BY CLAY BOSWELL
THE MARKET for building and construction (B&C) chemicals is miserly and conservative, but closer communication with designers and builders and a strong trend toward green building provide an opening to innovation.
That's one of the messages I took away from a conference this month, "B&C 2020 - Capitalizing on the Next Generation of Building and Construction." The two-day meeting, held by the US-based Chemical Development and Marketing Association (CDMA), gathered speakers from chemical companies, architecture firms, building consultancies and government to discuss emerging materials requirements.
Innovation has a tough time in B&C. R&D investment is minimal and largely provided by the government or chemical companies. The industry is highly fragmented, its supply chains are poorly understood, productivity is static, and a minimum-first-cost mindset prevails.
As several speakers showed, however, there are so many ways for buildings to go wrong, it's a wonder any go right - and each problem presents a potential market.
One area of high need is green building. In 2005, only 2% of nonresidential construction starts were green; by 2008, that had risen to 10-12%, said Tony Torres, vice president at Syntheon, a subsidiary of Canada's NOVA Chemicals, adding: "Green building is here, and it won't go away."