Clad all over

The region's growing prominence as a producer of aluminium is making aluminium cladding an increasingly popular construction material

ANALYSIS, Business, Cladding

The region’s growing prominence as a producer of aluminium is making aluminium cladding an increasingly popular construction material.

Aluminium production in the Middle East to grow significantly in the short-to-medium term. The region is expected to contribute around 15% of the total global production of aluminium this year, says market analyst Frost & Sullivan.

The UAE, the world’s fourth-largest aluminium producer, accounts for over 50% of the Gulf’s aluminium production. Aluminium exports from the country grew by 102% in the first half of 2012 and the sector is expected to become one of the key non-oil industries in the future.

Walid Al Attar, chief marketing officer, Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA), said that about 60% of the region’s primary aluminium capacity has been built since 2008, and about 57% of new capacity represents regional investments by global investors. EGA has a total production capacity of 2.4m tonnes per year following the full commissioning of Emal (Emirates Aluminium) phase two at Khalifa Industrial Zone at the end of last year.

“With successful completion of the Emal phase two project and the ongoing projects for expansion and building a new alumina refinery, the future of the aluminium industry in the UAE is very exciting,” said Rami Faour, business development manager at industrial consultancy Progesys.

“The challenge and focus over the next years will be to enhance efficiency of the production of existing plants. Overall, we believe that the aluminium industry in UAE and the rest of the GCC, is in a good, healthy situation and we at Progesys hope to be part of the different projects in the GCC.”

Mohamed Khalfan Obaid Almesmari, managing director of UAE-based Kamanza Aluminium, said his firm was eager to expand its reach through market growth in the Middle East.

He said: “2015 is a very important year for us as a company, with our projections of continued growth and development in the country as a whole. Our ongoing aim is to further establish our name and identity. The high growth being witnessed in the region will lead the company to reach its highest potential.”

He added: “We are expecting the best in the coming years within our region. The production expansion that UAE-based smelters have undergone emphasises that view, and in the words of His Excellency Eng. Suhail Mohamed Faraj Al Mazrouei, the UAE’s Minister of Energy, aluminium stands as a flagship industry in our nation’s development and ongoing diversification.”

Having such a wealth of raw materials on its doorstep is likely to be a boon for the aluminium cladding industry, with composite cladding widely used for both commercial and residential projects in the Middle East – for building façades, interior cladding and for floors and ceilings.

UAE-based conglomerate Mulk Holdings, which makes US-branded Alubond composite panels, said the sector looks “increasingly positive in 2015”, with favourable macro-fundamentals in existing markets and growing interest for aluminium composite panels in new markets.

Mulk chairman Nawab Shaji Ul Mulk, said: “UAE is our biggest market in the GCC and it has grown steadily since the successful bid for Dubai Expo 2020. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait has seen steady development, with new mega-projects announced in these countries and aluminium cladding will play a key role in the project composition.

There has also been a move to new product features of aluminium composite panels. Leading architects and consultants working with aluminium cladding have incorporated new product features like nano-surfaces into their project designs.”

Mulk said that Alubond USA has entered into a strategic partnership with Alupco, a market leader in aluminium profiles and curtain wall systems in Saudi Arabia.

“We believe this partnership will be key in building the future of aluminium cladding systems in Saudi Arabia,” he added. “We estimate the Saudi market will grow in significant double digits in the next five years.”

Mulk believes that façades will move from being passive wall systems to active components with functional capabilities added to generate energy, provide light and regulate moisture.

“These will be beneficial and significant developments, because the shared energy costs with façades will reduce project financials,” he said. “I believe this could also lead to structural changes in the team composition for building project development.”

He also said that Alubond was looking to build more factories in Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia following on from openings in India and Turkey over the past three years.

“Our current production is 20m square metres per annum, with production units in UAE, India, Serbia, Turkey and China,” Mulk said. “We aim to reach a production capacity of 25m square metres by 2016 with the addition of these new production modules.”

Meanwhile, Rawlplug, a manufacturer of specialist anchoring and fixing systems, is currently supplying six building projects in the UAE for the likes of Aabar, Arabtec, Damac Properties, GGICO, TKMN Property and National Investment Corporation (NIC).

“The market for aluminium cladding is growing fast and it’s the biggest among building construction projects,” said Middle East managing director Mazen Malas. “We want to fully cover the Kuwait and Oman market and penetrate oil and gas projects.”

“We believe in the importance of sustainability, hence we are increasing our range of products for ‘green buldings’, cladding systems for natural stone and aluminium cladding, and eco-friendly products for the enclosure of fire traps,” he added.

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