Having proven their performance capabilities for decades, composites are gaining more traction in construction projects of all types. When it comes to vertical construction – all facets of construction of residential and nonresidential buildings, including sitework – FRP is making a splash in landmark projects around the world.
“I’ve been in this field for a while,” says Samer Aljishi, president of BFG International, a composite design, engineering and manufacturing company. “And I’ve seen major architectural firms really becoming knowledgeable in composites, starting to work in it, to specify it, and this is accelerating.”
However, Aljishi, who is based in the island nation Bahrain, acknowledges that this acceptance moves at varying speeds in different parts of the world. He sees use of FRP growing in Scandinavian countries, and companies in the Middle East continue to specify the material in unique applications. In the United States, he finds, “The knowledge base and the use of composites in architecture is quite weak, and the number of firms serving the market are quite small … . In the Far East and Europe, it’s a nascent market that’s starting to grow.”
Design technology has driven FRP use in large-scale projects. With the growing movement from 2D CAD design tools to digital modeling, and the new possibilities that come through parametric design, architects are increasingly exploring curved building envelopes and uniquely shaped façades on building exteriors. “A lot of these projects can’t really be done cost-effectively or even technically with any other material,” Aljishi says.
These landmark projects, as well as smaller installations ranging from decorative interior wall panels to exterior millwork, have served an important role in proving FRP’s durability. They’ve also helped grow the available science and research body around FRP’s capabilities in vertical construction applications. Now, these time-tested applications are pushing at the last obstacles barring broader use of FRP in a range of vertical construction applications.
FRP Panels Get Competitive
While EDON Composites in Horsham, Pa., has been manufacturing ornamental architectural elements out of FRP since 1963, the company has recently seen greater interest from architects around incorporating fiberglass into panel systems. EDON completed two large façade jobs in the last year and is beginning work on several others.
“You go through peaks and valleys with different changes of building style,” says Matt Axel, president of EDON Composites. “We will always be doing the classical architecture – the cornices and columns and things like that – but, every once in a while, you see a push to a different style.”