Flushed with success
Hugo Berger takes a look at how the producers of top-drawer baths, sinks and showers are trying to convince property developers to invest in quality.
With new residential properties being completed almost every day in the UAE, there is more and more pressure on developers to build something that catches purchaser attention.
Developers are beginning to realise that one way to make a property stand out is to include top-quality bathrooms and sanitaryware.
By installing high-standard, aesthetically pleasing sinks, baths, showers and toilets, it is to possible create a bathroom which is not just a place to wash, but is an integral part of the home.
But this is only one of the challenges facing sanitaryware manufacturers and property developers.
In November, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, declared that from 1 January, all new buildings must aim to be sustainable.
Despite water being such a valuable resource (in Dubai alone, almost 931 million litres of water was consumed in 2006), the UAE as a whole has the third highest consumption rates per capita in the world, falling behind the USA and Canada.
And because the country has almost no natural bodies of water, the only solution has been to desalinate water from the Gulf, a process that requires expensive facilities, high fuel consumption and damage to the ecosystem.
Despite this, demand for desalinated water rose by 11.5 % in 2006.
The situation is now so severe that a gallon of desalinated water costs more than a gallon of gasoline.
So if sanitaryware producers can make a product which saves water, they will be doing their bit to help the environment.
One firm that has embraced the concept of saving water is Roca, which has had offices in Dubai for 15 years.
The company has designed a number of water and energy reducing measures, which it has installed in all its products.
These include a toilet cistern, which can save up to 60% of water usage, and thermostatic mixers which save water in washbasins by automatically finding the right temperature for water from faucets.
"We are market leaders in the design and supply of products which save water, and with leadership comes responsibility," says Victor Schoone, group representative, Roca Middle East.
"Without water there will be no life and as water is so scarce in this region we have to be very responsible with the use of it.
"If we don't do this we will have to spend more and more energy on desalinating water, and this will just cause more problems to the environment."
Elena Sadeq, marketing manager, Roca, adds: "Throughout the history of Roca we have been very environmentally-friendly.
"Our factories have the target of having zero-waste to save as much water as possible.
"We like to see ourselves as green designers, which means we're strongly committed to the environment. We are a Spanish company, and in Spain saving water is a big issue.
"They are becoming more aware of water conservation in the UAE now, but in Spain they have been aware of it for a long time.
Among the projects which Roca Middle East has supplied to are Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi and the Grosvenor Hotel in Dubai.
These issues will be highlighted later this year when the ISH Kitchen + Bath Exhibition returns to the Dubai International Conference and Exhibition Centre.
The event, which runs from 25-27 May, will show how well-designed bathrooms can also be environmentally-friendly.
This year's theme is how bathroom equipment producers can help interior design to stay ahead of the competition in high-profile building projects.
On display will be a wide range of bathroom equipment and sanitaryware, from minimalist modernity to grand fantasy.
Another company which is taking on board the need for sustainability is Jacuzzi Middle East. The company, which is best-known for making hot tubs, is also one of the major producers of bathrooms and sanitaryware.
Jennifer Palmer, marketing manager, Jacuzzi, believes there were challenges which needed overcoming in meeting Dubai's new sustainability laws.
She says: "Water is a very important resource out here and I believe that the UAE is one of the highest consumers of water in the world, per capita.
"Certainly with Sheikh Mohammed's directive, which is very sensible, it has caught a lot of people on the hop as it has to be implemented as of now - a lot of people are thinking: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Where do we start?
"We as a responsible corporate citizen have been thinking about this for some time, but it's not something where you can just bring out a new product straight away.
"It requires quite a lot of study and research behind the scenes.
Palmer adds that Jacuzzi was investigating new technology which would re-use waste water from sinks and baths in toilets.
She believes it's important for developers to make sure they choose high-quality products when fitting out bathrooms.
One issue which might be considered is cost-cutting. Some developers are cutting corners and using cheaper products than they necessarily should be," she adds.
"Developers need to build properties which stand out from the rest as there are so many different developments on offer.
"If you buy in cheap, Chinese products you are not necessarily going to get the same quality or guarantee.
"Developers are putting their names on the line. There are certain areas where you could maybe get away with using cheaper products and consumers aren't going to know about it.
"But things like the kitchen and bathroom, that's where you need to spend your money. In fact, we have carried out research that shows that 30% of the purchaser's decision is based on the kitchen and bathroom and using recognised brands in those areas brings significant advantage.
The company has introduced a range of products for developers called Jacuzzi Pro, which offer a high standard of bathroom equipment and prices developers can afford.
So, most manufacturers of quality bathroom and sanitaryware would agree that buying cheap, inferior equipment is harmful to the reputation of construction projects.
As the GCC strives towards becomingboth a green-friendly and luxury living destination, by spending more on bathroom equipment developers can help achieve both of these.