Green aluminium

Philip Martens of Novelis speaks to Construction Week

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is one of the flagship projects in the region using Novelis architectural products.
Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is one of the flagship projects in the region using Novelis architectural products.

Novelis president and CEO Philip Martens speaks to CW about the role of polyethylene ‘sandwich’ panels in the recent spate of building fires

Can you tell our readers a bit about Novelis’s presence and involvement in the Middle East?
For more than ten years, our European architectural team has delivered Novelis aluminum for building and architectural projects in the Middle East, taking part in construction exhibitions such as Dubai’s Big 5 and Project Qatar. In addition, we have equipped various building landmarks in the region with our painted and anodised façade materials.

The company was represented at Project Qatar in Doha: are you actively targeting the Qatar market in its build-up to the FIFA 2022 World Cup?
The World Cup will have a substantial impact on Qatar’s already promising economic growth over the next years.

Investments in infrastructure include a light-rail- system, a new airport and the new Lusail urban development, plus 12 stadia and associated facilities. Due to active marketing with local distribution partners, Novelis is well-positioned for the challenges of the coming years. The World Cup will be an important business opportunity for the Novelis architecture team.

Can you tell us a bit about Novelis’s aluminum architectural and building material products?
Novelis supplies solid rolled and surface finished aluminum sheet for roofing, façade and building applications, such as interior decoration and ceilings. Well-known brand products, like our anodising brands J57S and J73A or our ff2 pre-painted material, stand out with excellent flatness, ideal permissible load, optimum UV and corrosion resistance, all while achieving excellent colour and gloss uniformity.

All Novelis architectural products are non-combustible and fire rated A1 according to international standards. Novelis sheet is 100% recyclable, produced in environment-friendly production processes and designed for long-lasting, sustainable architecture.

Novelis façade sheets are certified for use on high-rise buildings, with the added benefit of full coverage by international insurance companies. New innovative surfaces like stone design, textured design and coloured anodised finishes extend the range of products.

Novelis surface pre-painted aluminium is produced by the environment-friendly coil-coating process. All paints and lubricants produced are processed in a closed material cycle. When stoving the lacquer, 100% of the extracted solvents are combusted and fed back into the process.

The pigments used in the paints are non-hazardous. Novelis aluminium is ground-water neutral and can be recycled as a raw material without any loss of quality.

This is a very competitive sector – what would you say gives Novelis a leading edge in the market?
The severe fire accidents, mostly caused by combustible metal composite materials, in the Middle East during the past months and years has lead to a focus on non-combustible materials for façades and interior building applications. All Novelis aluminum architectural products are certified as non-combustible with a rating of A1.

Novelis materials are applicable for all construction. Novelis’ strong relationship with Middle East local distribution partners, investors, consultants and construction companies is a sustainable base for its business success in the region.

Is the Middle East an important growth market for Novelis? How does it compare globally, and what are the main opportunities?
The Middle East is a target market in respect to building and construction. The Middle East market is, in part, on the same level with Europe and the US in terms of how technical standards are applied.

The main opportunities, clearly, are the level of investment in infrastructure and the speed at which this is taking place. The challenges connected with this are having the right local business partners, and being recognised as a market player that can provide the required support.

There is a major trend toward sustainability and green building in the Middle East, which makes aluminum an ideal building material?
Yes, there is a strong trend towards sustainable and green buildings, especially at construction summits and conferences.

However, famous building projects also underlie this trend. The Masdar City project in Abu Dhabi is one of these projects, and will be the world’s first carbon-neutral city. Masdar City is a visionary project which aims to redefine notions of sustainability.

By creating this unique desert city, Abu Dhabi intends to set a global milestone in the development and use of renewable energy and sustainable and economic design. Masdar only permits the use of building materials which are eco-friendly over their entire lifecycle.

Some university buildings will be largely made from recycled aluminium. For the aluminium façades and stairways of these buildings, a special Novelis ff2Ecoplus alloy has been used.

Aluminium was initially thought to be unsuitable for the use in the Masdar City Project – it was not considered ecological enough. However, an extensive certification process meant these concerns could be brushed aside. Every material used in construction must undergo a detailed lifecycle analysis and a thorough energy-balance assessment.

Novelis was able to convince the project consultants of the benefits of special alloy aluminum by pointing out the fact that the aluminum sheets will be largely made from recycled aluminium, which requires 95 % less energy to produce than primary aluminum.

The alloy’s lightness also makes transport more eco-friendly. Other benefits include its long lifetime and unlimited recycling potential. The main competitor to Novelis’ aluminium products though is not glass, but rather combustible low-quality metal-composite materials.

There have been various instances recently of high-rise fires in the UAE, often due to flammable façade panels. Aluminium has various inherent health and safety characteristics?
Novelis’ aluminium for building and construction is certified in accordance with the latest EN 13501 non-combustibility standard.

Under international building regulations, only non-combustible materials may be used in buildings which exceed a certain height (about 20m). For public facilities such as kindergartens, schools, hospitals, hotels, airports, etc., this requirement applies irrespective of the height of the building.

Novelis’ façade products received the highest rating of A1 in the combustibility tests, and also obtained convincing results in the categories of smoke development and dripping fires.

Many severe fire accidents have occurred because polyethylene ‘sandwich’ composites performed badly in these incidents, emitting toxic gases and noxious smoke because of the polyethylene layer. Novelis’ surface-finished products guarantee no smoke development and no toxic gases. This means that Novelis’ facade products can be used on any building of any height, without any restriction.

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