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The UAE is growing in prominence as a primary trading hub for the regional wood industry, says Shikha Mishra.

ANALYSIS, Materials

The UAE is growing in prominence as a primary trading hub for the regional wood industry, says Shikha Mishra.

There is a rising tide of awareness among the public with regard to climate change and the impact of human development on the natural environment. A tide that has been rising for some time now.

The construction boom taking place in the UAE is fuelling the demand for wood and wood products, giving rise to a market that is seeing unprecedented levels of growth.

Melanie Beese, exhibition manager for the Messe Frankfurt Hardware and Tools trade fair, says that frenetic pace of development taking place across the region is seeing the demand for timber reach record levels.

 

Growth of wood in renewable forests works to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

"The numerous infrastructure and building projects seen in the UAE and across the Middle East has led to a phenomenal demand for wood-based industries and woodworking products," she says.

Over the years, the UAE has always imported wood and wood products; commerce that grew around its traditional industry of dhow building. Early trade involved the shipping of teak from India to manufacture the boat's hulls and keels, but following the construction boom of the last few years, wood is now sourced from all over the globe; with the major suppliers coming from a diverse array of destinations that include the African continent, Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada, the US, Chile and China.

The US is a significant exporter to the region and according to a US Department of Agriculture report, the country exported US $0.654 billion (AED2.4 billion) of soft-wood lumber to the Middle East in 2005, a 123% increase since 2001.

Last year, American hardwood exports to the UAE topped nearly $6.98 million (AED25.7 million), with lumber constituting the bulk of this trade. Analysts believe that these figures represent the region's transfer into a major wood importer and consumer.

According to a study released by The Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (Corrim), wood is one of the most environmentally-sensitive building materials for home construction - it uses less overall energy than other products, causes fewer air and water impacts and does a better job of the carbon ‘sequestration' that can help address global warming.

James Wilson, professor of wood science and engineering at Oregon State University and vice president of Corrim says: "There's a significant consumer movement and even some voluntary standards that are interested in green, or environmentally conscious construction methods.

After some experimentation with new building materials such as concrete or steel in recent decades along with some new building methods, Wilson said, it appears that for environmental purposes we may return to one of the most ancient and reliable materials of them all - wood.

"We've seen a general substitution for wood in many aspects of home construction for years, using less of it for siding, windows, roofing, and other purposes. Price and availability of wood were some of the factors involved, along with building codes," he says.
 

"And about five years ago the steel industry began a big push for more use of steel in home construction, which didn't accomplish as much as that industry hoped for, but did have some impact."

The new study that was done looks at the total "life-cycle assessment" of different construction products and techniques, considering such issues as how materials are grown, mined, processed, produced, used and ultimately disposed of, to give a better picture of their overall impact on the environment. It considers effects on energy use, air and water emissions, global warming and other topics.

Wood had a particular value in addressing the global warming issue, the data indicates. The growth of wood in renewable forests works to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and fewer carbon emissions are created in the processing needed to produce wood products than their steel and concrete counterparts.

 

The UAE witnessed a 63% increase in wood imports in the last two years, with 2007 figures reaching US $2.3 billion (AED8.5 billion).

Danube's ‘House of Wood' was launched at the Dubai Woodshow 2008 earlier this year.

The new range of hardwood products includes 75 exotic and rare hardwood species and is aimed at the interior designers in the Middle East.

Headlining the ‘House of Wood' range are products such as Snakewood, Birch Burl, Cocobolo, King Rosewood, Black Palmira and Olive, which saw interest from interior designers and consultants who are looking for variety in elements to use in their projects. These products are sourced from forests around the globe, including Africa, the US, India, Germany, Romania and Russia.

Traditionally wood has been one of the core raw materials in any building construction. Wood is a sustainable source, economical and easy to work with.

By virtue of its inherently favorable characteristic, wood has been a major single material used in the building construction. Wood is mainly used for panelling, joinery, doors and frames, windows and frames, flooring, skirting, scaffolding and shuttering," says Rizwan Sajan, chairman, Danube Building Materials.

The UAE witnessed a 63% increase in wood imports in the last two years, with 2007 figures reaching US $2.3 billion (AED8.5 billion). Dubai's trade in wood and wooden products continued its impressive growth in 2005 with the value of imports, exports and re-exports recording a major increase compared to 2004.

According to statistics department of Dubai Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC), the value of imports for wood and wooden products grew by 34% in 2005 compared to 2004, while the value of exports increased by a whopping 222%.

Re-export figures also grew substantially in 2005 with the total value amounting to US $0.43 billion (AED1.6 billion), marking an increase of 32.5% compared to the previous year. These figures underline the country's growing prominence as a primary trading hub for the regional wood industry.

"Wood as a building material always has a glowing future because of the sustainable management of forest. Because of its natural quality and its suitability for building construction, wood is expected to play a crucial role in upcoming construction projects," says Sajan.

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