Berry Global, the world’s largest nonwovens producer, develops multiple products that go into the roofing and construction market, either as the main substrate or as a supporting layer that goes into other products. The company manufactures polypropylene spunbond and polyester spunbond, under the Typar and Reemay brands, respectively, and another brand called Surround which is used as a synthetic roofing underlayment. Berry also makes a slit film PE nonwoven substrate for roofing underlayments.
“Our products are part of the building envelope from the walls and window flashing all the way up to the roofing,” says Thomas Olsen, senior director, Product Marketing, Berry Global, Inc. “We say we’re creating products that wrap your house like an envelope. We provide a crucial protective barrier to help defend the home against air and moisture intrusion.”
The durability and versatility of nonwovens help tackle challenges in the roofing and construction market. Various film structures can be engineered and combined with nonwovens to deliver breathability and strength, for example, Olsen explains. “They’re a very versatile product from that perspective when it comes to the house wrap side or the roofing side,” he says. “From a durability point of view, polypropylene is a strong, recognized substrate, and from a market pricing point of view, the raw materials are relatively affordable too.”
So far Berry is optimistic about the building market for 2020 and 2021. “There was pent up demand last year and low inventory going into this year, as well as a lot of land that was developed in 2019. So there’s land to put houses on, there’s demand for the houses, and with interest rates being low right now too, there are good market conditions,” he says.
The only concern, from Berry’s view, is the construction workforce. “Are there enough people to build the houses for the demand the market is asking for? This is an industry trend. It’s not an industry where a lot of people are clamoring to get into, but it’s still a very vibrant one from a growth point of view.”
Recently the company launched a new Typar brand in Canada called Typar.ca. While the company is tight-lipped on details, Olsen says it is slightly different from the Typar used in the U.S. and is more engineered to the Canadian market.
Over the next three to five years, Berry plans to continue to launch new products. “We’ve got a roadmap for product line extensions to come out within that window of time, so we’re really excited in this group,” Olsen says. “It’s a good time to come out with new products because we think that market demand is going to be there for new housing starts, so that’s a good formula for us at this point in time.”
Freudenberg Performance Materials
Freudenberg Performance Materials has been in the construction market for decades. The nonwovens producer supplies both spunbond and staple fiber products that go into the market globally. These technologies reinforce bituminous membrane products, which give the correct tensile strength and elongation properties that the market requires, according to John McNabb, CTO of Freudenberg Performance Materials.
“The material cannot shrink,” he explains “It needs to unwind and be able to handle the high temperatures of the bituminous membrane, so we found that nonwovens are a perfect solution for this type of roof.”
Freudenberg has added a glass filament to reinforce the material, to make it stronger and more stable. In fact, the company recently made a big investment in the U.S. at its Macon, GA, facility where a new spunbond line is producing roofing products with glass filaments. The line can also provide customers with lighter weight materials. “As you can imagine, these rolls have to go on a roof, they’re heavy and they need to be moved, so if you could make it lighter weight with the correct properties that your customer wants, you have an advantage,” McNabb says.
On the sustainability side, Freudenberg’s products are 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) based. The company buys returnable plastic bottles and has facilities that will recycle them into a staple fiber or into a polyester chip, which are then used in the company’s processes. “This is very important for us because we reduce CO2 emissions versus using virgin material, and then on the customer side, they are also supporting sustainability by buying our products that are PCR-based,” McNabb says. “Sustainability is growing in importance, and also this ability to recycle and reduce CO2 emissions as compared to just buying virgin materials is more and more important to Freudenberg and to the world.”
Carbon emissions are one of the main challenges for nonwovens manufacturers, he explains. “I think we’re all feeling pressure to do more there with our processes, and we’re very focused on reducing CO2 emissions.”
Freudenberg is also focused on extending the life of its products. It continues to look at whether it can recycle or reuse products, have customers ship the product back to them, or whether products can be reused on the customer end.
Despite these challenges, Freudenberg believes the future is bright for nonwovens in roofing and construction. “Overall, we’re optimistic in the mid-term that there will be growth for the industry,” McNabb says. “In the very short term we’re certainly concerned about the impact of the coronavirus and what could happen with the economy. Once we get passed that we should be in a moderate growth phase.”
In the building sector, nonwovens producer Lydall has experienced steady growth over the last five years. This growth has been driven by roofing fleece (PMMA technology) as well as the acoustical flooring underlayment market.
