In the fight against climate change, the construction industry is being called upon - and it must react by developing environmentally friendly,...
In the media and in public discussions, plastics are viewed critically. We all know the images of packaging waste that damages the environment and oceans. There is still a great need for action here for a sustainable circular economy. The situation is quite different in the construction industry, which is considered a pioneer for sustainable development. The construction industry already shows how economic recycling can be realised for many materials. For this reason, plastics have a particularly forward-looking significance in the construction sector: they are considered sustainable, energy-efficient and resource-saving. But what exactly does this look like?
New challenges for the construction industry
In recent years, the construction industry has undergone major changes. The goal is more sustainable, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly building practices. One key to this is building products made from plastics. These materials offer a variety of benefits and in some cases are replacing traditional building materials. Plastics are used in many areas of the construction industry: Facades, insulation, windows, doors, flooring, or pipe installations are just a few examples.
If you are now wondering whether and where you can use plastics or plastic pipes for your building project, we have compiled an informative overview here to help you make your decision.
High durability and low maintenance
Plastics are known for their durability and resistance to environmental influences such as moisture, UV radiation and temperature fluctuations. They are generally low maintenance as they do not corrode, splinter, or rot. This makes them the preferred choice today for construction applications where long life and low maintenance are required.
Excellent energy efficiency
Plastics have excellent insulating properties that make a major contribution to reducing energy consumption in buildings. For example, plastic windows and doors offer very good thermal insulation or a low heat transfer coefficient (U-value), which is usually better than wood or aluminium windows of the same basic depth. Insulating materials made of plastic, such as rigid polystyrene foam (XPS/EPS) and rigid polyurethane foam (PUR/PIR), also offer high thermal insulation performance and contribute to the energy efficiency of buildings.
Recyclability and environmental compatibility
The use of single-grade plastics enables a high recycling rate. This means that plastics can be recycled several times at the end of their life cycle. The need for primary raw materials and the environmental impact are significantly reduced. Many modern plastic building products already contain a high proportion of recycled material, which leads to an improved eco-balance.
Light weight and easy handling
Plastics are lighter compared to traditional building materials, which simplifies transport and handling on construction sites. This minimises construction time and reduces labour costs. In addition, lighter materials can reduce the overall load of buildings, reducing foundation and support structure requirements.
Significant cost efficiency
The use of plastic building products can lead to cost savings throughout the life cycle of a building. Due to their durability, low maintenance requirements and energy efficiency, plastics play a significant role in reducing the operating costs of buildings. In addition, many plastic building products are less expensive than traditional building materials, which reduces construction costs.
Adaptability and speed
Plastics can be easily adapted to specific and individual requirements. They therefore allow a high degree of flexibility in the realisation of building projects. In particular, modular and prefabricated construction elements made of plastics, such as the aquatherm prefabrication for piping systems, contribute to the acceleration of the construction process which reduces efforts and costs on the construction site.
Optimised sound insulation
Another advantage of plastics in construction is their ability to insulate sound. This leads to improved room acoustics and increases living comfort - especially in a residential environment with high outside noise. PVC-U windows and doors, floor coverings and insulating materials increase sound insulation in buildings and reduce disturbing external noise.
Great versatility and design freedom
Plastics can be manufactured in a wide variety of shapes, colours, and textures, offering architects and planners great design freedom. The ability to shape and process plastics individually allows for innovative and creative approaches to construction, such as facade design and interior finishes.
Resistance to chemicals
Plastics such as aquatherm's polypropylene piping systems are resistant to a wide range of chemicals, making them an ideal choice for applications in demanding environments such as industrial plants. These properties allow for longer life and reduce maintenance compared to traditional metal pipe systems, which are more susceptible to corrosion, for example.
Best example of sustainability: plastic pipes
Exemplary for the advantages of plastics in the construction sector are plastic pipes made of polypropylene. They impress with their durability, energy efficiency, corrosion resistance, and ease of installation.
- A piping system made of polypropylene (25 mm, SDR 7.4), for example, has approximately seven times lower CO2 emissions than a comparable steel pipe.
- In contrast to metallic pipe systems, plastic pipes can be recycled without high energy expenditure and can therefore be reused for the next life cycle.
- Compared to metallic pipes, plastic pipes are also significantly lighter, which reduces CO2 emissions during transport and also facilitates handling on the construction site. In addition, plastic pipes reduce the weight of the entire installation.
- Due to their corrosion resistance, plastic pipes are less susceptible to damage and leakage, which reduces maintenance and the associated costs.
- In addition, the smooth inner surface of plastic pipes ensures that no deposits and blockages (incrustation) occur. Incrustation can lead to damage and higher energy consumption with metallic pipes, as the pump pressure in the installation has to be increased, for example.
Innovations for sustainable building: aquatherm
Our company has been dealing with the aspects of sustainability from an early stage and has created solutions. Our pipe systems meet strict national and international certifications, which are, for example, stored in the DGNB Navigator for sustainable building materials. Our pipe systems and coils for heating and cooling have a service life of more than 50 years, which makes their use even more sustainable. We consistently use environmentally friendly polypropylene, which is 100% recyclable. We do not use harmful chemicals or plasticisers in the manufacture of our pipe systems, making our pipes safe for health and the environment.
One of the central goals of the construction industry is to further promote the circular economy. Plastics are particularly well suited to achieving this goal because of their recyclability and adaptability to new technologies and processes. Ongoing research and development of new plastic materials and applications will play a crucial role in the coming years to support the shift towards a more sustainable construction industry. Collaboration between companies and research institutions is also crucial to further expand the benefits of plastics in the construction industry. Finally, the establishment of standards, certifications and regulatory frameworks for environmentally friendly plastics promotes sustainability.
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