Roland Albers, Senior Vice President, Construction & Consumer Global Business Unit, Bostik

Roland Albers, Senior Vice President, Construction & Consumer Global Business Unit, Bostik

9:33 AM, 15th September 2017
Roland Albers, Senior Vice President, Construction & Consumer Global Business Unit, Bostik
Roland Albers, Senior Vice President, Construction & Consumer Global Business Unit, Bostik.

Building on sustainable foundation

In an interview, Roland Albers with Chemical Today Magazine opens up on why this is the best time for the construction industry to grow.

By Shivani Mody

Growth trends in construction adhesives & sealants segment.

The global construction market is the strong growth trajectory which is evident on a global scale – And this, of course, has a direct impact on the market for construction adhesives and sealants.

More specifically in the Bostik-relevant market for construction adhesives and sealants, we estimate that the current global market value is approximately €17 billion with an additional €4 billion in the adjacent consumer/Do It Yourself (DIY) market. The construction adhesive and sealant market is growing at approximately 3-4% per annum – So the positive momentum in the wider construction market is also evident within the adhesives and sealants category.

Construction megatrends

Some of the megatrends in the construction market can be summarised as:

Sustainable building practices:

There is a general shift towards more sustainable construction practices around the world. Construction sector accounts for anywhere between 25-40% of world carbon emissions. As a result, building practices are changing and every link in the construction value chain is examining how their methods can contribute to energy efficiency, waste reduction and the safety and wellbeing of both construction workers and building occupants. Methodologies such as building Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) are now commonplace where every stage of the construction and use of a building is carefully examined with a view to reducing or removing any negative impact it may have on the environment.

Changing building methods:

A related trend is that of changing building methods. Prompted by the demand as a result of macro trends such as urbanization, there is increasing pressure to complete construction projects quickly and safely. This desire for speed is driving new and more efficient construction practices both in terms of how buildings are designed and constructed but also in terms of the materials and products used. For example, in terms of design, methods such as digitisation and 3D printing are now routinely used to reduce the time taken to design and scope buildings.

Building methods are also changing as evidenced by the increasing use of prefabrication and modular construction as well as more automation in off-site construction. At Bostik, we are increasingly combining our construction expertise with the know-how from our industrial adhesives activities to apply efficient manufacturing principles to the construction arena.

The final area where methods are changing is with respect to the materials used where there is increasing demand for more advanced products. With an estimated 1/3 of construction costs directly attributable to materials, it is no surprise to see new kinds of products increasingly being evaluated and used. For example, products which demonstrate advantages in terms of longevity and resistance, being lightweight or ease and speed of application are increasingly favoured. In these cases, adhesive and sealant manufacturers like Bostik can play an active role either directly with contractors or indirectly with manufacturers of building components such as doors, windows and other systems.

Greater emphasis on building comfort & wellbeing:

The comfort and general wellbeing of building occupants is another clear trend that is evident within the construction market. Rather than just stopping at the delivery of a new building, the construction sector is now giving increased thought to the ongoing performance of the building and its impact on building residents in terms of indoor air quality, thermal insulation, acoustic performance and aesthetics.

These are trends which Bostik has been monitoring closely and we have developed many systems including adhesives and sealants which have zero or reduced volatile organic compounds (VOC), enhanced insulation properties or which reduce noise transfer between different floors.

Increasing levels of building regulation and standards

Legislators and standards bodies are driving change in these areas through the publication of building regulations and codes which are designed to improve the quality and performance of buildings and safeguard the health and wellbeing of those who use them.

We closely monitor the market environment for the trends and actively collaborate with Arkema, our parent company, on its six R&D and innovation platforms of lightweight materials & design, new energies, water management, home efficiency & insulation, biobased products and electronic solutions, to develop next generation solutions for the construction sector.

Advancements in raw materials used to manufacture construction adhesives & sealants.

Bostik uses a vast array of chemicals and materials to formulate our adhesives.

These can range from basic elements such as water and cement to very sophisticated catalysts and polymers. They also include such materials as natural and synthetic rubbers, solvents, emulsions, adhesion promoters, rheology modifiers and pigments etc.

From a global perspective, Bostik prioritises four technology platforms within its innovation and development programs:

  • Polymer Modified Binders (PMB)
  • Reactive Technologies (RT)
  • Hot Melt Pressure Sensitive Adhesives (HMPSA)
  • Structural Adhesives (MMA)

Of these, PMB and RT are the most relevant to construction applications with HMPSA and MMA technologies used mainly in the manufacture of durable and non-durable goods in the aerospace, automotive, rail, marine, footwear, disposable hygiene, packaging and countless other sectors.

PMB-based products include materials based on advanced polymers that promote adhesion, flexibility, crack resistance and durability. Their main applications include construction products such as floor levelling compounds, tile adhesives, grouts, mortars and wall insulating products.

The RT technology platform is used in the development of high performance adhesives and sealants offering high bond strength, flexibility and resistance to diverse environmental conditions. Products where these technologies are used include construction sealants for applications including facades, glazing, expansion joints and sanitary applications and adhesives for flooring, panel bonding, repair and assembly and other new build and refurbishment applications.

Market potential for biobased adhesives

Although strong expressed interest in biobased adhesives is yet to emerge, we expect it to increase in time and follow the global shift to more sustainable building practices. While green building topics such as Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and building Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) are more prominent and are increasingly specified in construction plans, it is clear that demand for biobased adhesives will mature over time.

Areas of increased demand for construction adhesives in India

It is anticipated that India will be one of the powerhouses of the global construction market by 2030 when it will be the world’s third largest market and will account for 9% of the global market value. We estimate the current market demand for construction sealants in India at approximately 6,500 metric tonnes so would expect this to follow a similar growth trend to the overall construction market.

