Fila is driving the uptake of sustainable surface care in the Middle East

Modern-day, sustainability-focussed chemical solutions can help maintain both built assets and the environment in the GCC, according to Fabrizio Nicoli, the commercial director of Fila Middle East

SPECIAL REPORTS, Sectors, Fabrizio Nicoli, Fila, Gcc, Middle east, Surface care

Today’s chemicals can protect the environment – you might be puzzled by this, but when it comes to surface protection, this is an irrefutable truth. In the GCC, many prestigious and high-end construction projects make use of the finest natural materials that the planet has to offer.

Take the newly-opened Louvre Abu Dhabi museum – along with its iconic shape, its key features include the tidal pools surrounding it on three sides. These pools were fitted with marble, to add to the prevailing atmosphere of calmness and serenity the building creates. And now that it has been treated with Fila’s water-based efflorescence-blocking sealant and eco-friendly, stain-proofing protector, it is thoroughly protected against streak or stain formation, efflorescence, and yellowing.

As the solution used provides breathable, lasting, and renewable protection, and does not affect the natural look of the surface – in any environmental conditions – the marble that has been quarried for this project will retain its pristine look for years to come. This means the stone will not have to be ripped out of the pools and replaced because of unsightly discolouring.

There have been cases where natural stone – a very precious material that only exists in limited quantities on our planet – has been torn out and replaced because it had not been properly protected. The impact on the planet when that happens may not be clearly visible, but it is enormous: first, all the stone is thrown away. This stone alone is irreplaceable. What’s more, the stone would likely have been shipped to the GCC from Europe, Asia, or America: the environmental impact of transportation is massive.

Then, the stone has to be replaced. Whether it is replaced by another stone or by a different surface, there will be transportation involved, and more use of glues and heavy-lifting machinery – in addition to the extraction of the new stone or the fabrication of the new material. In conclusion, it is all a big waste, and when you consider that it could all have been prevented by simply applying the proper sealer in the first place, it is worth exploring why they are not yet applied systematically on all projects.

Most experts will agree that when it comes to surface protection, chemicals actually protect the environment by preventing wastage. What’s more, in this particular case, the chemicals used were eco-friendly: no solvent was used, and no volatile organic compound (VOC) was emitted either.

As providers of chemical solutions for the protection of natural surfaces, we often get asked about their conformity with regional green building requirements. This year in particular, architects, consultants, and contractors have asked us this question more and more, since the requirements of Dubai’s Green Building Regulations and Abu Dhabi’s Estidama have become even more demanding. The answer to these questions is always yes.

Our products conform to regional green building requirements, and some of our water-based solutions, Green Line, even help earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits. After all, caring for the environment is not a new fad for Fila – it is something that has always been at the core of the company’s ethics. That is why Fila is a proponent of sustainable chemistry, and has an extensive range of Green Line products.

Focussing on sustainable chemistry means you seek to improve the efficiency with which natural resources are used to meet human needs, while protecting the environment and human health. For surface care protection, it not only means that surfaces are protected in the long term and retain their natural beauty, but also entails the use of processes and chemicals that are safe and are non-polluting.

A few elements should be considered when selecting surface protection. For instance, surface protection products should be in compliance with VOC requirements, and they should be neither flammable nor toxic for man or the environment. They must also be free from toxic or carcinogenic substances, such as formaldehyde or hypochlorite. Meanwhile, solvent-based solutions should be free from solvents that attack the ozone layer, and should instead be composed of water-soluble solvents, which exclude those most toxic for the user and most polluting for water, such as carbitol and cellosolve.

Additionally, any wax product should be non-metalised to avoid water pollution.

All of Fila’s products are in compliance with the above, and the extensive Green Line that we have developed exclusively consists of water-based products. Of course, focussing on sustainability does not mean overlooking the performance of the product. Using products that can only protect a surface for a year or two – no matter how eco-friendly they are – is pointless. That’s why at Fila, when working on large-scale projects, all our products are tested on samples of the surfaces to be protected for optimum efficiency.

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. While 2017 has been a challenging year for the construction sector, it has given rise to new business opportunities. We have seen significant improvement in demand as compared to 2016: our year-to-date (YTD) sales are already over 20% compared to last year. One of our best-performing assets this year has been the Fila Service, which provides support and advice to project professionals when it comes to stone protection, the application of sealers, and the maintenance of the surface.

Our products have been used for many projects, such as the Kempinski Hotel Palm Jumeirah, the Nakheel Mall on the Palm Jumeirah, and the Bluewaters Island in Dubai. The variety of these projects has required our range of products and expertise: for the Kempinski Hotel, we provided a water-repellent protection for exterior limestone that both maintains the natural look of the surface in all environmental conditions and is a perfect waterproofing solution against moss and mould formation, efflorescence, and yellowing. Nakheel Mall required protection for the 20,000m2 granite flooring of the exterior area of its fine-dining roof plaza.

This was a very demanding requirement as the protection needed to not only screen the granite from any environmental damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays, humidity, and dust, but also be able to withstand heavy traffic and oily stains from foodstuff. At the Bluewaters Island, our high-preforming epoxy grout haze remover has been used on all buildings and surface areas for a thorough cleaning of construction residue.

Clearly, this has been a very good year for Fila Middle East so far, and we are optimistic about the upcoming months.

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