Perspectives

The future of chemicals and advanced materials in construction

Construction chemicals breaking away from the past

The concrete admixtures, adhesives, sealants, coatings, insulation materials, and polymer composites we call chemicals and advanced materials (CAMs) are driving the petrochemical revolution in construction. They extend the natural life of structures, with added integrity and enhanced protections, while reducing material waste.

Growing construction industry includes CAMs

Between 2017 and 2035, some $69 trillion worth of infrastructure investment could be needed, a majority of which (~60 percent) will likely happen in emerging economies.

Yet, construction chemicals and advanced materials in construction account for only a tiny fraction of the overall construction industry today. For example, CAMs directly accounted for only 1.1 percent of the $829 billion US construction industry (nine billion dollars) in 2016.

Despite their small contribution, the role played by construction CAMs in reducing overall systems costs while maintaining the same or increased performance is considered very significant. 

Future projections and coming change

According to various research reports, the global construction chemicals market is expected to grow from $57 billion in 2016 to $87 billion by 2023, clocking a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than six percent (likely from the Asia-Pacific region).

This future growth is being shaped by four building and construction trends:

  1. Technology and integration advancements
  2. Sustainability and the circular economy
  3. Trends in project completion timelines and overall costs, and
  4. Skilled labor shortages

These trends are driving change and providing the incentives for CAMs companies to grab their share of the growing construction chemicals market.

Balls-construction

Strategic positioning for advanced materials in construction

CAMs companies need to adopt newer ways of doing business to successfully ride this wave.These new approaches include:

  • Embracing innovative technologies
  • Focusing more on collaborating with customers and creating agile, restructured product portfolios
  • Adopting a solutions-oriented approach by packaging their products and services together, covering a broader repertoire, and potentially acquiring companies that might fill the ‘services’ gap
  • Collaborating with customers that can help them understand their requirements at a deeper level (think sustainability, overall systems cost reduction, and reduced project delivery time)
  • Enhancing their existing product portfolios through innovation and restructuring (with an eye for venture capital (VC) funding) 
  • Differentiating via digital technologies that enhance construction efficiency and mitigate talent shortage issues
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How should construction CAMs companies respond?

From a high-level perspective, CAMs companies need to adopt solutions-oriented approaches, develop sustainable solutions, embrace the digital paradigm, and enhance existing product portfolios through innovation and restructuring.

Remember, CAMs are not new. Egyptian pyramids were made of limestone-based mortars and mud bricks with straws which acted as reinforcement and added strength to the building material. These days the diversity of construction CAMs has expanded by leaps and bounds since the making of the pyramids. But technology continues to evolve, and the industry demands new ideas and agile production to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding market.

Learn more about the latest developments on advanced materials in construction by downloading our latest report.

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