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Wall and ceiling systems

Manufacturers are finding new uses for old materials

ANALYSIS, Materials, Manufacturers

The face of the wall and ceiling systems market is changing as manufacturers realise old materials are capable of new tricks. Hannah Raven reports.

Wall and ceiling systems need to tick a growing number of boxes for GCC clients, with sustainability, flexibility and safety benchmarks to meet, and an increasing number of options in the market means costs must be competitive.
US-based Crane Composites manufactures and supplies FRP (fibre-reinforced plastic) panels, an indoor system for walls and ceilings, and began operations in the Middle East in September 2014.

From its Jebel Ali base, the company serves the entire GCC and has already secured projects in all six countries in the region, dealing through distributers.

“We decided to come to the Middle East because the construction market is doing so well, especially our market, which is hospitals, schools, universities, hotels, food processing, restaurants, homes, healthcare,” said Sofienne Zitoun, the company’s regional sales manager for the Middle East and Africa.

FRP is an alternative to wallpaper, painted walls and other types of cladding. It has a burn time of up to two hours, is noise-resistant, sustainable, has a 10-year warranty, is scratch resistant and can be easily cleaned.

“We are providing what the government is looking for,” said Zitoun. “Our products are FM-approved – one of the most important fire ratings in the world – and all our 40 products have been given the International Green Award.”
Crane Composites’ products cost between $10-$45 per m2.

“Maintenance cost is zero for at least 10 years,” explained Zitoun, adding that compared to maintaining traditional painted walls, FRP breaks even in a year and-a-half and begins to become cheaper there on in.

The company is contracted to provide FRP systems for the Al Bayt and Al-Khor Stadiums, which will host some of the Qatar 2022 World Cup games, and the Kuwait Sabah Al Saleem University.

One of its biggest international contracts is with US-headquartered Cheesecake Factory, to whom it supplies products to more than 200 restaurants worldwide.

As demand grows, Crane Composites plans to set up a GCC headquarters in Dubai and a warehouse in Dubai Investments Park.

At the moment, the firm is the only company providing FRP in the Middle East, but Abu Dhabi-based Ti Laminates has developed a similar product.

HPL (high pressure laminate) has a durable, decorative surface and can be produced to be chemical and fire resistant.

HPL was traditionally used for flooring, countertops and desktops, and has been a stalwart member of the kitchen unit material family for many years, but Ti Laminates is working to fully utilise the material’s unique properties, and has begun developing ceiling, wall and partition systems.

The product is produced by saturating layers of kraft paper with a special resin, then printed décor paper is placed on top before pressing. This produces a sandwich which is fused together with heat and a pressure of more than 1,000PSI.

The resulting robustness of the material means it is ideal for high-traffic areas and it can even withstand outdoor climates. Ti Laminates will this year launch an outdoor structure collection which includes swimming pool shelters, patio canopies and even complete buildings made entirely from HPL.

“This year started with some amazing projects,” said Eldar Mullayanov, managing partner at Ti Laminates. “High-tech products are more penetrating to the UAE and GCC markets, which then become the new trend and vision.”

The firm’s research and development has just unveiled its HPL Suspended Ceiling line, which “has a long life span, is easy-cleaning, waterproof, chemical proof and fire retardant”.

“It will serve you for years without damaging or fading,” said Mullayanov.

The company is in the process of installing samples of the product in residential and commercial areas in the UAE, to show its benefits.

“I personally believe that this product will soon be recommended for use by municipalities, since sustainability is now a trend in UAE,” said Mullayanov.

“We are developing products which will last for at least 15 to 20 years.”

Alongside the development of new products, Ti Laminates is also planning to add some new machinery to cut down on manufacturing times.

“We aim to keep in line with the new requirements of the market, and try to be a bit ahead,” explained Mullayanov.
“I have a vision that 2015 will bring changes in the interior decoration market and we are here to support those ideas with our material,” he added.

“We want to show people how to use our products for different applications,” said Mullayanov.

Sustainability is also one of the benefits of drywall solutions, according to Jason Hird, senior technical development manager at Gyproc Middle East.

“People are focussing on issues like sustainability, build efficiency and speed of construction – areas that will shape the industry throughout 2015,” he asserts. “Issues like waste management, recycling and responsible sourcing of building materials will continue the drive towards drywall solutions.”

He says the surge in construction projects ahead of Expo 2020 is helping highlight key performance areas like acoustics and thermal control, and underlining the importance of performance certification.

“Drywall solutions have grown rapidly in recent years, fuelled by the drive to increased efficiency and quality in construction projects throughout the UAE,” he explained.

“With 25m visitors expected for Expo 2020, the race to provide hotel rooms, transport facilities and associated infrastructure should keep the market buoyant.”

Gyproc has provided high-performance wall and ceiling solutions for projects including the Midfield Terminal and Muscat International Airport, the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi, and the Assila Towers hotel in Jeddah.

Along with new contracts, Gyproc is set to deliver a “constant stream of new and innovative products” in 2015.

“Our group research and development centres around the world are totally focussed on improved and innovative solutions that offer benefits to customers in everything from performance, to installation and cost saving,” said Hird. “In fact, one in every four of the products we sell today didn’t exist five years ago.”

International wall, ceiling and flooring firm Armstrong also plans on launching new additions to its already robust range of metal, glass fibre, wood, and bespoke interiors this year as it continues to grow its immense GCC project portfolio which includes the Emirates terminal at Dubai International Airport.

“We are currently involved in over 500 projects throughout the GCC region in design and through construction,” said John Kain, Armstrong’s director of global architectural sales, adding that clients expect increasingly high quality systems.

“The GCC is a dynamic and exciting market, challenging the limits of materials and suppliers,” said Kain.

“Customers are not interested in ceilings that are ‘white and cover up the junk in the ceiling’, they are looking at innovation and unique solutions.”

In light of that, Armstrong aims to launch a minimum of two new products every year, on top of improvements to existing lines.

Kain believes that transportation, sporting, healthcare, education and office projects will drive and dominate the market this year and that green construction will remain a necessity. He adds that in his opinion, “projects in the GCC are leading the way in sustainable design”.

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