The construction industry is the biggest user of composite materials, and the potential for further growth is substantial. In a presentation at the ACMA's Composites 2010 show last week, Norman Timmins, Director of Consulting at Lucintel, outlined the opportunities.

Construction is the biggest industry in the world and is expected to be worth US$7.6 trillion in 2009. It is the largest segment for all composites applications but the penetration of composites into the sector is still below 1%.

Current applications include: bath tubs/showers, windows and doors, prefabricated housing (for use in the wake of natural disasters), swimming pools, cooling towers, architectural components, panels, rebar, utility poles, bridge decks, and grating.

Emerging applications for composites will include:

  • rescue chambers (to protect occupants from floods, toxic air etc);
  • scaffolding;
  • grid-form FRP panels (eg. Strongwell's GRIDFORM);
  • sheet pile systems for waterfronts;
  • railroad bridges; and
  • FRP mats and pads (temporary roads, helicopter pads etc).

The emerging economies of Asia (particularly China and India) and the rest of world (ROW) are expected to provide opportunities for both construction, and composites in construction, over the next 5 years. Drivers include:

  • investment in residential and commercial construction to cater for large populations; and
  • penetration of composites is currently significantly lower than the global average.

The construction market is expected to recover in 2011 and Timmins predicts that composites consumption in the global construction market will reach 4614 million lbs in 2015, with a 7% CAGR during 2010-2015. Composite applications such as windows, doors, rebar and utility poles will grow at over 8.5% CAGR in the next 5 years.