Building & Construction
In 2010, the Building and Construction sector consumed 9.54 million tonnes of plastics (21% of total European plastics consumption), making it the second largest plastic application after packaging. Plastic pipes, for instance, command the majority of all new pipe installations, with well over 50% of the annual tonnage. And this share is still growing.
Although plastics are not always visible in buildings, the building and construction industry uses them for a wide and growing range of applications including insulation, piping, window frames and interior design. This growth is mainly due to plastics' unique features, which include:
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Durability and resistance to corrosion
Plastics are durable, making them ideal for applications such as window frames and pipes. Furthermore, their anti-corrosion properties provide them with an impressive life span which can reach over 100 years for plastic pipes and 50 years for underground and exterior cables.
Plastics provide effective insulation from cold and heat, prevent leakages and allow households to save energy while also reducing noise pollution.
Plastics components often cost less than traditional materials to produce and install, even in custom-made forms.
Minimum operation and maintenance
With plastics, maintenance is minimised and often dispensable. Plastics are easy to install, operate and maintain thanks to their lightweight and, in the case of plastic pipes, their flexibility allows them to cope with soil movements.
Plastic pipes are ideal for water transportation. Plastics also stand as a hygienic choice for household surfaces and floor coverings as they are easy to clean and impermeable.
Plastics save resources through cost-effective production, ease of installation and long life span. In a typical house, it is estimated that the amount of energy used to produce plastics insulation products is saved after only one year using them! Moreover, these plastics can be re-used, recycled or turned into energy.
Over the past decades, plastics have inspired architects to design buildings with innovative shapes, features and dimensions. Moreover, their characteristics are constantly improved, thus contributing to reducing the cost and increasing the efficency of buildings.
Historically, many plastic products in B&C have been assessed according to their reaction and resistance to fire. Smoke detectors, alarms and automated fire fighting systems are moslty made of plastics and the success of PVC, the leading polymer in the sector, is largely due to its intrinsic fire safety characteristics. Furthermore, the development of the Fire Safety Engineering approach – which assesses the fire behaviour of a product in different scenarios in a defined environment – is expected to be introduced in regulations allowing the further use of plastics while maintaining or even improving fire safety.
Read PlasticsEurope view paper on Fire Safety in Buildings (PDF file: September 2015)
Plastics - Architects of modern and sustainable buildings
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