Chemicals are changing how the Gulf’s buildings are designed and managed

The growing demand for sustainability both during a project’s construction and after its completion is changing how chemicals and admixtures are manufactured in the Gulf

COMMENT, SPECIAL REPORTS, Business, Sectors

This November, it was revealed that the Gulf’s chemical industry revenues were worth $77bn in 2016, 3% lower than corresponding figures for 2015.

Fluctuations in international oil prices led to this price drop, Dr Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general of Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), said.

According to WAM, Al-Sadoun pointed out that the chemicals industry – which employs more than 152,000 people across the Gulf – contributed approximately $43.8bn to the GCC’s economies in 2016, with production values increasing by 8.5% in 2016 to reach almost 145 million tonnes.

Despite regional economic headwinds, 2017 has been a good year for the Gulf’s chemical manufacturers. Steady construction activity in the region – driven by public-sector investments such as Saudi Vision 2030 and UAE Vision 2021, as well as the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai – is resulting in growth for regional chemicals manufacturers, as well. 

This symbiotic relationship is examined in the market focus feature (page 20) in this week’s Special Report, which reveals that the Middle East is among the largest consumers of polyurethane (PU) sealants in the world. According to Hitesh Bhatia, lead analyst at research advisory, Technavio, the rise in regional construction activities is a major factor behind the growth of the Middle East’s sealants segment.

Additionally, construction activity is playing an instrumental role in the development of admixtures and additives that cater to the region’s concrete users. The product focus section of the Special Report (page 24) reviews how key construction chemicals specialists, such as Sika, BASF, and GCP Applied Technologies, are devising their product strategies based on the needs and requirements of the Middle East’s contractors and consultants. 

The chemicals sector is also a lucrative industry in the Middle East in light of the sustainability-focussed government mandates that have emerged in the region over the last five years, leading to the creation of a construction supply chain – from design to facilities management – that is more conscious of the impact that chemicals have on both a building’s structure and its tenants. Consequently, material selection is rapidly gaining greater significance in the region, says Fabrizio Nicoli, commercial director of Fila, the knowledge partner for this Special Report. 

“The field of chemicals has often had a bad reputation among the general public and the industry but, little by little, stakeholders are realising that its benefits are tremendous when using the right products,” Nicoli explains. Read his views on page 22 of this Special Report. 

It is evident that the future is bright for those chemicals manufacturers that are willing to adapt to changing market conditions. As experts from WSP and AESG point out in the Special Report’s final analysis (page 26), in the region – and especially in the UAE – increased awareness about volatile organic compounds and other similarly hazardous chemicals is rightly reshaping not only how our buildings are designed and built, but also how they are operated. 

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