Building a brighter future

June 16, 2005

nonwovens meet the grade in roofing and construction markets where educated home buyers and builders are demanding higher performing products

photo courtesy of DuPont Nonwovens
Nonwovens are faring well in the area of roofing and construction, and companies are reporting robust growth in almost all major global construction markets. The U.S. region is growing at a brisk pace, with new applications, regional storms (four in Florida last year) and rebounding commercial construction all contributing to this growth.

In the Northwest and Southeast areas of North America, construction growth remains strong. Economic upswings in Mexico and Latin America appear to be contributing to the growth in the Americas as well. In Western Europe, sales are expected to remain flat for the near future, while business continues to climb in Central and Eastern Europe. In China, significant growth is ongoing and is expected to stay steady for the rest of the decade. The Middle East and India are also emerging as significant growth regions.

In terms of market trends, a growing interest in green roofs is requiring specialized systems and non-traditional materials, including nonwovens, to meet requirements such as water proofing, soil separation layers and moisture holding layers. Products that allow better moisture resistance, such as facers on wallboard or foam insulation, are also in demand. More applications using glass and polyester in different parts of the building are also gaining in popularity.

Customers are also looking for better noise absorption characteristics, and there are many new coated products being introduced in the market. “Clearly, we are seeing a ‘beginning of the end’ of paper/organics as a means of moisture resistance in construction materials. We expect this trend to continue and accelerate over the next decade,” predicted Zain Mahmood, vice president and general manager, construction materials and systems for Johns Manville, Denver, CO.

In roofing applications, self-adhered products are gaining over more traditional mopped-down or torched-on products. Also becoming more popular is the use of cold applied systems such as asphalt liquids, urethane and other spray-on materials. Driving such market trends are safety/fire risks, environmental concerns, profit improvement (reducing costs/creating products with added value) and globalization.

“We expect more pressure to reduce applications with so-called open fires, like BUR and torch-on,” commented Don Brown, product manager, Colback products for Colbond. “For this reason, we already see a shift to applications without the use of fire, like peel-and-stick (cold self-adhesive), cold applied and liquid roofing. In Europe, mechanical fixation is also popular, especially in one-layer systems. Open fires are said to be causing safety and fire risks as well as air pollution,” said Mr. Brown.

Up On The Roof
Shown here: Installation of a specialty asphalt coated fiberglass mat for a built-up roofing application from Johns Manville; Pictured below: A roof featuring custom fabricated zinc metal roof panels from Colbond Nonwovens (picture courtesy of Rheinzink,USA).
DuPont, Wilmington, DE, has traditionally focused its North American building materials business on the area of walls with its Tyvek housewrap portfolio. However, the company has expanded its focus in the U.S. recently to include roofing and has spent the last several years researching new systems and concepts that offer increased energy efficiency. “We have been looking at green roofs, increasing energy efficiency and making buildings airtight,” explained Arturo Horta, DuPont Roofing business manager for North America.

DuPont’s new vapor permeable Tyvek roofing membranes were shown at this year’s IBS show and will be launched in early 2006. The concept offers a complete, continuous building envelope around the house by sealing the attic and applying an airtight system to the roof.

This idea is the basis for DuPont’s Tyvek homewrap system for walls. “We are applying the concept of airtight walls to the roof,” said Mr. Horta. “A breathable underlay allows moisture to escape by diffusion. Attics are unvented, so warm air stays in the house. This concept is 20% more energy efficient than conventional vented roofs and offers additional weather protection. Water is deflected to the gutter so there are no more roof leaks.”

In Europe, DuPont has had breathable roofing systems in place for two decades, with more than 100,000 European homes featuring this type of roofing concept. In North America, the challenge for DuPont is to convert a market currently dominated by asphalt roofing shingles, which are fundamentally different than the open slate or tile roofs used commonly in Europe. To adapt to the North American market, DuPont redesigned the Tyvek roofing underlayment system to create a product that is water- and air-tight, yet breathable. Meanwhile, the attic underneath is unvented and sealed by a roofing membrane.

