Strong & steady: roofing and construction markets see solid growth and promise potential for future expansion.
Building boom? Not exactly. Slow and steady growth is a more accurate description of the pace of the roofing and construction market today. According to Ian Butler, director of market research and statistics for INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, the volume of nonwovens consumed by the North American building and construction segment in 2006 was roughly 490 million square meters valued at $800 million at the roll goods level. "Recently, this market has been growing in excess of 6% per year," he stated. Included in the construction segment are housewrap and spunbonded polyester used as a substrate in modified bitumen roofing. There is also a small amount of nonwoven material used in miscellaneous roofing end uses.
Suppliers to the building industry have observed a continued year-over-year increase in the use of polymeric housewraps and roofing underlayments; however, the rate of increase has slowed in the last year. This may be due to the cost pressures felt by home builders in the second half of 2006. Although housewrap material and installation is typically less than 1% of the total cost of a home, suppliers are quick to point out that these materials can provide important savings to the builder and homeowner during installation and after-sale.
Backing up that claim is a study from The Department of Energy demonstrating that the use of housewrap can provide 25-40% savings per annum on energy costs in a typical home. "Given the increasing costs of energy and the desire by consumers to select products that help them conserve energy, housewrap certainly fits the bill," commented Bob Dahl, marketing manager for Fiberweb's Typar Construction Products.
"The U.S. government is supporting research on new building technologies to reduce energy demand," noted Arturo Horta, roofing market manager at DuPont. "Without a doubt, energy efficiency will make the most impact on the roofing/construction industry. Integrated PV (photovoltaics) to produce energy for the home and roofing air barriers to seal attics to reduce the energy consumption of houses will be two major trends that will reshape the roofing market status quo.
"We see an increase in the demand of energy-efficient products and energy-saving building solutions, designed to help builders achieve the Energy Star ratings, help them differentiate and be able to market that advantage to their clients," continued Dr. Horta. He added that DuPont has developed building solutions that are extremely energy-efficient, capable of cutting down the overall energy consumption of the home by as much as 20%. He pointed to the company's two new developments, Tyvek AtticWrap and Tyvek ThermaWrap, as examples of energy-saving building solutions.
When it comes to the use of polymeric underlayments in the roofing industry, a trend that is just beginning, growth opportunities are expected to be substantial. Eric Henderson, vice president sales and marketing for PGI Canada, pointed to the potential of nonwoven underlayments. "The market has softened as the industry readjusts from housing starts' (seasonally adjusted) high of 2.26 million in January 2006 to approximately 1.5 million today. The impact on the nonwoven membrane is not so dramatic because the percentage of nonwoven underlayment used is still relatively small. Some would say it's still in its infancy, with lots of room to grow."
Dr. Horta sees this new roofing underlayment category expanding very rapidly. "Roofing manufacturers have already launched a product into this new product category or are in the process of launching it. The potential is very significant and the growth rate is double-digit."
According to Dr. Horta, DuPont sees a sustained trend in the market to replace the traditional 15- or 30-pound roofing asphalt felt with modern lightweight nonwoven roofing membranes, referred to as synthetic roofing underlayments. Ease of installation and durability are the most important drivers for this change in the roofing market. Some new synthetic roofing underlayments have anti-slip treatments that increase their coefficient of friction, making them safer to work with, improving the grip of the roofer's shoes when walking on the underlayment, especially in wet conditions.
Federico Pallini, Freudenberg Politex's business director for Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, believes that--despite their growth--synthetic membranes are not comparable to bituminous membranes in either performance or durability. "Even if bituminous membranes are suffering from high raw material costs, they remain the best waterproofing solution. In addition, application on the roof for synthetic products requires the employment of highly skilled roofers in order to assure a proper waterproofing. The application aspect remains a crucial issue for synthetic membranes," he said.
A new family of nonwovens targeting bituminous underslating applications has been launched by Freudenberg Politex. These new products will be sold through the company's Building Materials division, which was launched in 2004. The product range includes products for thermal and acoustic insulation, breathable waterproofing and vapor barriers, heat reflecting shields, underfloor soundproofing and geotextiles.
Richard Shaw, Freudenberg Texbond's CEO and North American business director, described synthetic underlayments as a growing factor in North America in the steep slope markets. "This is, however, a very price-sensitive market and these new underlayments must compete with traditional saturated felt paper, which is the most inexpensive option for many applications. Thermoplastics have gained a strong foothold in the low slope markets." Mr. Shaw added that this area continues to grow, with several manufacturers announcing new or added capacity.
Also based in the U.S. is Johns Manville (JM), a global supplier of polyester, glass, hybrid and composite technologies for roofing and other construction applications. This year JM launched two new nonwoven roofing products, one in Europe and one in North America. Both products are being qualified at this time and offer what the company calls "productivity enhancements" for customers. Although details are not yet available on these new innovations, JM is working with partner customers to qualify these products within their systems. "We expect to provide our strategic customers a significant competitive advantage using these technologies and systems," commented Zain Mahmood, vice president and general manager, construction materials and systems for JM's Engineered Products Group. "Also, our DuraBase hybrid nonwoven underlayment is doing exceptionally well in the roofing segment. We expect to launch at least one enhancement and one variation of the DuraBase platform before the end of 2007."
