Making it Hydrophobic

WaterproofingAn insidious material, water has always been the bane of all construction materials, most of which will be destroyed by it given enough time. Now, as construction materials become more sophisticated, there are concomitant advances in waterproofing systems and methods, there is a shift from passive waterproofing to active waterproofing. And nanotechnology has opened up seminal possibilities of engineering hydrophobic construction materials and aggregates.

The demand for waterproofing systems and chemicals in India will likely increase by leaps and bounds in the near future. In keeping with the overall buoyant trend in the construction sector, this segment is poised to see robust demand. India's demand for housing is projected at 11 crore houses by 2022 according to KPMG. There is a huge wave of urban renovation and redevelopment projects in the housing and urban infra segments. Add to this the trillion dollar Budget to modernize India's infrastructure which will generate EPC projects in infra verticals like transport and power, and it all adds up to huge demand for waterproofing of all kinds of structures. According to 'India Construction Chemicals Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018,' the Indian construction chemicals market is forecasted to witness exponential growth, especially in its admixtures segment in the next five years. The market revenue for the Indian construction chemicals market is expected to reach up to US $ 1.13 billion by the end of 2018. In 2012, the admixtures and waterproofing systems constituted over 60 per cent of the overall construction chemicals market in India. Major players include Pidilite Industries, BASF, Sika, McBauchemie, Fosroc, Chembond, Dow Corning, Chryso, Choksey Chemicals, Perma Construction Aids, Polygel India, Buildcore Chemicals, Bostik India, Nile Waterproofing Material Co, etc. The overall market is fairly consolidated but there is considerable fragmentation of individual products and application areas. There are a large number of global players operating in India. The top 7 players account for 50 per cent of the market; next 20 players 25 per cent and the remaining 25 per cent comprises of small and unorganized players. In the past there has been a considerable change in the market share of companies due to which medium-sized and regional manufacturers have gained considerable share of market. There are many other regional and smaller players as well. Approximately 300 companies are estimated to be operating in this segment.

Currently the Indian market is clocking a strong growth rate of 17 per cent per annum, where in the waterproofing segment has been clocking a CAGR of 9.2 per cent, which is projected to increase in the near future. FICCI predicts that the market size for construction chemicals has the potential to grow to Rs 5,000 crore over the next few years if the industry promotes itself professionally and increases the level of awareness in the construction industry. As per a knowledge paper by Tata Strategic Management Group, commissioned by FICCI, waterproofing chemicals is a major segment accounting for a 14 per cent share within the overall market for construction chemicals in India. The Indian construction chemical market has over 80 per cent business in new builds, which will increase demand for waterproofing in a major way. The size of this segment was estimated at Rs 500 crore in 2014.

Tech trends

Waterproofing is among the most critical parameters considered in the construction of building and structures to prevent leakages, dampness, cracks, etc, so as to make the structure more durable. For waterproofing latest advanced technologies are being developed worldwide. Most waterproofing products can be classified in two categories; additives and admixtures which are premixed in the concrete at the mixing stage, they impart waterproofing properties to the building materials. The second types are basically repair products meant to be used in the post construction stage, mostly for maintenance to stop leakage and seepage in a building on an ongoing basis. These also include 'do it yourself' kits which fall in the B2C category and are meant to be used by the direct consumer, which are mostly the resident population.

Traditionally passive waterproofing membranes have been used for waterproofing, but since recently increasing popularity of shotcrete in the construction of below-grade foundations and subsequent water ingress failures have produced new developments and commercialization of active waterproofing membranes which introduce measures of redundancy by combining materials to create hybrid membrane products. These products are best suited for below-grade water-proofing membranes with applications in below grade building foundations, especially those in humid, wet, and highly corrosive environments. They combine active polymer barrier technology with conventional passive-bonded product technology in an effort to counter failure trends. By incorporating multiple barrier materials in a single waterproofing membrane, the new active polymer hybrid membranes compensate for the shortcomings of traditional materials in relation to workmanship and dependence on perfect installation to prevent failure. By recognizing modes of failure in traditional membranes, new active products are being engineered to prevent failure by combining different material layers that increase the failure modes that must occur at a specific location for water ingress to occur. The common trend among all emerging active waterproofing systems is a recognized need to adapt to current construction techniques and perform at a higher level to prevent water ingress. Active polymer waterproofing can withstand high hydrostatic conditions and work in both intermittent and continuous groundwater conditions. Most conventional passive products rely on an adhered physical material barrier resistance to water. Passive technologies are usually reliant on chemicals in terms of adhesion or inherently water resistant technologies such as bituminous and thermoplastics. Active polymer waterproofing is not only a physical material barrier resistant to water but can also self-heal, self-seal with water; thus using the problem, water ingress, as part of the solution to provide a dry structure.