“These sealed, non-ventilated, breathable roofing systems will reshape the roofing industry in North America,” predicted Mr. Horta. “This is not just a new product, it is fundamentally different than the status quo. At DuPont, we believe that buildings, like people, must breath, and we help them do so.”

Another company concentrating on the issue of breathability in the roofing sector is Colbond, a specialist in reinforcements for modified bitumen products. The company has introduced a new waterproof breathable membrane, Enkaroof Vent 7008, with a nylon-6 entangled ventilation net bonded to the nonwoven membrane. This new product provides waterproofing and a ventilation airspace to prevent corrosion and rust from developing on the backside of metal roofs. It also controls sound noise up to 15 db. The membrane by itself will also have applications as a housewrap, window tape and anti-fracture mat for the tile industry.

Nonwoven rolls are ready for transport after being produced at Freudenberg Politex’s Pisticci, Italy manufacturing facility.
“Colbond has recognized a tremendous need to ventilate several areas in the residential roofing sector,” remarked Marcus Dellinger, sales and marketing manager for building products in North America. “Ventilation is needed under asphalt shingles to extend shingle life and lower energy costs. Other demands are for radiant barriers and new composite decking to replace OSB.” Within the next year, Colbond plans to partner with several companies to launch these new concepts. The new technologies are being driven by the need for more waterproof membranes to protect homes after storms as well as the fact that metal is becoming more of an option in residential homes, explained Mr. Dellinger.

Industry leader BBA Fiberweb was an early pioneer in the development of synthetic roof underlayments and has capitalized on those efforts through its Typar housewrap line for construction applications. “The synthetic roofing category is growing at a rapid pace due to the fact that builders are seeing the advantages that these products offer,” remarked Patrick Marcouiller, director sales and marketing, construction products for BBA. “They are lighter weight and easier to install, offer superior moisture-resistance, can be exposed to the elements longer than traditional products and offer the homeowner a longer lasting roof, particularly when used with tile, shakes, architectural shingles and metal roofs.”

Innovation Leads To Expansion
For its part, Johns Manville has invested heavily in innovation and commercialization of new products during the last two years. Under the DuraForce name, the company has launched a new fiberglass products featuring enhanced properties for the residential shingle market. This fall JM expects to launch a new synthetic underlayment product, DuraBase, for the residential shingle market. On the European front, JM has introduced its DuraSpun Premium product, which combines the best characteristics of glass and polyester nonwovens.

Commenting on the evolving requirements driving these innovations was the company’s Mr. Mahmood. “The market continues to demand new products and reinforcements that provide enhanced fire rating, moisture barrier and strength. Fiberglass provides an excellent base on all three of these characteristics.”

Mr. Mahmood added that polyester nonwovens provide superior thermal dimensional stability. “Speed and processing characteristics clearly appear to be important to our customers. We are continuing to change the game with new technologies and applications that allow our customers to provide higher fire resistance, better processability, superior moisture barrier and enhanced strength,” he said.

Below: Colbond’s Enkaroof Vent is a three-dimensional Enkamat core bonded to a breathable waterproof membrane for use under any type of metal roof; Top, right: The American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX features Sarnafil PVC roofing membrane reinforced with a Johns Manville fiber glass mat.
To support these efforts, JM is building a polyester nonwovens facility in Bobingen, Germany to focus its growth in Central and Eastern Europe. The company is also very close to finalizing plans for a major nonwovens glass mat expansion in North America.

Looking ahead, JM expects more conversion of paper to synthetics (glass and polyester) or hybrids for construction material applications. “Health, safety and well being are themes that JM strongly believes will influence the buying decisions of construction customers,” stated Mr. Mahmood.