In the roofing industry, bitumen or coal tar was the standard for well over a century, according to Lydall; however, in the last 50 years, factory-produced membranes grew in popularity and secured a place as a dominant method of roofing applications. Modern fluid-applied membranes are one of the fastest growing sectors of the roofing market, and although they maintain the field-constructed concept of the past, that is where the similarities end, executives say. The liquid known as PMMA technology and the nonwoven reinforcement (fleece) components that are utilized today are highly engineered. Lydall’s nonwoven is designed to reinforce and offer absorption and capillarity properties.
Meanwhile, in the Canadian roofing industry, Lydall is seeing new fire regulations regarding the installation of roofing for commercial buildings. The use of torches for the installation of bitumen membranes could be forbidden in certain areas of roofing. This ban could favor other roofing technologies, such as PMMA liquid technologies, which use needlepunch nonwoven as a reinforcement.
In underlayment products, acoustics demands are driving sales up for Lydall. For self-levelling concrete flooring, the company offers a wide range of nonwoven membranes that can provide a high strength and sound insulating underlayment. The popularity of laminate flooring is increasing demand for acoustical underlayment, especially for multi-dwelling buildings.
In new products news, Lydall recently developed a new reinforcement backing for vinyl flooring. This nonwoven will allow the installation of vinyl flooring on concrete or different surfaces such as plywood subfloor. The technology also offers some moisture management and will protect the vinyl against rips, tears and gouges.
Lydall executives say that needlepunch technology is replacing some cellulosic/fiberglass backing products for vinyl flooring. In this market, Lydall is witnessing many disruptions in the North American supply chain, which has contributed to the evaluation of other types of technology. The company’s nonwovens technology offers great elongation properties, which provides to the vinyl more tear resistance, and therefore eases and speeds up installation of vinyl flooring for the commercial market.
Owens Corning is global building and industrial materials manufacturer focused on the growth and advancement of insulation, roofing and fiberglass composite materials. “We have market advantages in technology, glass science and research and development which are amplified by an approach that starts with the needs of the market first,” says Bert Declerck, director of Strategic Marketing – Nonwoven, Composites, Owens Corning. “We innovate to solve problems, boost productivity and expand applications.”
Within its Specialty Nonwoven business, Owens Corning develops glass fiber solutions that enable better, more-profitable and higher performance construction products. These include ceilings with modern styling, theatre-level acoustics and enhanced protection against smoke, fire and other environmental threats; flooring barriers and backing layers that are stronger, more-durable and enable cutting-edge design; and wall coverings that preserve a safe and healthy interior experience with improved protection against the threats of mold, mildew and moisture.
“We are constantly investing in our capabilities to add value to the construction market and to provide our customers with differentiated product solutions and market-driven application development,” says Declerck. “From the launch of our state-of-the-art specialty glass nonwoven facility in Gastonia, NC (USA) and glass-based coating solutions acquisitions, to ongoing innovations in sizing, binder and coating technologies, we are committed to moving the industry forward.”
The Gastonia plant, which opened in 2016, produces a thin sheet of glass-reinforced material—called veil—that is used in construction applications such as carpet and ceiling tiles, vinyl flooring and gypsum wall board, as well as automotive applications. The facility is capable of producing Sustaina veil products with a formaldehyde-free binder that, in turn, addresses customers’ growing interest in biobased products.
“We support growth of the construction market by working across its entire ecosystem to identify, solve and eliminate customer pain points and irritants and create viable solutions that will define its future,” Declerck says. “With teams across the globe and OC expertise extending across insulation and roofing, we have cultivated a rich network of contractors, architects, designers, distributors, entrepreneurs and structure/homeowners that we are constantly connected to and co-obsessing about the future together with.”
The market has never been more challenging, Declerck admits, and it continues to evolve faster than ever. “Trends emerge daily in key industries such as healthcare, housing, transport and smart technology that require fast-paced solutions. We must deliver today, tomorrow and on an ongoing basis to remain relevant and valuable.”
Owens Corning is closely studying evolving safety codes and requirements related to thermal performance of buildings and specific protections against fire, smoke, mold and moisture. The company sees human-centric, safe building to be central to this next generation of market growth.
“We are seeing greater expectations and faster-paced change than ever before,” Declerck explains. “There are more stakeholders, more opinion leaders and more influencers too. Health professionals have a very influential voice that is quite new to the industry and we must focus on bringing forward solutions that drive new growth and positive change across the global construction market.”