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Market focus: Window and door systems in the GCC

Sophisticated window and door systems that meet both sustainability and safety requirements are steadily gaining traction in the GCC market

SPECIAL REPORTS, Sectors

In the words of Nobel Prize-winning songwriter, Bob Dylan, times, they are a-changin’. In the Gulf, this observation rings particularly true when discussing the construction industry, which is seeing the impact of technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

This growing sophistication, however, is evident not only in the technologies themselves, but also in how market preferences are changing.

For instance, when it comes to window and door systems, the global market size for which is forecast by Global Market Insights to exceed the $137bn mark by 2024, property owners are now seeking products that are able to offer added value and benefits.

In the UAE market, specifically, while the large number of new villa developments underway in the country is driving sustained demand for economical aluminium door and window systems, another trend can also be seen, as Guy Dawson, managing director of Origin Middle East and Africa, explains to Construction Week.

“There is an ever-growing desire for more sophisticated systems that offer ‘greener credentials’, in terms of thermal and weather performance, alongside durability and/or flexibility in opening, closing, and creating space,” he says.

This change, he notes, is boosting the performance of the replacement sector, which is where most of the demand for Origin’s products is coming from.

“It is common for buyers of new villas to replace all the doors and windows as soon as they take ownership,” he reveals, adding: “The benefits are immediate, in terms of savings on air conditioning-related costs and the creation of open spaces leading to, for example, the garden or the swimming pool.”

A company that specialises in folding sliding doors, or bi-fold doors, Origin has seen steady growth in sales in the six years that it’s been in the UAE.

“A big development for us recently is the demand from restaurants and hotels, where our doors create more space for al fresco dining, or open up the restaurant to attract passers-by,” says Dawson.

The company is reportedly also seeing interest from outside the UAE, in countries like Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Indeed, it has recently opened an agency in Kuwait.

Reporting high demand for its door products in 2016, Hörmann Middle East and Africa is also optimistic about the market in the Gulf. The company even invested in a bigger facility to better serve its customers in the region.

Darius Khanloo, director for the Middle East and Africa at Hörmann, says that the company has chosen to put in place a local assembly line so that it can promptly meet regional demand.

“In the UAE, it allows us to start installing the product within a week of receiving the order,” he says.

Like Dawson, Khanloo believes green concepts, such as sustainability and energy efficiency, are influencing the construction market. This is apparent in the response the company has received to its logistics and loading door technologies, he says. “As part of the building envelope, loading technologies play a significant part in the energy efficiency of commercial buildings.”

For instance, the company’s industrial high-speed door proved popular in the Middle East in 2016. The product is said to open and close swiftly and safely, and is intended for use in buildings where significant variations in temperatures are required, or where there is a need to maintain a sterile environment.

“Each type of door we sell is certified according to its use. Our thermal door, for example, is tested, and we can provide an accurate U-value to prove its efficiency. The same applies to our fire-rated doors, which are certified according to the standards that we follow,” says Khanloo.

He points out that, unfortunately, not every supplier in the region shares this attention to quality, noting that there is still no standard practice in the Middle East with regard to certification and quality management.

Also citing quality as an issue – but offering a slightly different take on the matter – Charles Constantin, managing director of GEZE Middle East, says: “The biggest challenge in the industry is maintaining fair competition, where quality and brands are congruent when penetrating the market.” He adds that, ultimately, decision-makers have the responsibility of honouring recommendations from consultant engineers, architects, and designers, as their objective is, ideally, to make sure that regulations are being followed, while they must also work to ensure the safety of built structures.

Further emphasising the topic of safety, Constantin says that GEZE is expecting 2017 to bring about higher demand for engineered systems that comply with global standards of end-user safety.

He believes, however, that the biggest opportunities for manufacturers of window and door products lie in the field of smart technologies.

Door and window products that can be connected to a building management system (BMS) are what suppliers in the region should be looking at, says Constantin. He adds that this is becoming increasingly important as the adoption of smart solutions is growing “in almost every industry in the industrial engineering space”.

Understanding this, GEZE – which has supplied swing door systems to projects like Dubai Opera, the Qatar National Library, the Administration, Educational and Student Services Buildings (AESSB) in Kuwait, Bollywood Parks in Dubai, Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, and the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) – launched its smart engineering system for façades earlier this year.

“The initiatives that the Dubai government has introduced are a clear indication of where the future is taking those of us in the GCC,” says Constantin.

The emirate’s ambitious plans notwithstanding, he believes that no single market in the Gulf can be said to be leading the way in terms of demand for window and door systems.

Constantin explains: “It is more about economic dynamics and the energised construction cycle in each of the regional markets. Whenever we see large government spending within this cycle, backed up by reasonable liquidity flow, we know that it will, eventually, lead to an elevated demand in the industry for the market in question.

“Having said that, the entire GCC region is highly committed to economic expansion, as evidenced by the strategic visions that the different member states have set forth,” he concludes.

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