Plastics in Building & Construction
Materials With Muscle
The building and construction industry is the nation’s second largest consumer of plastics. Only packaging creates more demand for plastic materials today. In the construction of all types of buildings – for pipes, valves and fittings, heavy-duty uses and decorative touches, inside and outside – plastics are building a reputation for durability, aesthetics, easy handling and high performance.
Hard at Work
In building construction, plastics abound in plumbing fixtures, siding, flooring, insulation, panels, doors, windows, glazing, bathroom units, gratings, railings and a growing list of both structural and interior or decorative uses. For pipes, valves and fittings, plastics offer superior corrosion resistance and are lighter, easier to install, and more cost effective than their alternatives. Impervious to chemicals and sulfur-bearing compounds, plastic piping safely transports everything from fresh water to salt water, and from crude oil to laboratory waste. These qualities also have combined with plastics’ high strength-to-weight ratio to produce materials for bridge construction, including tough reinforcement rods, nonskid surfacing and quickly installed replacement decking. For commercial buildings that contain sensitive electronic equipment, plastics can provide highly protective housing that does not interfere with radio frequency or magnetic waves. From the home to the workplace – and maybe even on a bridge in between – plastics are on the job.
Making Themselves at Home
Changing demographics and the high cost of housing have created new Images of home for many Americans. These new Images, in turn, have created new trends, and these new trends have created new and additional uses of plastics in residential construction. Many households today consist of single working people, small families and couples without children – people who often don’t need or can’t afford a large home. As a result, the current trend is toward smaller, less costly multifamily dwellings, such as townhouses and condominiums. While many of these buyers and renters are willing to do without the greater square footage of a traditional single-family home, they still expect comfort and convenience. This means better use of space, clever combining of rooms and features and reliance on plastics to give design flexibility at reduced costs. From the functionality of built-in shelving to the luxury of cultured marble surfaces, plastics can provide the materials.
Trend forecasters also predict that families who do purchase single-family homes increasingly will opt for existing older homes, which they will refurbish to suit their needs. Here, too, plastics will play a major role, with replacement and improvement materials offering both functional and decorative benefits.
As families grow, homes age and tastes change, remodeling will be initiated. As this happens, contractors and do-it-yourselfers increasingly will turn to light, strong, easily handled plastics to make improvements and repairs, from ceiling tiles to advanced wiring and from modern bathroom fixtures to improved installation.
In building additions as well as new construction, plastic materials will continue to add speed, save energy and reduce costs. With plastics, for example, bathroom fixtures such as tubs, showers and sinks can be constructed in one piece – walls, pipes and all – and then hoisted into place and attached to the building frame, producing significant savings in construction and installation costs.
In restoration of older homes, plastics can provide the best of both worlds: the duplication of yesterday’s beauty using today’s superior materials. Architectural touches such as decorative wall, door and window moldings can be achieved that mimic marble or hand carvings but offer the ease of care and damage resistance only plastics can provide.
Plastics are expected to proliferate in all homes – large and small, new and renewed – for easily installed ceiling materials with excellent acoustic, thermal and fire-resistance qualities, lower-cost window frames that stand tough against the elements but need little maintenance and durable entry doors that offer superior insulation and unique beauty. From foundations to roofing and virtually everywhere in between, plastics increasingly will answer the call for building materials that hold up and stand out.
Plastics in Building and Construction
They Make a Difference.