Weakened by a down economy, the nearly $14 billion market for polystyrene and polyurethane foam may see its resurrection in the move toward sustainable and green construction products, according to a study from SBI. The study examines the state of the US industry for polyurethane and polystyrene foam construction products and how manufacturers are coping with a rapidly changing market in which consumers increasingly crave offerings that are environmentally friendly, innovative, and durable.
US shipments of all polystyrene foam products were valued at an estimated $7.2 billion in 2007, and grew at a compound annual growth rate of 2.8% between 2002 and 2007. Shipments of all products manufactured with polyurethane foam totaled an estimated $6.4 billion in 2007, a CAGR of 2.4% for the 2002-2007 period. During these years, consumers and professional contractors increasingly purchased foam-based products primarily for insulation to reduce the skyrocketing energy costs for heating. But by mid-2007 as new construction slowed during the start of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the price of oil climbed to record heights, the demand for the plastic foam began to dwindle.
The U.S. plastic foam market is at a critical juncture, where manufacturers must grapple with escalating production costs and reduced demand from end-users coping with construction and remodeling stoppages from the economic slowdown as per the SBI. Several dynamics are in place that will affect the marketing and distribution of plastic foams used for construction, allowing manufacturers to stay afloat as the industry shifts toward 'greener' pastures. Currently, the primary audience for green building materials is architects, designers and spec writers on whom builders rely for materials specifications. This may shift toward home builders and consumers as residential green markets grow.