During the last decades, nonwovens have been developed for many different applications. Due to technical advantages they replaced traditional materials such as foam, webbings and knitted fabrics. There are a growing number of products made out of nonwovens for use in roofing and construction, such as insulation and membranes.
Freudenberg Politex is a multinational company with its headquarters in Novedrate, Como, Italy and its core business area is the roofing sector, where nonwovens are sold as reinforcements for bituminous waterproofing membranes. Over the years Freudenberg Politex has developed a broad range of products for the construction industry, including nonwovens panels for thermal and acoustic insulation, geotextiles and products for roof protection and numerous other applications.
With an organizational structure capable of creating products to meet the needs of diverse markets around the world, Freudenberg Politex operates out of six production sites. These include three in Italy, with two plants at Novedrate, Como, Northern Italy, and one in Pisticci, Matera, Southern Italy; one in France at Colmar; one in Russia in Nizhniy Novgorod region; and one in the U.S. in Macon, GA. Completing the global organization of the group are two trading companies in Lodz, Poland and one in Shanghai, China, as well as a commercial office in India.
The company was founded in 1972 in Novedrate, which still serves as its headquarters, and has since grown rapidly in the nonwovens sector. During the 90s Freudenberg Politex started producing its recycling technology; the majority of its products are produced using post-consumer PET bottles, which are selected, washed and reduced to flakes. Flakes are then used in the production fiber, called staple technology, or directly as raw material for the final production of nonwovens spunbonded technology.
Over the years Freudenberg Politex continued its sustainable development related to environmental issues. “The construction industry is one of the sectors that can contribute more to preserving natural resources through improving the energy efficiency of buildings and using products that can guarantee a reduced impact all over their life cycle,” says Federico Pallini, business director, Freudenberg Politex Group.
Freudenberg Politex’s waterproofing nonwovens Texbond and Terbond, as well as its Ecozero nonwovens panels for thermal and acoustic insulations of walls and roofs, are manufactured using in-house recycled polyester through vertically integrated processes. “Recycled materials and efficient thermal and acoustic insulation of buildings are key factors that contribute to energy saving and to the reduction of natural resources consumption,” says Pallini. “The LCA studies carried out on Texbond, Terbond and Ecozero show that recycling activities allow a 50% reduction of CO2 into the atmosphere if compared to the use of virgin raw materials.”
With the aim to confirm the data resulted from the LCA, Freudenberg Politex decided to go on with the validation of the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), a certified document determining the environmental profile of the products Texbond, Terbond and Ecozero, which allows the group to affirm that its processes and products are sustainable due to their limited environmental impact.
“Nowadays the polyester insulation materials are gaining more and more popularity due to the fact that in addition to their basic acoustic and thermal features showing outstanding performance characteristics, they have intrinsic features that deliver benefits to the environment,” says Pallini. These include their recyclability and the deliverance of stable performance throughout its lifecycle.
Unlike other products, according to Pallini, the nonwovens panels for thermal and acoustic insulation of buildings have the advantages that, being made of a fibrous structure, they do not only have thermal, but also acoustic features due to their nature. “The use of our Ecozero panels, made of recycled polyester, is particularly convenient, since they are hypoallergenic, do not collapse over time and are unaffected by molds or bacteria,” he says. “Furthermore the polyester nonwovens are breathable. Ecozero is 100% recyclable, which means that at the end of its life cycle it is not a special waste, but it is reusable, or can be reused as new raw material to produce new polyester panels.”
Overall, the thermal and acoustic insulation sector is a growing market because the use of polyester in these applications is not yet commonly spread, especially in the U.S. Pallini says. “Besides the standard specified aspects of thermal and acoustic features, the market requires new features of mechanical resistance, stability, non-allergenic and nontoxic products that do not contain harmful substances,” he says. “In the thermal and acoustic insulation market new regulations relating to energy certification of buildings, as well as of acoustic insulation, will drive the market forward incorporating more environmentally friendly and recycled materials.
“Concerning the housing and construction industry in general in the U.S., housing starts rebounded in 2013 from a poor 2012,” Pallini says. “However, the total number of starts is still below the average the U.S. has seen historically. It is expected to see conservative improvement in housing starts again this year. For the construction sector we see overall consumer confidence and consumer spending as positive signs. Additionally, the appreciation of home prices and continued job growth is contributing to the overall health of the construction sector as consumers are better positioned to spend on renovation and repair works. The state of the insulation market could be described as rebounding since it will continue to follow the housing market as it moves upward. For Freudenberg Politex products, we see improved performance attributes and the use of post consumer recycled material as factors that will continue to help our business to grow.”
Johns Manville started producing glass nonwovens in Europe in the 1970s and its predecessor company, Schuller, started in the early 1950s. Since the very beginning it has supplied glass nonwovens to the construction markets. The first products for the application of insulation facers were developed in the 1980s.
New products include enhanced properties with regard to formaldehyde-free emissions, VOCs below the detecting level and hybrid compositions for improved surface characteristics. In other news on the insulation front, JM acquired Industrial Insulation Group, LLC (IIG) in 2012, a manufacturer of insulation for industrial, commercial and fireproofing applications.
“This acquisition allows JM to offer an even broader continuum of solutions that meet the insulation requirements for any project,” says Mike Lawrence, vice president and general manager for Johns Manville’s engineered products Americas business.
According to JM’s Martin Kleinebrecht, marketing leader nonwovens Europe, requirements, especially in the areas of safety and health, are getting stricter for insulation materials and consequently also for the facing material. “Nonwovens are used on the surface of the insulation material,” he says. “Glass nonwovens are, by far, the most-used type of facer. One key advantage of glass nonwovens compared to other materials such as kraft paper is the excellent fire behavior.
“HVAC systems in modern buildings often contain insulated duct work because it supports the occupants’ well-being,” says Kleinebrecht. “As a facer material for duct insulation systems, JM nonwoven glass mat supports smooth surface requirements and acoustical performance. And, its non-fading black color makes duct work blend in, rather than stand out.”
Growth of the insulation market is mainly driven by the CO2 emission reduction requirements around the world and energy cost-savings potential, according to Kleinebrecht. “This leads to the need for improved and/or additional insulation in buildings and industrial installations both for new construction as well as renovation. One key challenge is responding to the strictest safety and health requirements; another is enhancing insulation properties while maintaining or even reducing insulation material thickness.
Moving forward, Kleinebrecht believes the market will grow and will offer cost-efficient products with the highest health and safety properties. “Industry experts anticipate housing stats will reach 1 million in 2014, however, that remains lower than historical levels,” he says. “Requirements regarding CO2 emission reduction are leading to increased/improved insulation of buildings and industrial installations and energy cost-saving potential.”