Silicone as a sealant has a history that goes back more than four decades, first appearing in Spain in the late 1970s. In other European markets it appeared earlier. Its creation stems from the need for an alternative to other sealants used in the building industry at that time to facilitate the evolution and improvement of sealing systems. The evolution of this product has been critical ever since its appearance on the market.
In fact, silicone was initially developed in World War II, specifically in 1943, to lubricate aircraft and enable them to fly higher. Its use as a sealant was first recorded in 1963.
Silicone has made a very important contribution to the world of modern architecture. It is a product that emerged in specific circumstances with specific objectives, but its evolution has helped many industrial sectors. The existence of silicone has enabled architects, engineers, and other professionals to undertake new forms of design which would have been unthinkable in the past. Silicone has in short contributed to the creation of a different, modern and very advanced type of architecture.
One of the ways of classifying silicone sealants is to divide them into neutral and acetoxy sealants, bearing in mind that neutral sealants include a wider variety of products: oxime, alkoxy, benzamide and amine curing, with the most widely used neutral silicones being oxime and alkoxy.
The classification of silicone performance is also defined in the regulations for testing and classification, which clearly separate each of the silicone products on the market.
The performance of silicone sealants for construction is mainly classified into the following types: glazing, façades, sanitary equipment and other industrial applications (non-architecture).
For the professionals who use it, it has to be said that silicone is a constantly evolving product. Solutions were architectural in the past, but today this product offers highly valued features such as thermal-acoustic insulation, earthquake-resistant buildings, passive protection against fire and high temperatures, and so on. Silicone does in short offer great versatility and adapts to the most current requirements.
It is important to note that, at present, the term “silicone” is usually used generically for any type of sealant when, in fact, there are several types of sealants and a wide variety of silicones. It sometimes seems like silicone can be used for everything and, while it is a universal product, it has very specific applications depending on the type of silicone sealant. Three basic functions can be identified: SEALING, INSULATING and JOINING. These functions could be used to classify the different types of silicones that exist.
The great value that silicone adds to a façade, as a product that has a small cost in terms of the whole façade when compared to other materials, is undeniable, but it also has some very important functions.
It would also be appropriate to add a fact which may seem trivial but is actually rather significant. Silicone has introduced transparency to construction, a characteristic that other materials (putties, etc.) do not offer. Silicone has added the value of transparency to architecture. Silicone has also enabled extensive incorporation of glass into architecture. We could say that silicone has given greater prominence to glass, giving buildings a notable aesthetic improvement, an added value which is much appreciated today.
It is clear that the evolution of façades and glazed enclosures would not have been possible without silicone.
We should also consider another important feature of silicone: its proven durability over time. This is demonstrated by buildings which were constructed more than 30 years ago using structural silicone, and which still offer the same performance today as they did on the first day. It should be noted that silicone is the most resistant chemical substance that exists. It has the same chemical base as sand or quartz, which means it resists weathering and UV radiation like no other product.
Another important point: silicone sealants provide significant energy savings.
The results achieved with silicone so far are very significant and we still have vast scope for development ahead of us.
One of the manufacturers’ commitments should be to inform and, above all, train professionals in the industry, especially those using the products. It’s difficult, but it’s a task that needs to be done. There are many brands and products available now, and it is clear that information is essential to achieve satisfactory final results.
Architects should also strive to be well-informed about existing products so that they can prescribe them in the most appropriate way, based on existing regulations and complying with them as accurately as possible, as well as ensuring that these regulations are complied with throughout the chain of construction.
In many cases, the architect is a designer and the success of a project often lies in hiring the best specialists to carry out each function related to the building. As a silicone manufacturer, our primary business focus is on our customers. It is the customer who uses our product. In the United States, for example, the manufacturer usually meets with the architects and recommends the most suitable products for each case, and it is the architect who includes these products in the report, if they consider them appropriate, so that they can be installed. With this method, everything is tested before work begins.
The future evolution of silicone is linked to the evolution of glass itself. The use of glass in construction continues to be on the increase. The energy sector is in addition manufacturing photovoltaic elements, which opens up a new market. Glass has to be fitted, of course, and silicone sealants are without a doubt the installation products that are best suited to glass. In its early days, structural silicone was said to be “a passing fad”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Furthermore, the use of glass in construction is constantly growing and this also means that the silicone market will continue to grow in the future.
José Mª Martos
Business Development Director
(Architecture & Industry)