Additionally, Mr. Mahmood reported that Johns Manville is investing heavily in both nonwovens assets and capabilities to serve its customers in roofing and construction markets. Last year, JM completed two new nonwoven investments--first, its new state-of-the-art low area weight nonwoven spunbond line in Bobingen, Germany. Secondly, in December the company began operating a new spunbond line in Luoyang, China to serve that region. JM has also formed a global Nonwoven Technology Center with Centers of Excellence in three geographic poles.
After The Storm
Following a spate of natural disasters in North America in 2005, the building industry braced itself for a spike in activity from residential and commercial rebuilds. While recovery from Hurricane Katrina has been steady and is expected to maintain its current pace, the impact of this and other disasters has not been nearly as significant as the second half correction in the U.S. housing industry. Still, the largest markets and growth in North America continue to be in the Southwestern and Northeast regions of the U.S.
From Freudenberg Texbond's point of view, the roofing industry has recovered from the 2005 hurricane season and, with no major hurricanes in 2006, actually saw a softening in the market by late 2006. "Due to capacity restraints, many roofing manufacturers must build inventory in the first half of the year and they base their inventory levels on a 'normal' hurricane season," explained Mr. Shaw. "With few named storms in 2006, most producers were overstocked and were forced to curtail production in late 2006."
JM's Mr. Mahmood, who said that the absence of natural disasters in 2006 hurt the entire North American roofing industry, told a similar tale. "Demand for shingle roofing dropped significantly in the fourth quarter of 2006," he said. "Without natural disasters, we expect the 2007 roofing season to be a flat year for shingles with modest growth opportunities." On the other hand, Mr. Mahmood predicted that commercial roofing construction would grow dramatically in 2007-8.
Although PGI has not seen any major boosts to the industry as a result of natural disasters, the company confirmed that the construction industry is trending toward solutions for severe weather caused by climatic change. "We are also developing products to meet this trend. One of our products being sold commercially is a super strength woven slit-film product for outside window coverings for use as hurricane protection," Mr. Henderson remarked.
Dr. Horta of DuPont, however, said the hurricanes' impact on the roofing industry continues to be significant. "The recent natural disasters in North America have dramatically increased the demand for roofing materials, such as roofing shingles and roofing felts and underlayments. We have also seen a supply shortage of roofing tiles that will take several years to rebalance," he said.
In regions outside of North America, suppliers report that the roofing market is slightly growing in Western Europe and is developing in Eastern Europe. "In Russia and Middle Eastern regions the competitive price of bitumen is supporting the industry growth," said Freudenberg Texbond's Mr. Pallini, "while, on the contrary, the high cost of bitumen and a possible future shortage could have a negative impact on the business in mature countries."
Mr. Mahmood of Johns Manville cited growth in the roofing segment in all three poles of the world. "Asia, specifically China, is growing at the fastest pace. China has one of the largest roofing markets in the world. However, poor codes, construction practices and compliance (to norms) has hampered past growth. Nonetheless, we still expect our nonwovens sales in roofing, to grow in China."
One key trend in the home building and light construction market is an even stronger push toward improved indoor air quality and energy efficiency. In response, many suppliers are taking a systems approach to sealing buildings and introducing doit-all housewrap systems offering both water and air protection.
A key player in this market, Fiberweb introduced its Typar weather Protection System in 2006. "The system includes our industry-leading housewrap," offered Mr. Dahl, "which provides superior performance in all the critical areas for water and air protection such as bulk water holdout, air resistance, optimal breathability, tear strength, UV protection and surfactant resistance. We combine this product with our Typar flashing (butyl base adhesive) and seaming tape to provide the best building envelope protection in the industry."
Typar RoofWrap 30, a polymeric roofing underlayment, acts as a secondary water barrier that reduces the incidence of leaks in the roof caused by storm damage, winddriven rain, ice dams and worn roofing materials. According to the company, it is seven times lighter than 30-pound roofing felt and one roll covers the same area as five rolls of felt. It resists cupping and puckering and is easy to install, saving time and money.
A relatively new player in this market, Huntsman Textile Effects has taken note of increased demand for composite products as well as systems with antimicrobial features. "The roofing and construction market is relatively new to Huntsman Textile Effects," explained Richard Knowlson, new business development manager. "The continued development of more composite nonwoven systems to replace more basic construction media is having a significant impact on nonwovens usage in the sector. Many of these composite systems can more easily be treated with specific functional chemicals and be highly cost-efficient."
Mr. Knowlson added that Huntsman is finding opportunities for its fluorochemicals and water repellents, flame retardants, antimicrobials, UV protection systems and color additives. In addition to these individual effects, the company specializes in combining these effects into compatible blends. "We are seeing a great deal of activity going into new antimicrobial/antifungal/mold inhibition systems, as this has been an area of high public visibility."