Nano trends

However the biggest breakthrough in waterproofing technology will come from nano technology. Waterproofing of building materials has been a problem since humans began constructing dwellings, building last 1000 years. The waterproofing problem was never addressed completely due to lack of understanding at nano level of the building material. Latest developments in nano technology has produced eco-friendly Organo-Silicon products to waterproof almost all kinds of building materials. Nanotech has also expanded building life cycles beyond 20 to 30 years at very economical costs. Building materials are known to have water seepage, water leakages due to inherent porosity and micro cracks. Lots of technology and product development has taken place in various waterproofing products for the last 50 years, particularly using polymeric backbone and variety of other materials. Another serious issue waterproofing addresses is to prevent loss of structural strength of concrete building materials, particularly due to ASR (alkali silica reaction), acid rain, and sulphate attacked. It also prevents chloride penetration which can result in corrosion of the reinforced steel bars.

Construction materials are very porous and have surface hydroxyl groups which attract water because of their hydrophilic nature and similarity with the structure of water. The size of a water molecule is 0.18 nm (i.e. 0.00018 microns). The size of the pores in most building materials, range from 5 to 200 nm. The size of most of the pollutants like acids, chlorides and sulphates would range between 1 to 2 nm.

A good example of nanotech in waterproofing is of Iranian researchers having developed a waterproofing material using a green and eco-friendly catalyst. The coating consists of an organo-silicon polymer at nano metric dimensions. The researchers waterproofed building materials efficiently by using green and noncorrosive heteropoly acid as a catalyst. They used a specific type of organosilicon polymer at nanometric dimensions in this research as the waterproof coating, and they calculated the optimized conditions of the process by designing an experiment through the sol-gel method. In addition to avoiding water and decreasing the pollution to its minimum level, the building coatings produced in this research strengthen the building façade against UV, and they can be used in the interior and exterior parts of the building due to their invisibility. Various materials can be protected against water by using the results of the research including concrete, cement, cement blocks, roof cement plates, mortar, mosaic, various types of natural and artificial stones, soil, slurry, brick, tile, and clay stuff. It is also an effective step towards the protection and conservation of the newly built buildings.

Disseminating challenges

Right now the biggest challenge for waterproofing is spreading awareness of its benefits and virtues among the construction fraternity. Awareness of importance of waterproofing is abysmally low in the construction sector. However, the Construction Chemicals Manufacturers Association (CCMA), is actively involved is spreading awareness through regular seminars held across various regions within the country. Another notable initiative is Pidilite’s Dr. Fixit Institute of Structural Protection and Rehabilitation (DFI-SPR). As India's construction is now modernizing by using latest construction methods, there's a growing awareness of how waterproofing will bring cost savings in the long run and more builders are adopting modern waterproofing methods. This will act as an enabler for higher demand for waterproofing products. Builders and architects need to be educated in order to use the correct waterproofing systems for their projects. Lack of awareness on quality of waterproofing materials is the major challenge.

Ultimately as Indian construction adopts modern construction materials and methods, waterproofing is emerging a key area which needs to keep up technologically with the rest of construction activities. And it is doing that well enough, in fact one of the most successful water proofing brand in the world is Pidilite's Dr Fixit, which has won several awards for its cutting edge technology. With major global players present here, the Indian waterproofing market is going to be a very price sensitive market demanding quality products, but what matters most is that the market is turning very lucrative.