In truth, every aspect of the construction market in India is showing strong signs of growth. Drivers such as increased demand for residential building and supporting infrastructure, often as a result of government flagship programmes, are heavily influencing this growth. This is then translating into increased demand for a range of construction adhesives and sealant systems.

We are currently seeing strong demand for flooring systems including cementitious self-levelling underlays, floor covering adhesives, floor coatings and hardeners. Tiling systems are also in demand as we see strong sales growth in products including tile fixing adhesives and grouts. Waterproofing is another category showing strong performance with systems including polyurethane (PU) membranes, torch on membranes, crystalline and cementitious systems all in high demand. And of course products and systems used in the finishing stages of new build and refurbishment projects are also in demand, explaining the growth in sales of products including sealants and grab adhesives.

Opportunities for adhesives & sealants from renovation projects in India

The Indian construction market offers tremendous growth potential and the Repair Maintenance and Improvement (RMI) sector will follow this trend. Within the domestic market, there is a high proportion of building stock and infrastructure that is now in need of refurbishment.

Having been built at a time when traditional building methods and materials were used in the absence of some of the more advanced technologies available today, there is now scope to repair, restore and improve these structures significantly.

Applications where we are seeing demand significantly increase for refurbishment projects include sealants, adhesives and waterproofing technologies.

Requirements of developed Vs the emerging markets.

In market terms, the relative economic importance of the construction sector is different in both market groups as it correlates with economic drivers including GDP growth and population growth. These, of course, generally differ between developed and emerging markets and in our opinion, construction activity represents approximately 3% of GDP in developed countries, while it is closer to 8% in emerging markets.

From a market requirement perspective, the overwhelming difference is the pace of construction in emerging regions where speed is the absolute priority. While developers must meet all regulations and deliver fully functional and reliable end products, there is also significant pressure to complete and commission these buildings to meet the high level of demand.

Against this backdrop, it is easy to see why speed is a key requirement. As a result, developers and contractors in emerging regions are more open to new building methodologies and adhesive innovations. They favour products which are easy-to-use and fast so we are seeing increased demand for adhesive and sealant products which require less preparation time, no mixing, are fast setting or which remove certain application steps altogether. At the same time, with increased pressure on contractors, we also consider ergonomics in our product and tool design to enable applicators to quickly and safely apply our products.

Bostik’s India plans for growth

India is clearly high on our list of geographic priorities such is the market potential across all sectors, particularly in construction. We have had a physical presence in India since 2001 and have invested significant amounts in our manufacturing facilities and distribution centres in recent years. After our next plant opening, we will employ approximately 230 people there.

Compared with the market potential, it is clear that we have considerable scope to grow. Bostik is recognised as the leader in a number of construction market niches such as one component PU sealants and grab adhesives so we will continue to expand our ranges by transferring the expertise and technologies we have already developed and customising them to meet the unique needs of the Indian market.

Smart innovations by the company.

We seek new opportunities to develop and introduce multi-functional adhesives and sealants. In India, we have been actively introducing advanced construction products, many of which have been developed and manufactured locally.

For example, our latest PU construction sealants are highly regarded in the marketplace with Bostik Seal N Flex 1, a one component PU sealant, now viewed as the only specialist solution for sealing expansion joints of 60 mm and over.

Another recent innovation is the Bostik Seal N Flex 2K two component pourable PU sealant. This has been attracting significant interest and large orders have recently been placed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for road infrastructure projects.

Other innovations recently introduced include proprietary PU stud adhesives Bostik DS 9069 and Bostik DS 9070 for raised floor applications, Bostik Bond PU 1K, a one component PU bonding foam for fixing metal and fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) panels and Bostik Block Adhesive, a block fixing adhesive.

Sustainable and eco-friendly solutions.

In the field of construction, it is important to be able to provide our customers with products which meet the requirements of the main green building certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). We must also provide guarantees with respect to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), solvent-free formulations and low VOC-certified solutions.

Our internal processes have also changed in light of the industry’s focus on sustainability. For example, demand is increasing for construction products which can contribute to the recyclability of materials so this requires the development of adhesives and sealants which meet certain criteria such as Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification. And we now systematically use Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) not only in the development and improvement of products but also to improve manufacturing processes and optimise our supply chain.

Challenges faced by manufacturers.

Within our field of activities, there are numerous challenges, which we strive to anticipate and actively manage.

Availability of raw materials:

From an operations perspective, raw materials availability has been a challenge in recent months for virtually all manufacturers of construction adhesives and sealants. There have been shortages of a number of key raw materials in recent times which we manage through our global network of supply partners.

Regulatory requirements:

Managing the requirements of regulations is another challenge and one where we have invested significant resources to ensure we remain ahead of requirements. For example, in Europe, the REACH regulation has required a lot of planning and we have worked extensively with our suppliers and formulators to ensure we exceed the requirements. The regulatory environment continues to evolve across all regions so is a requirement we monitor very closely.

Adoption of innovation:

On the market side, encouraging the adoption of adhesive and sealant innovations in the construction sector is something we continue to devote significant resources to. It is an extremely traditional and conservative market with long-established working practices, particularly in more mature regions. As a result, all manufacturers share a collective responsibility to educate and convince the market of the merits of adhesives and demonstrate where they can address the shortcomings of mechanical fixings in terms of longevity, sustainability and building aesthetics.  

Anticipating future needs:

We actively engage with distributors and end users within the construction sector to better understand their challenges and pain points – And once we know, we then try to funnel these requirements into our R&D, innovation and business operations so we can effectively serve them.

© Chemical Today Magazine


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