Waterproofing… where is it?

How is it we’re in 2016 and within the construction industry there are many professionals not really sure of what waterproofing is and where it should go? I realise many understand where it should go in terms of surfaces it should be applied to, e.g. roofs, basement walls, planters, wet areas, podiums etc but when I say where it should go I mean where does it fit in the scheme of the building package.

There is a major awareness out there by building professionals of the need for waterproofing, a lot of emphasis on how important it is to have a guaranteed system, the need for correct installation by professionals using best practice and products that comply to Australian standards, I covered this in my recent blog We’re Moving Ahead . Last month I had to travel to meet with senior management from one of the largest construction companies in the country for a significant sized CBD apartment project where they were specifying one of the Gripset systems to ensure they could provide a 15 year warranty for their multi-storey construction. They had flown in their senior design manager who has the final say in any waterproofing used in their construction to vet the products, performance data and process before authorising the use of the product. This had demonstrated to me we have moved forward in this area, as 10 years ago construction companies weren’t going to this extent in the waterproofing approval process.

But this next piece is where I get stumped on why waterproofing is often treated like the “peasant” building process in the national industry. A common example of this is the specification for a major hospital project I recently saw within our technical department. There was a substantial amount of waterproofing works specified for the project however in all documentation none of the waterproofing was listed under its own “Waterproofing” heading. There was all the internal and external wet area waterproofing works bundled into the tilers’ package; all the waterproofing required for podium planter boxes and garden beds was bundled into the landscapers’ package; the underground retaining wall waterproofing was bundled into the bricklayers’ package; and the roof membrane had been bundled into the concretors’ package. Add the value of these waterproofing works up for the total package and the sums were >$2million yet it somehow seemed to get slipped into areas for other trades who will likely outsource via waterproofing professionals to carry out the work.

Last check in 2016 the market size of waterproofing membranes in Australia was north of $220million and growing. I recently read a report that forecasted the global waterproofing membrane market to be a value of USD$33 billion by 2020, with Asia Pacific representing almost 40% of that share. With Australia’s population growth forecast of 26 million by 2020 and 42 million by 2050, construction is going to keep increasing and the waterproofing market value will trend the same way.

So we get fixated on statistics such as water damage being the 2nd largest building cost to buildings in the country after pest/termite problems, yet can’t seem to have a major building process recognised as a standalone category.

If we value the role waterproofing plays in construction, then I think we’re well past the due date for “waterproofing” to be placed into its own basket, instead of it being treated like a basket case.