The markets: Construction (2011)

When the U.S. housing "bubble" burst in late, sending shock waves throughout the world economy, composite products design for the residential construction market took a big hit during 2009, but signs point to recovery in 2010.

Composite materials continue to play an increasingly significant role in building construction, primarily in residential applications. Unfortunately, the U.S. housing market bubble burst in 2008, triggering an epidemic of foreclosures. Although the housing market began a slow recovery in 2010, thanks in part to a federal tax credit for first-time buyers, market research firm Principia Partners (Exton, Pa.) reports that reduced demand combined with higher resin prices has severely impacted wood plastic composites (WPCs) manufacturers, and has led to the exit of several companies from the market in the last two years. Nevertheless, composites still figure in the inherently less cyclical home remodeling and repair market. According to The Freedonia Group LLC’s (Cleveland, Ohio), Wood-Plastic Composite & Plastic Lumber to 2013 report (issued in July 2009), demand for wood-filled thermoplastic composite lumber, especially in deck board and railing, molding and trim, fencing, and door and window components, will grow 9.2 percent annually through 2013.

In Milan, Italy, the Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel & Conference Centre makes particularly innovative use of composites in its pultruded composite exterior roof and façade, which features sheet and profile components with dimensional stability in thermal conditions that can vary as much as 70°C/126°F. The curved pultrusions are made with Advantex fiberglass reinforcements from 3B - The Fibreglass Co. (Battice, Belgium). Progettazione Costruzione Ricerca (Milan, Italy) pultruded the panels, using 9600 tex (9600 g/km linear density) direct roving for tensile strength with continuous strand mat for off-axis strength and impact-resistance. (See "Hotel wrap" link at right for full story.)

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