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CertainTeed Focuses On New Building Systems And Circularity For More North American Growth

Vinyl siding is one of the many building products offered by CertainTeed. This photo shows a house with CertainTeed CERTAplank siding. Image courtesy CertainTeed

Building products manufacturer CertainTeed has been around here in the U.S. for a long time. In fact, the company celebrates 125 years in operation this year.

With its corporate headquarters just outside Philadelphia in Malvern, Pennsylvania, CertainTeed was founded in 1904 as the General Roofing Manufacturing Company. Today it’s the top brand of building products in North America, with offerings including roofing, siding, gypsum wallboard, ceilings, insulation and fencing.

CertainTeed and its affiliated companies employ more than 6,300 people and have over 60 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Canada. The company is now owned by Saint-Gobain of France, itself a firm with roots going back over 350 years. Headquartered just outside Paris, it has about 168,000 employees in 75 countries, and had sales totaling €51.2 billion in 2022.

Mark Rayfield, CEO of Saint-Gobain North America and CertainTeed. Image courtesy CertainTeed

“The longevity [of the two companies] and the commonality of that longevity is key,” said Mark Rayfield, CEO of Saint-Gobain North America and CertainTeed. “For CertainTeed, our old tagline was about quality, and we’re still focused on being that quality leader.” In fact, the company’s current name is a contraction of that old tagline, “Quality Made Certain, Satisfaction Guaranteed.”

Cory Bonnet, a Pittsburgh artist working closely with the steel industry who holds accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, New Construction (LEED AP), thinks that the quality focus is a key element of the company's sustainability strategy. “I’m looking at this as a craftsman and a LEED-accredited professional,” he said. “If you’re creating a product that’s more durable than your competitors’, that’s great for sustainability, since it requires less production and extraction.”

While that longtime focus on quality is one element of what the company believes drives the business, so is pursuing business growth. This U.S. side of the world represents opportunities for Saint-Gobain. “We’ve invested about $5 billion in North America in the past few years,” said Rayfield. “We think it’s a growth market.”

Part of going after that growth is keeping up with changes in the market. “We evolved from a supplier of roofing and siding that was focused on aesthetics and ease of installation,” Rayfield explained. “Now we’re focused on being a single-source provider–wall system, roof units, and so on. Being able to provide complete units and systems together is what’s needed today. We’ve gone from a product focus to a business focus, and we’ve transformed into an entity focused on how all the products work together as systems. Our strength is in the business of building science, and providing that science to guide builders on the biggest bang for the buck.”

Sharing the CertainTeed headquarters site is the company’s Malvern Innovation Center, where their latest building science is developed. “I think we have the products,” Rayfield said. “The first thing is insulation, and air and vapor barriers. We have solutions like sound-proofing gypsum and durable gypsum. Rooftop solar is growing. We educate our builders and homeowners so they can take advantage of these products.”

Another big technical focus area is circularity and recycling. Construction waste and demolition debris have historically been big contributors taking up space in landfills. The company has a take-back program for end-of-life and construction scrap vinyl siding, using a portion of the collected waste to manufacture new siding products. “We have high recycling rates for PVC and indoor insulation,” said Rayfield.

“There’s adaptive reuse,” said Bonnet. “It’s how Americans did things during the Great Depression–nothing was thrown away. The more we reuse, it not only eliminates waste going to landfills, but also eliminates extraction costs and environmental effects and the manufacturing costs for new products.”

One of the company’s biggest efforts on circularity is its acquisition, announced this past February, of the rights to technology developed by Asphaltica. That start-up has developed a proprietary process for successfully reusing asphalt shingle materials in hot mix asphalt for road paving. While use of recycled shingle materials in paving began in the early 2000s, it was found that early methods of adding them to the mix led to quality problems with the pavement. Asphaltica’s patented process was successfully used to recycle over 10,000 tons of waste shingles last year.

“It was important to me personally to partner with an organization that has the global vision and resources to do big things, and that is why I am so proud to partner with Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed.” said Bill Bailey, CEO of Asphaltica. “Their commitment to sustainability is unmatched and I look forward to working with their roofing team as they continue their work to be leaders in light and sustainable construction.”

“Replacing virgin asphalt in asphalt paving with properly treated recycled asphalt products is both economical and sustainable,” added Bill Dempsey, President of Asphaltica. “By using the pelletizing process of asphalt shingles at the end of life, our companies will provide recycled, environmentally friendly, paving grade materials for paving projects large and small.”

Eventually, CertainTeed would also like to find a way to use recycled shingles to make new shingles as well.

“True sustainability is quality, durable products produced domestically,” Bonnet said. “You want things to be made as locally as possible, employing as much reuse and recycling as possible to make a long-lasting quality product.”

The overall focus for sustainability for CertainTeed going forward includes its emissions reduction goals as well. “We’ll continue to look both externally and internally for additional opportunities toward being CO2-neutral by 2050,” Rayfield said. “The purpose of making the world a better home is the focus of both Saint-Gobain and CertainTeed.”

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