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Trends Shaping The Building Materials Industry Outlook In 2021

2021 Building Material Trends

COVID-19 impact on building material supply chains

30% of building materials are produced in China and stone and glass are produced in Italy. Both countries were hard hit in the first quarter. Throughout the pandemic, construction companies have reported shortages and home buying has declined around the world.

Consumers have become less brand loyal and more focused on procuring building materials. Additionally, specific types of materials such as plexiglass and window clings have experienced large increases in demand due to social distancing guidelines.

CO2 emission cuts in the cement industry

Cement production contributes to 7%-8% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, highlighting the industry’s large carbon footprint. Much of this industry’s footprint results from its high fuel requirements, although companies have begun to implement limiting measures. There will be pressure on the cement industry to reduce its emissions especially since it is projected to increase significantly over the next three decades.

The push to curb emissions in the cement industry is strongest in the EU where almost all companies have set emission reduction targets for 2030. The cement industry aims to cut emissions by increasing the use of alternative raw materials and fuels in the cement production process.

U.S. housing prices remain flat

Demand for housing in the U.S. market will stay flat and entry-level homes will affect profits and margins. Additionally, the housing cycle may peak leading to less growth from new homes. This will lead to fewer materials used per home and fewer premium products installed.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to reduced construction and purchases of new homes. Despite decreased demand, housing prices did not budge amid the pandemic. Millennials have shifted away from buying premium building products towards mid-priced choices.

Commercial and infrastructure construction remains healthy

States have increased spending on transportation infrastructure and commercial construction has remained strong especially in the building of large distribution centers.

State investment in roads and bridges has been good for aggregates, cement, and other heavy material building materials. There is high confidence that this trend will continue in 2021 since a lot of this spending comes from specific sources such as bonds, licenses fees, and tools, and not from general tax revenue.

The impact of tariffs

Most companies in the building materials industry have adjusted to the effects of tariffs on prices and commodity costs in the past year. However, new or increased tariffs in 2021 combined with decreased demand would be harder for the industry to combat. In 2019, companies were able to compensate for costs increases with higher sales.

Another round of tariffs in 2021 could raise prices for building materials to the point where demand is negatively affected. However, if no new tariffs are installed profit margins could expand as companies adjust to price increases.

Acquisition activity in the construction industry mostly slows

Buyers and investors have walked out of acquisition deals and acquisition activity is expected to remain low for the remainder of 2021. Private equity acquisition activity has slowed (with the exceptions of roofing and distribution) as companies are looking to get their balance sheets. Increased uncertainty because of the pandemic will result in subdued acquisition activity and more internal investments.

Increased focus on outdoor spaces

Another impact of the pandemic is a substantial increase in DIY outdoor renovation and construction projects. It has led to skyrocketing demand for building materials related to the construction of outdoor spaces.

Consumers are seeking to build outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and patios as they spend more time outside working and relaxing. Building material producers should take advantage of this opportunity and increase marketing for materials involved in outdoor projects.

Comfort over brand

More home buyers and renovators are looking for more quiet spaces and less flashy designs. Lighting and building materials are being employed to create minimalistic spaces in the house as opposed to a few years ago when logos were meant to be visible.

For example, wool bricks that can be produced with less environmental impact and are more resistant to cold climates are becoming more popular as a sustainable alternative. People are less concerned with the brand and more concerned with minimalistic function.

Increased use of PET in cement and paving

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the most recycled polymer found in bottles, recording tapes, and electrical components and makes up 18% of total polymers produced worldwide. PET produces much lower rates of carbon dioxide emissions than other polymer foams. It is also made of 100% recycled material.

PET foam panels perform well in thermoformability, temperature resistance, and fatigue resistance. PET can be used in concrete to improve strength and durability. It can also help improve the stability of road pavement.

Mass timber gains popularity in the U.S.

