Nonwovens continue to increase their role in the construction of residential and nonresidential buildings, and producers of the materials are reporting success in this nonwovens category. One of the largest durable markets for nonwovens, the roofing and construction market’s health is mainly dependent on the health of the economy including housing starts and nonresidential construction, as well as the global trend towards urbanization.
In the U.S., housing starts have jumped since early 2021. According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, privately-owned housing starts in February 2022 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.769 million. This is 6.8% above the revised January estimate of 1.657 million and is 22.3% above the February 2021 rate of 1.447 million. Single-family housing starts in February were at a rate of 1.215 million, 5.7% above the revised January figure of 1.15 million.
According to the Global Nonwoven Markets Report, 2020–2025, from INDA, the association of the nonwoven fabrics industry, and EDANA, the international association serving the nonwovens and related industries, Building Construction materials accounted for 8% of the global production in 2020.
Meanwhile, in North America, based on INDA’s annual North American Nonwovens Supply report, Building Construction accounted for 13% of the production. Building Construction’s share in North America is higher than globally due to a greater share of steep-slope roofs (greater than 14 degrees) and asphalt, or bitumen, roofing shingles being the principal roofing products used on those structures, according to INDA. Asphalt shingles are made by applying bitumen to a paper, synthetic nonwoven or glass-fiber nonwoven mat. The association says the majority of shingles now have a wetlaid glass-fiber core, due to its superior performance over paper and lower cost than synthetic nonwovens.
“As growth in housing and commercial markets continues, nonwovens will benefit by supplying both roofing and specialty materials that are engineered to provide the most cost-effective solutions,” says Brad Kalil, director of Market Intelligence & Economic Insights, INDA.
A few years ago, INDA and EDANA created the Building Construction category within their list of nonwoven end-use classifications. The associations include the roofing and house wrap markets—which others sometimes report independently—in this category.
“While these two are the largest segments, there have been significant advancement and innovation of nonwovens in other building construction materials,” says Kalil.
Now the associations also take into account other building construction materials, including primarily glass-fiber nonwovens and polyester nonwovens—used in the areas of ceilings, gypsum wall board, insulation facers, insulation panels/boards and wall coverings. “This broad building construction category, based on the location, allows for new nonwoven uses and applications to be included in the Building Construction area, as opposed to adding to the ‘other’ category,” he says.
Describing the market’s performance in recent years, Vinita Sharma, vice president of Product Management & Development at Berry Global, says the building construction market remains strong. “We continue to see a shift of living preferences driven by the pandemic, driving regional growth in single-family and multi-family units. In addition, interest rates have remained low, which encourages home buying activity.”
Of course, there have been some recent challenges. “Supply chain disruption has impacted the entire industry, but Berry remains steadfast in ensuring redundancy in our supply and operations,” Sharma explains. “In addition, labor shortages remain a challenge through the whole product lifecycle from manufacturing to transportation to installation.”
For the construction industry, Berry manufactures polypropylene spunbond under the Typar brand, including Typar BuildingWrap, Typar MetroWrap, Typar DrainableWrap as well as Typar Flashings and Tapes. Another brand called Surround VR is used as a synthetic roofing underlayment. “We provide the whole building envelope in the construction industry from roof to walls,” Sharma says.
Typar BuildingWrap provides a crucial protective barrier to help protect homes against air and moisture intrusion. BuildingWrap also eliminates drafts in the wall, which helps reduce energy costs. Typar, in particular, is a unique product because it consists of two layers—one layer is nonwoven, and the other is a special coating on top of it—a microporous coating to give it ultimate water holdout, maximum air efficiency and breathability. “Our product is one of the thickest in building wraps, but the MetroWrap is about 30% wider,” Sharma explains. “When it comes to water holdout, we’re still four times higher than the top competition, but with the MetroWrap, it’s about six times higher.”
This summer, Berry is getting ready to launch Typar DrainableWrap Peel and Stick, a self-adhering weather-resistant barrier. The benefit to the building envelope is that it offers significantly better water-shedding capabilities than conventional house wraps, and it also reduces the number of penetrations since it can be installed without fasteners. The nonwovens technology for this application creates optimal breathability for the residential or light commercial structure, according to the company.
In terms of sustainability, Berry Global’s focus in this area is on manufacturing processes that reduce waste and create products that last the life of the building. “The Typar Lifetime Limited Warranty is a true testament that we are creating a product that will endure the elements and not end up in a landfill,” says Sharma. “Additionally, there is a focus on waste reduction at the job site – for instance, using self-wound liners on our tapes or reducing finished good packaging for our building wraps.”
From Berry’s point of view, the building construction market is undoubtedly a growing market for nonwovens. “As requirements increase for energy-efficient, high-performing building envelopes, we will continue to see nonwovens play a role,” she says.
Despite the recent global pandemic, and natural and man-made disasters, Martin Kleinebrecht, marketing communications leader, Engineered Products, Johns Manville (JM), says the construction market continues to thrive.
In four plants in Germany and in three plants in the U.S., JM manufactures fiberglass mats and polyester spunbond nonwovens for roofing and construction markets.
Johns Manville Evalith fiberglass mats are manufactured primarily from the company’s own fiberglass using wetlaid manufacturing lines. “The properties of our fiberglass mats can be tailored to meet the needs of the end-use industry,” Kleinebrecht says. “Some important variables are the glass type, fiberglass sizing, fiberglass length and diameter, mat weight and density, and the binder used. Our range of fiberglass mats is very versatile. Important properties of fiberglass mats are dimensional stability, strength and durability.”
