Specialty chemicals have helped shape today’s global construction industry, introducing new levels of structural strength, protection, and energy efficiency to homes, commercial buildings and public infrastructures around the world. The industry faces a number of issues such as feedstock price volatility, changing patterns of regional demand and economic uncertainty, but the benefits and, indeed, the necessity of chemicals used in construction promise strong growth for the sector in the years ahead.
From a green roof to a solid, long-lasting foundation, construction chemicals are a key ingredient in building safer, stronger, and more energy efficient structures.
Often a single type of product provides several benefits to the builder. For example, concrete admixtures can reduce the cost of concrete construction; modify the properties of hardened concrete; ensure the quality of concrete during mixing, transporting, placing, and curing; and slow down the setting process if required during a concrete pour.
Equally important are materials made with construction chemicals that help increase energy efficiency and reduce the overall carbon footprint of a building. Plastic house wrap that creates a weather-resistant barrier saves up to 360 times the energy used to produce it, and urethane foam thermal insulators can save up to 40 times the energy used to create it1.
KPMG recently completed its latest survey of executives representing 109 companies from around the globe. The companies served a range of markets including energy, power, industrial, healthcare/pharmaceutical, manufacturing, mining, education and government.
In general, respondents expected continued growth for the industry, based mainly on increased demand for large, infrastructure development. When asked about current challenges, respondents cited a number of issues the reflect both risks and opportunities for the industry:
Safety: Serious injuries or fatalities on projects are unacceptable, despite the unavoidable risks of construction.
Costs: Estimating anticipated costs prior to committing to a project is increasingly difficult. Projects are so large and moving so fast that the builder has limited time to properly develop cost projections.
Talent scarcity: The lack of available planners and project management professionals is being felt worldwide. Builders also have difficulty in attracting qualified craft labor to projects.
Environmental regulations: Frequent changes in government policies and different interpretations by various states or districts result in confusion and a lack of clarity. However, new safety and regulatory requirements were also cited as a significant driver for growth.
Cyber security: Protecting data, IT systems and communications related to proprietary designs, client information, the power grid and other areas is an increasing concern to both builders and their clients.
Management of mega-projects: Most respondents reported using an integrated project management information system (PMIS) to plan and control capital construction projects. Often, the PMIS was integrated with accounting and procurement software. Despite these systems and other capabilities, the increasing size and complexity of mega projects have led to greater difficulty in transferring or mitigating project and program risks.
With a steady stream of innovative, sustainable, high performing and cost-effective products, construction chemicals production is one of the key growth areas of the global chemical industry. Economic concerns might add uncertainty to long-term forecasts for demand, but one thing is certain — construction chemicals will be essential for building a better world in the 21st century.
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