The building market is also seeing increasing emphasis on "green" building products and many suppliers predict that the industry will see more of these types of concerns being voiced by home buyers as well as demand for products and systems that bring performance and value to their purchase. "The trend toward green solutions will be key," opined PGI's Mr. Henderson. "Future products will become multifunctional and offer properties beyond water repellency, such as thermal reflection, insulative or potentially noise absorption properties."
With a greater than 20% post-industrial recycle content, Typar Weather Resistant Barrier products are answering the call for environmental friendliness. "Green building techniques and products, along with energy conscious products, will play a critical role in the planning and construction of all areas of home building from now on," predicted Fiberweb's Mr. Dahl.
According to Mr. Shaw of Freudenberg Texbond, energy efficient roofing is gaining much attention in North America with cool roofing and green roofing. "The industry is paying close attention to pending legislation in many areas of the country, which may mandate energy savings in new construction."
Allan Wingfield, Colbond Building Products architect, agreed that interest from industry members in green roofs is increasing, and, in response, the company is further developing multifunctional products tailored for application as drainage and protection layers. "Colbond has been active in the green roof market for many years in Europe. As sustainable building becomes more prevalent in North America, our experience in this emerging market will benefit our customers. Already, our green roof products have been used on many high-profile living roof projects in North America," he said.
Colbond Inc.'s new EnkaRetain & Drain combines a superabsorbent nonwoven filter fabric bonded to a three-dimensional Enkadrain 3000R series drainage core for use primarily in green roof and planter applications. This unique building product contributes to the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification points.
The Enkadrain drainage core is made of environmentally friendly, post-industrial, recycled polypropylene molded into a square, waffle pattern, which allows water to flow from all directions. Bonded to one surface and replacing traditional filter fabric is a water retention fabric that holds 10 times its weight in water. Its function is to absorb and retain water so plant roots will have a continuous source of moisture while allowing excess water to filter through and drain.
In addition to helping the plants stay healthy and reducing watering/maintenance costs, there are other benefits to using this one-step composite. Both products are inertly compatible, available from a single source, and will require less labor to install than single subsurface drainage and water retention components.
Colbond manufactures other products used in multi-layer green roof configurations. EnkaroofVM for root reinforcement and pre-growing plants offsite, Enkamat for root reinforcement in high wind conditions and sloped roof applications, and Enkadrain 3000R subsurface drainage composites for predictable and proven water management.
Ideas & Innovation
Considering the amount of activity in this sector--from changing requirements to new product trends--it is no surprise that suppliers are rolling out new innovations at a steady clip. One such manufacturer is Fiberweb, which recently introduced MetroWrap, a weather resistant barrier product for commercial applications that embodies all the performance components of Typar HouseWrap but is engineered to be even more durable for use in commercial environments. This product can be used as a commercial water or air barrier and has been designed to stand the test for either application and deliver the best overall performance in the demanding environments of commercial structures and job sites.
On the roofing end of the market, last year in North America DuPont Building Innovations introduced a new roofing technology called the Sealed Attic System with DuPont Tyvek AtticWrap. The new roofing concept delivers significant energy savings and creates a more durable and weatherproof roof system. The breathable membrane seals the attic and creates roof ventilation channels at the same time. While the sealed attic reduces air leakage and energy loss, the vented roof helps prevent water intrusion, condensation, mold, rot and helps cool down the roofing materials.
Also new from DuPont is DuPont RoofLiner with Elvaloy, which the company introduced last month. The new high performance roofing underlayment is scientifically engineered to provide superior leak protection and enhanced durability in one lightweight, slip-resistant material. With stronger tear resistance than roofing felt, it helps protect against water intrusion and costly call-backs for greater peace of mind. The new state-of-the-art roofing material is made of DuPont Elvaloy and is engineered for use with every type of roof covering material including asphalt shingles, clay, tiles, slates, wood shakes, standing seam metal sheets and corrugated metal roofing. "One roll of DuPont RoofLiner with Elvaloy replaces five rolls of 30-pound felt," stated Dr. Horta. "It's also more lightweight than felt for easier and more efficient installation. It is ideal for commercial and residential new construction and re-roofing applications.
Innovation and new product development is also ongoing at PGI. The company has seen several new niche areas, such as products for sealing around nails and reflective properties. "Also, we are producing a reflective nonwoven material that was recently highlighted at the National Home Builders Show," said Mr. Henderson.
Another interesting innovation in the roofing area is PGI's three-layer nonwoven laminate for roofing membranes. Launched in November, the new offering combines technologies from several aspects of PGI's portfolio. The high-tensile, high-tear strength and breathable membrane also features anti-slip properties. PGI now offers both breathable and non-breathable roofing membranes. Additionally, PGI's Fabrene division is developing a number of new products for the construction market and will launch three new construction products this spring.
By Ellen Wuagneux