Some of the roofing and construction related applications JM serves with this range of products are roofing shingles, bitumen membranes, single ply roofing membranes, underlayments, roof deck panels, fire-rated gypsum boards, carpet tiles, PVC flooring and ceiling tiles.
“JM’s unique Evalith PET spunbond products are having great success in bituminous membranes, but we are also thriving in other construction segments, such as backers for single ply roofing, flooring and geotextiles,” he says.
JM is constantly developing products in direct cooperation with its customers, and this has led to, for example, a shift in its European and North American production capabilities towards glass thread-reinforced PET spunbond product lines mainly for bituminous waterproofing applications, Kleinebrecht says. This has also led to a new development introducing reinforced spunbond material to the flooring industry as a novel solution that not only increases the available machine capacity at the customer’s site but also significantly reduces its production waste.
“Interest in sustainable solutions has increased significantly,” Kleinebrecht says. “In nonwovens for the roofing and construction industry, we are focused on three main areas: the use of post-consumer polyester, the use of binder system components made from renewable raw materials and the use of fiberglass using our own glass production waste, that avoids landfill. We have invested capital and R&D resources in all these areas and will continue to do so.”
In response to a focused market need for a sustainable solution, JM developed its Evalith 1000 fiberglass mat series made with Alpha binder. Alpha binder is a novel formaldehyde-free, bio-based binder for fiberglass reinforcement applications mainly used in the carpet industry. Alpha binder is non-toxic, contains over 90% bio-based carbon, eliminates the steps for monomer and polymer synthesis, uses a bio-degradable catalyst, requires 70% less water, and reduces energy consumption during manufacturing of the glass mat by over 70% compared to alternative petroleum- based binders.
Freudenberg Performance Materials
Freudenberg Performance Materials is witnessing a rebound in the global building and construction industry following the sharp decline in 2020, when construction activity slumped due to the restrictions imposed globally to contain the spread of Covid-19. Today, the company says the market is finding new vitality thanks to the stimulus policies of governments to invest in creating wealth and jobs. But the major critical issue in the post-lockdown era of the global economy is the availability and the cost of raw materials and energy, according to Dr. Frank Heislitz CEO Freudenberg Performance Materials.
In the global roofing market, Freudenberg offers a wide range of high performing carrier materials for bituminous and polymer coated membranes, nonwovens and three-dimensional entangled composites for roof ventilation, anti-condensation for uninsulated metal roofs and green roof systems and components. Solutions for the construction industry offered by the company include acoustic floor insulation, geotextiles and geogrids for the reinforcements of roads and railways, drainage of buildings and soil and many other products to protect buildings and infrastructural objects.
“Most of our nonwovens are manufactured using 100% post-consumer recycled PET that contributes to limiting the consumption of natural resources and guarantee a reduced environmental impact or are made of polymer-based yarns and fibers,” says Dr. Heislitz.
Additionally, Freudenberg’s broad technology platform allows it to provide various innovative materials. Besides the one step production process, the company manufactures polyester nonwovens with a unique two-step process solution, allowing it to be even more flexible.
“The construction industry is one of the sectors that can contribute to the saving of natural resources, through improved energy efficiency of buildings and using products that can guarantee a reduced environmental impact all over their life cycle,” Dr. Heislitz says.
Freudenberg’s nonwovens made of recycled polyester from post-consumer PET bottles means fewer CO2 emissions, less waste and reduced consumption of water.
Today, Freudenberg converts approximately seven million post-consumer PET bottles into polyester nonwovens every day. “At Freudenberg we are constantly striving to find new ways to make our processes and products more sustainable,” says Dr. Heislitz. “This is part of our DNA.”
In the roofing and construction sector Owens Corning specializes in developing Glas-Powered ceiling veils, gypsum wallboards and insulated roof decks.
“Compared to traditional materials, glass nonwovens offer greater resistance to mold and moisture; UV and weather resistance; better flame retardance,” says Rachel Marcon, VP & managing director, Global Nonwovens, Owens Corning Composites. “Nonwovens are resistant to rain and hail, crushing (durability and performance), are more stain resistant, offer easier installation (meaning speed and better adapted for less skilled labor), and productivity for OEMs in their process.”
Owens Corning’s range of glass nonwoven ceiling solutions help customers build excellent learning or work environments through tailored aesthetics and acoustics. Meanwhile, its gypsum wallboards are engineered for durability to help defend against fire, rain and UV, while offering excellent dimensional stability in handling and processing. Its flame-retardant veil technology helps defends against flame spread, while also resisting mold and mildew.
For roof decks, Owens Corning’s nonwovens Glas-Powered facer for coverboards and insulation boards is engineered for durability against rain, hail and fire, while offering excellent dimensional stability to provide added strength and help prevent crushing damage to the polyiso board.
“While we have outpaced the market, both at Owens Corning in general and in nonwovens specifically, during the pandemic, it has not been a smooth ride,” says Marcon. “This market was first strongly hit at the beginning of the pandemic by sudden strong declining sales, driven by manufacturers’ plant closures, then experienced a sudden extreme V shape recovery that created sudden shortages in the marketplace. These shortages remain to this day, and the building materials pipeline is not yet refilled to its needed operating level.”
In nonwovens, Marcon says they faced force majeures from key raw materials essential to its process, supply chain issues as most of its suppliers have struggled to keep up with demand, and extreme freight challenges driven by container and truck scarcity as well as steep inflation. “Overall the nonwovens market has been impacted heavily by inflation and the trend continues further today particularly driven by the spikes in energy prices,” she adds. “The key to our success has been agility; our teams, sales, marketing, operations, supply chain, sourcing, innovation, legal and HR have adapted not only to the personal impact of the pandemic, but also to new ways of working, demonstrating extreme flexibility in finding solutions to every problem.”