combination of special b-stage impregnated glass nonwovens used in the manufacturing process for façade panels that fulfill fire class A2 requirements.” 

Kleinebrecht says he expects Eastern Europe and Turkey are likely to show interesting growth rates over the next years.” To serve the needs of the global marketplace we have established a global sales and technical service team that can react quickly to the needs of those markets,” he says. “The complexity of a more national-based marketplace increases the number of products we offer, the need for skilled personnel on a local level and the level of local market knowledge one needs in order to run the business successfully. However, if you can’t stand the heat, don’t work in the kitchen—in other words, don’t consider going global with only a local offering and with telephone sales supported solely in the English language.”

In Europe JM sees a trend towards formaldehyde-free products for interior applications, according to Kleinebrecht. “Today JM is able to offer a substantial product portfolio for that area and through continuous and extensive R&D, had made these products more and more cost effective,” he says. “We have also made significant investments into the production of polyester spunbond with renewable binder systems and for quite some time have been increasing the use of recycled polyester. The trend for ‘green’ products continues to increase. We observe this is happening faster for interior than for exterior applications.”

PGI (Fiberweb)

In early March, representatives of Polymer Group, Inc. (PGI) informed workers at its manufacturing facilities in Berlin and Aschersleben, Germany of its intention to exit the European roofing business. At the time, the company also informed employees that the exit plan for this business may include the shutdown of two manufacturing lines at the Berlin facility and the closure of the Aschersleben facility, with the consolidation of its converting activities in Berlin, and that these actions may include workforce reductions.

“While the decision to exit the European roofing business was a difficult one for PGI, it is a necessary step in optimizing our portfolio and positioning our business for sustainable growth,” the company said. “We are committed to taking the necessary steps that will position us for economic leadership in our core markets, and to ensure that we have the most competitive value proposition to best serve our global customer base.”

PGI acquired the two plants earlier this year when it purchased Fiberweb, a London, U.K.-based manufactuer of nonwovens for a number of technical areas. As early as last year, Fiberweb was investing in this business, launching Climat, a comprehensive system of vapor permeable roof and wall membranes as well as vapor control layers that are based on three decades of experience in the production of complex technical nonwoven fabrics.

Fiberweb added a breathable film line to the Aschersleven site in early 2012, allowing it to expand its microporous film production for roofing and medical applications.

DuPont Tyvek

The leader in housewrap is DuPont’s Tyvek flashspun nonwovens, which protects homes against air, water and wasted energy. Known as the DuPont Building Envelope Systems, Tyvek, DuPont has been an industry leader since it invented the building wrap category more than 30 years ago. Today, the company is working with architects, builders and installers on innovative solutions for the next generation of new construction, and renovation of existing buildings and has recently formed a new partnership with Building Science Corporation (BSC) on buildingscience.com, BSC’s well-known portal for free, objective information about the science behind good construction practices. As part of this partnership, Theresa Weston, Technical Fellow at DuPont Building Innovations, will contribute to debate and discussion in a new Industry Views feature to be added to the site.

New to this range is DuPont Tyvek ThermaWrap, which adds effective R-Value to wall assemblies. Made with a metallized, low-emission (low-e) surface that reflects solar radiation away from the building, Tyvek Thermawrap, in cold weather, helps prevent radiant heat loss from within the structure. In warmer weather, Tyvek  ThermaWrap turns the tables, reflecting warm air out and away from the structure to help improve air conditioning efficiency. In all seasons, this can help make both residential homes and commercial buildings more comfortable, more energy efficient, and less costly to operate.

In addition to its ability to help increase the effective R-value of a wall, Tyvek ThermaWrap is an excellent vapor permeable air and water barrier, like all Tyvek materials. But the low surface changes the dynamics of radiant heat flow across the entire wall system.

Nearly two-thirds of the total heat lost or gained through the building envelope occurs through radiant heat flow. Tyvek ThermaWrap addresses this by helping to dramatically improve the effective R-value of the wall system. Originally designed to improve thermal performance of wall systems in some of the coldest climates of northern Europe, it is also highly effective at reducing heat gain when the weather turns hot.

Tyvek ThermaWrap incorporates a low-e, metallized surface that changes the radiant heat flow dynamics of the wall system. In winter, it reflects radiant heat back into the wall system. In summer, it reflects outside solar radiation away from the wall system, to reduce unwanted heat gain. 

The net effect is an overall increase in the effective R-value to the wall assembly. When properly installed, Tyvek ThermaWrap adds an effective R-value (thermal resistance) equal to R-2.  In both commercial and residential buildings, this can help reduce energy usage and costs for heating and cooling systems, year-round.

Tyvek ThermaWrap offers the optimal balance of  water and air hold-out with vapor permeability, which  helps build more sustainable homes and commercial structures. Like all Tyvek air and water barriers, Tyvek ThermaWrap helps prevent water accumulation inside the wall system by allowing moisture vapor to escape to the outside. In turn, this helps reduce the risk of mold and wood rot, which is important in all climates. With its combination of air and water holdout, vapor permeability, and a low-e surface, Tyvek ThermaWrap provides the best of both worlds for helping to manage energy efficiency. 

Using DuPont Tyvek ThermaWrap may help to contribute toward U.S Green Building Council LEED points in the categories of Energy & Atmosphere, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation in Design.

Freudenberg Politex

Freudenberg Politex is a multinational company with headquarters in Novedrate, Italy. A member of the Freudenberg group of companies and a sister company of Freudenberg, the world’s largest nonwovens producer, Freudenberg Politex makes polyester nonwovens using both staple and spunbonded technology. Its nonwovens are used a reinforcements in bituminous waterproofing membranes.

Over the years, cutting edge technology and continuous research have allowed Freudenberg to develop a broad new range of products for construction and has also to expand into voluminous nonwovens used as padding in furniture and apparel.

In 2006, Freudenberg Politex expanded into Russia where it now operates three production lines. The most recent line was added in 2012. In increased production capacity of roofing nonwovens from 11,000-18,000 metric tons per year. The company expects the launch of the new line will meet local  and responded to demand for roofing material within Russia.

Since the start-up of production in 2006 the company has achieved market leadership due to relationships with local manufacturers of bituminous roofing membranes,

According to analysts’ predictions, demand for polyester materials for roofing applications will continue to grow in Russian in the near future, mainly driven by the booming local construction industry. Today, the Russian market of roofing materials is growing steadily, along with the construction market as a whole, with annual growth rates of 8-10% per year. The production of roofing on polyester-basis is growing about 10% per year.

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