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Foam Market to Spring Forward

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

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“Particularly robust growth” in U.S. construction will bring “significant opportunities” for foam insulation and other products made from plastic foams in the years ahead, a new market forecast reports.

U.S. demand for plastic foams will reach 8.6 billion pounds in 2017—"a healthy recovery" from the declines seen during the recession-edged 2007 to 2012 period, reports Plastic Foams, a new study from The Freedonia Group Inc., the Cleveland-based research firm.

Polyurethane Bounce

Polyurethane represents the leading resin in the plastic foams market.

Foam core structural insulated panels
DOE / Courtesy of Michael Baechler

The report calls rigid polyurethane products, such as foam-core structural insulated panels, "one of the best materials available" for sealing and insulating.

While flexible polyurethane foam will remain the dominant product type, Freedonia foresees "strong gains" in rigid polyurethane foam "propelled by a healthy rebound in construction activity and by changes in building codes and construction practices that call for structures to use energy more efficiently."

Freedonia calls rigid polyurethane "one of the best materials available for roof and wall insulation, insulated windows and doors, and air barrier sealants."

"Code changes that call for houses to be better sealed to prevent air leaks will boost the use of foamed plastics—in spite of their higher costs than fiberglass insulation—as they are well suited for sealing hard-to-reach areas, such as crawlspaces and between walls."

However, the report adds, fiberglass and polystyrene foam wil continue to give polyurethane a run for its money.

Foam Home

Increased new-housing activity, coupled with higher consumer spending, will also "bode well" for flexible foams used in a wide variety of household products, including bedding, mattresses, furniture, and appliances, the report says.

Spray foam insulation
DOE / Courtesy of FSEC/IBACOS

Foam-in-place plastic insulation will be in increasing demand as the housing market heats up and energy codes tighten, according to The Freedonia Group Inc.

Meanwhile, growing safety and comfort demands will increase the use of various foams use in motor vehicles, according to Freedonia.

Packaging will remain the leading outlet for plastic foams through 2017, accounting for more than 30 percent of total volume, despite ongoing environmental concerns about disposal of polystyrene foam products.

Demand "will continue to be supported by the cost and performance advantages of plastic foams over alternative materials, and by opportunities for foam used to protect delicate items," the report says.

Freedonia insulation chart
The Freedonia Group

Plastic foams are used in a wide range of industries.

Meanwhile, interest in biodegradable packaging foams is expected to grow, and disposable foam products will likely face increasing competition from paper-based materials.

Expanded polystyrene foam is expected to outpace its extruded counterpart through 2017, driven mainly by its use in insulation, insulated shipping containers and molded foam protective packaging.

   

Tagged categories: Energy codes; Energy efficiency; Insulation; Market forecasts; Polyurethane; Residential Construction; Spray foam; Spray polyurethane foam

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