Another company underway with strategic expansion plans is Freudenberg Politex, headquartered in Novedrate, Italy, a world leader in the production of high tenacity staple and spunbond polyester nonwovens mainly used as reinforcements for bituminous roofing membranes. The company operates seven production locations: two in Novedrate and one in Pisticci, Italy; one in Colmar, France; one in Lodz, Poland; one in Macon, GA as Freudenberg Texbond LP and one under construction in Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia. Freudenberg Politex offers a complete range of nonwoven polyester products for bituminous roofing membranes, with both staple and spunbonded technologies, traditional or reinforced with glass filaments.

According to Riccardo Sollini, president and CEO of Freudenberg Politex, “the construction market has to be considered in its broad sense, including every aspect related to building, from the ground to the roof. And, this is exactly why Freudenberg Politex enlarged its product range and launched a new Building Materials segment in 2004.” The new range includes polyester nonwovens, in some cases coupled with other backings such as aluminum and synthetic films, which meet protection and safety requirements in applications such as sound absorbents for flooring, waterproofing layers, underslating products and reflecting screens.

Mr. Sollini added that specialty products are increasingly required by the construction market, which has evolved to become more demanding. One example of this trend is the use of acoustical and thermal insulation products both for the construction of new buildings and for the refurbishment of old ones. “Our Ecozero polyester panels for thermal/acoustic insulation offer an alternative to traditional rock wool and glass wool; they grant higher performances and are environment friendly,” he said.

At its U.S.-based Freudenberg Texbond LP, a similar strategy is in the works. “We continue to look at new technologies for quality and capacity improvements and have already scheduled important equipment upgrades for the 2005-2006 season,” confirmed Richard Shaw, CEO of Freudenberg Texbond LP and business director for North America. “The switch from standard spunbond polyester to our patented fiberglass reinforced polyester mats has accelerated and so have our expansions plans,” he said.

Overall, Freudenberg Texbond is concentrating its efforts on increasing process efficiency and flexibility, improving product quality and customer service and being able to offer a variety of nonwoven products suitable to the different requirements of worldwide markets. “Therefore, investments are aimed not only at launching new products or increasing production capacities, but also, and above all, at improving technological content of polyester nonwovens with first class performances,” commented Mr. Sollini. This is the case with the company’s new line for reinforced spunbond nonwovens that is currently ramping up in Pisticci, Italy. Also included in its global expansion program this year is a new line for laminated products in Novedrate, Italy.

BBA’s Typar housewrap offers exceptional water holdout that is more than twice the minimum U.S. code requirement.
Another key initiative underway at Freudenberg Politex is the “Russia Project.” Headquartered in Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, Freudenberg Politex OOO was founded in September 2004. Initially the company will employ 40 people and production start-up is foreseen in the first half of 2006. The new production line will have a capacity of 8000 tons per year of polyester staple nonwovens.

“Freudenberg Politex has been selling its roofing products on the Russian market for more than 10 years with very positive results and for this reason production will be mainly sold to Russian customers and neighboring countries,” commented Mr. Sollini. “We should not forget that Russia, generally considered only in its European part, is a huge territory that flows into the Asian continent. For us, a production location in this country is a strategic bridge for future developments.”

A Key Concern

Despite recent innovations and expansions within the roofing and construction sector, raw material pricing—not surprisingly—remains a significant challenge that suppliers must face every day. In the roofing sector, escalating raw material costs have translated into an increased spread between traditional underlayments and synthetics.

With the increase of raw material costs, the nonwovens sector has experienced significant pressures,” said JM’s Mr. Mahmood. “We have no choice but to pass these costs on to our customers. Polyester prices have skyrocketed during the last 18 months. Without additional polyester capacity coming onstream, we see no relief from polyester prices—at least through the end of 2007,” he said. With the rise of petroleum prices, resin prices have also gone up, and JM does not expect to see relief from higher glass and polyester mat prices within the next 12-24 months.

Echoing this worry was Freudenberg Politex’s Mr. Sollini. “The rapid and huge increase of raw material prices and the remarkable rise of all other costs are strongly affecting the global scenario of nonwovens, where newcomers are also contributing to create a highly competitive situation.”

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