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Published: December 2010
In this report, construction chemicals are defined as chemical compounds that are added as such or in formulations to or on construction materials at the construction site in order to improve workability, enhance performance, add functionality or protect the construction material or the finished structure made out of it. They undergo chemical reactions (e.g., cross-linking) or physical changes (e.g., solidification from melt) during their application. The following groups of chemicals are discussed:
- Concrete admixtures
- Asphalt additives
- Adhesives and sealants
- Protective coatings
Worldwide, the construction industry contributes about 9% to the global GDP, and is one of the most important elements of every economy. Demands on buildings, roads, bridges, tunnels and dams could not be met without construction chemicals. The strength of concrete has risen dramatically as a result of the development of construction chemicals. The diameter of a pillar needed to carry 100 tons was reduced from 100 cm to 10 cm between 1920 and 2004. The cross section of such a pillar is one-hundredth of what was needed in 1920. High-rise buildings must provide maximum space on minimum ground.
The global construction chemical industry is valued in the tens of billions of dollars. China and Western Europe are the two largest markets, together accounting for 48% of the total market. Japan and North America come next and together have a combined market share of about 25%.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of construction chemicals:
In the 2007–2009 period, there were a few noteworthy changes in the geographical split of the market. China became the largest market, while North America fell back as a consequence of the crisis in the housing market. Additionally, North America has lost significant market share on a value basis because of the declining value of the dollar. The rest of the world gained share, as it contains thriving economies like the Arabian countries, Brazil and India.
The industry is shaped by a few global players—BASF Construction Chemical, SIKA, MAPEI, W. R. Grace and RPM International—who lead in sales and technology. Many small and midsized companies operate successfully on a regional basis.
The raw materials needed for the production of construction chemicals are manufactured by the large chemical producers. Polymers are the most important group of raw materials and are found in virtually every construction chemical formulation, ranging from adhesives to waterproofing treatments. The development of new construction chemicals in many cases requires interaction of the chemical producer, construction chemical manufacturer and end user. The construction chemical industry spends about 3% of its sales on research and development of new products and applications.
Construction chemicals will certainly gain importance in the future. While in some regions (Asia, South America, Central and Eastern Europe), the construction of new buildings will predominate, the focus will shift to renovation in the older economies such as Europe and to a lesser extent in North America. This will directly influence the usage patterns—concrete admixtures are predominantly used for new buildings while more adhesives and sealants are consumed during renovation.
China is and will remain the single-largest market for construction chemicals during 2009–2014, and because of its high expected growth rate of 11–13%, will increase the gap between it and the second-largest market, Western Europe. The European Union's market value has greatly profited from the declining U.S. dollar value and appears much larger than it should when purchasing power parity is used as a basis. The booming economy in China led to China's overtaking North America as the leading market. A purchasing power parity comparison between China and the rest of the world would widen the gap further in favor of China. High growth rates are also expected in countries that profit from the high prices of their natural resources—the OPEC countries, Russia, Brazil and Australia. Overall, the importance of the markets in the developed regions of North America, Western Europe and Japan will shrink.