Polycarbonates are a group of polymers typically formed by heat and contain certain carbonate groups within their chemical structures. They are high-performing thermoplastics with qualities that make them useful in building and construction applications. Below, we will look at their various applications in the building and construction industry and explore why they have become such a popular material in this industry.
They Are an Excellent Glass Replacement
Glass has remained a very popular material, especially for use in doors and windows. It can also be used in larger applications such as skylight applications, but it has some disadvantages that polycarbonate sheets can solve.
First, polycarbonate does not shatter in the same way glass does. Glass can be incredibly dangerous in situations where it shatters, and shards come flying at you at several kilometres per hour. While not typical, this has happened in storms where winds reach speeds of tens of kilometres per hour. Polycarbonate sheets do not shatter like this, making them a much safer alternative in these situations.
A polycarbonate sheet also allows light to enter a building just like glass does, but it can reduce the internal temperature of a building. They can be tinted or made with various UV and heat-resistant materials embedded in them to keep UV radiation at a minimum. In addition to internal comfort, this effect can also lead to reduced energy bills.
Depending on the construction project, there may be various security options that need to be installed. These include hurricane shelters, guard booths, bank teller shields and other security glazing.
Polycarbonate has very high impact strength which makes it perfect for applications where the material or sheet will experience impact. Polycarbonate is so strong that it has been used in bullet and blast-security glazing which means you can be comfortable using it in your own security applications.
Because it is as clear as glass, it also provides a clear advantage over metal and wire glass screens that would otherwise be used in these applications.
Use in Roofing
Perhaps the most prominent use of this material is in the creation of polycarbonate roofing sheets. These roofing sheets take advantage of the various properties of polycarbonates. First, the ability to withstand extreme forces and being unbreakable means a polycarbonate sheet roof can withstand extreme weather events including hail and falling debris.
Second, its ability to block UV light while also letting in visible light makes a polycarbonate sheet perfect for sunroom roofing and awnings. Lastly, polycarbonate roofing sheets can withstand extreme temperatures, including freezing and boiling. They can do this without discolouring cradling or chalking like you would see with certain plastics and fibreglass. The benefits of polycarbonate roofing sheets are varied depending on the application, but they make this a versatile and go-to material for both architects and construction companies.
Use in Multiwall Sheets
Multiwall sheets are another popular polycarbonate option that is great to work with due to their flexibility They also have high heat reflection. While these sheets can withstand extreme weather just as their roofing counterparts can, they are typically used in interior applications.
The main reason is because they are flame resistant. This property makes them a good option for building designers looking for lightweight materials that will not pose a problem if, unfortunately, a fire starts inside a building.
The other lightweight material that could be used for this is PVC or other types of plastic but these options are flammable and would cause more issues than they try to solve in case of an emergency.
Another reason why multiwall polycarbonates are great for interior applications is that they are self-extinguishing. Plastics are flammable and will continue to burn but only as long as there is enough material to keep the fire going. While glass does not catch fire in the same way, it can cause other materials to catch fire.
Being self-extinguishing means polycarbonate will not burn without the addition of extra fuel or fire. This makes these polycarbonate materials almost impossible to burn, making them a much safer alternative to other materials.
Use in Commercial and Sports Applications
Another very common use of polycarbonate, especially polycarbonate panels, is in commercial buildings and sports stadiums. The use of polycarbonate in these situations is to let light in, protect shoppers and fans from extreme weather and keeps power consumption low.
If a stadium or mall had an opaque roof, it would have to provide lighting for its fans and shoppers which would be very expensive, with the cost going up as the size of the structure increases.
Why is Polycarbonate Used So Extensively?
Polycarbonate is used in lots of places as a replacement for glass or fibreglass. It is also used in security applications. We have alluded to some of the reasons and properties that make it a perfect material for these applications, and we will expand on these reasons and properties below.
Polycarbonate is Lightweight
Many structural design advantages of polycarbonate stem from its lighter weight, especially compared to glass. Polycarbonate has less than half the density of glass, making it a much easier material to work with. This starts from the moment it is loaded to be transported to the construction site. The lighter weight means reduced shipping costs and easier handling which can be a safety issue for workers transporting glass.
Second, polycarbonate allows for lowered dead weight loading. This deadweight loading stems from the roofing elements required to support the much higher weight of glass used in roofing. The reduced weight loading means reduced size of foundations and other structural elements. The savings can be substantial depending on the size of the building.
It Is Easy to Rework
Polycarbonate is a thermoplastic material meaning it is very easy to manipulate. This is a very useful property as it allows workers to form it into different shapes at a work site. Forming curved surfaces from flat sheets is also relatively easy as the material can be cold bent.
Additionally, the material can be heated, melted, formed and cooled again without degradation to its properties. This makes the material more recyclable than building materials like metal.
Resistance to Fractures and Shock
A solid polycarbonate sheet absorbs much more impact than glass which shatters quite easily. This is useful in its handling, transportation and installation. Its ability to withstand extreme weather as mentioned above also makes it useful in other uses other than residential construction. This fracture and shock resistance also means lower repair and maintenance costs, especially compared to glass.
It is a Good Insulator of Both Heat and Noise
The thermal insulation properties of polycarbonate can explain why many construction projects now incorporate it as a roofing and cladding material. Multiwall polycarbonate sheets stand out in this area because they create air pockets around areas where they are applied, thereby improving thermal performance.
Polycarbonates are also excellent noise insulators. This property makes them a popular option for acoustic barrier applications alongside roads and in construction projects. Flat polycarbonate sheets are also used for the same reason for partitions in offices and stores.
The choice of materials in building and construction projects can have long-term effects on the building and those who live in it. Polycarbonates are an excellent material because they provide benefits and cost savings at construction time and help protect against harmful UV radiation and extreme weather events.