Mass timber has several forms including glue-laminated beams, dowel-laminated timber, and nail-laminated timber. The most common form is cross-laminated timber (CLT), and it can be used to make walls, ceilings, floors, and even buildings. The world’s largest mass timber structure is 18 stories and 280 feet and a larger 80 story wooden tower proposed for Chicago.

Mass timber performs well in the fire, reduces carbon emissions, and results in faster construction times with lower labor costs. If mass timber construction is coupled with sustainable forestry it could significantly environmental impacts. In 2021, the first CLT manufacturing facility opened in Spokane, Washington.

10 Statistics to Know

1. Cement Production could rise by as much as 23% by 2050 as the global population grows

The global population is expected to grow significantly and become more urbanized. This increased demand for cement is weighed against the need to cut carbon dioxide emissions. To meet this demand in industry growth while meeting environmental responsibilities, companies are investing in alternative fuels in the production process and large-scale concrete recycling. More industry research into CO2 capturing technology may help meet this demand while demonstrating sustainability.

2. The green building materials market is expected to reach $1 trillion in 2021

Eco-conscious construction trends and the increase in non-residential green buildings in the U.S. is driving the explosion in demand for green building materials. Non-residential buildings compose 40-48% of green buildings in the U.S. up from 1.4% in 2005. This green construction trend is responsible for over 3.3 million jobs created in 2018.

3. 9 billion traditional bricks are manufactured each year

Consumers are looking for more sustainable alternatives to bricks that create greenhouse gases and airborne toxins in the production process. Recently developed wool bricks are 37% stronger than traditional bricks and dry hard. This reduces the gases produced by firing and the energy needed to fire them.

4. Compared to reinforced concrete buildings, CLT buildings represent a 26.5% reduction in global warming potential

Cement and concrete manufacturing is responsible for 8% of GHG emissions and the global steel and iron industry is responsible for 5% of GHG emissions. All these emissions can be avoided with the substitution of CLT mass timber. It will eliminate the need to use fossil fuels used to make steel and concrete structures.

5. Announced Mergers and Acquisitions plunged 83% in deal value compared with last year

Because of COVID-19, acquisitions activity faced a steep decline, $106 billion this past quarter compared to $622 billion for the same period in 2019. Due to the U.S. failure to contain the pandemic, confidence levels are likely to stay low for the rest of the year.

6. Although home sales in April fell by 18%, home prices rose 7.4% compared to last year

Although housing demand declined as people lost their jobs and faced economic insecurity, home prices remained largely unchanged. This is because potential home sellers also pulled out of the market and the drop in demand has been met with a proportional decrease in supply. However, in the long run, economists predict that housing prices will drop 2 to 3%.

7. PET core material produces 34% lower carbon dioxide emissions compared with traditional PET foams

Polyethylene Terephthalate foam cores have a higher temperature resistance, are suitable for thermoforming, and are compatible with various production processes. They are made of 100% post-consumer recycled material and can be recycled after usage. In the next few years, the usage of PET in the composite industry can be expected to increase.

8. Total input costs for overall construction increased by 4.9% from November 2017 to November 2018

This increase in input costs is attributable to the tariffs placed on steel and aluminum imports. Structural metal for nonindustrial buildings increased 13.1% and aluminum mill shapes increased 5.9%. If the U.S. increases or implements new tariffs, it could have a detrimental effect on the building materials industry when combined with decreased demand.

9. The self-healing concrete market will reach $1.37 billion by 2025

Self-healing concretes are made with the help of bacteria that can survive in concrete for hundreds of years and produce limestone that can fill up and repair cracks. This reduces the chance of corrosion, improving the life of concrete structures. Although product costs are slowing the growth of self-healing concrete in the U.S. market prices are expected to decline over the next few years.

10. The value of the electrochromic smart glass market is expected to reach 3.75 billion by 2026

Switchable smart glass is a popular new building material that is being utilized in residential properties, offices, hospitals, and airports. It is durable, provides UV protection, and can help save up to 30% on energy costs. It allows users to adjust the amount of light and heat that enters the building and can rapidly turn to opaque to provide privacy.