Polymer based single ply membranes are gaining market share strongly from bitumen for waterproofing flat roofs, as per a study by Applied Market Information Ltd (AMI Consulting). The report’s editor John Nash says that “Gains in market share for polymeric single ply since the economic downturn have compensated for reduced construction activity. Bitumen producers are now facing such a reduction in demand that they have few options other than to start supplying single ply, even if they don't make it in-house”. Bitumen producers have been hit not only by high oil prices, but also by reduced availability of heavy refinery fractions and sourcing difficulties on bitumen modifiers. Bitumen felts are formulated using butadiene or amorphous polyolefins modifiers. The rise in butadiene prices has been well documented, but less well known is that reduced availability of by-product amorphous PP has meant that the industry has had to switch to on-purpose grades which inevitably are more expensive. Strong technical innovation in polymeric single ply means better durability, improved aesthetics, easier installation and improved bitumen compatibility. One of the key areas in which single ply is making progress is in the repair of old bitumen roofs. Not many years ago this was almost always done with bitumen.
Single ply roofing membranes are made from TPOs (flexible compounds based on speciality polyethylene or polypropylene copolymers), EPDM and PVC. The key requirement is 20-25 year performance despite direct exposure to weathering. These are truly demanding conditions requiring a deep technical commitment by the producers of single ply membranes. Leading suppliers of single ply membranes in Europe include Carlisle, Flag, Firestone, Renolit and Sika. Several of the bitumen producers like Bauder, Danosa, Imper, Icopal, IKO and Soprema have already entered the market either via acquisition or greenfield investment as they seek to reposition their businesses. Others are reviewing their strategies which is likely to drive future M&A activity.