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Historic UAE buildings' maintenance needs sound chemistry

Chemical sealers are vital to protect historic and modern buildings alike from harsh sunlight

Chemical companies are playing an important role in the ongoing restoration of important buildings in the Gulf [image: Fila].
Chemical companies are playing an important role in the ongoing restoration of important buildings in the Gulf [image: Fila].

Protecting the cultural heritage of countries has become a focal point in recent years, and today the UAE is looking closely at how landmarks can best be restored and maintained in the long run. One key industry that has been playing an essential role in the restoration of buildings’ façades and surfaces is the chemical industry.

“When it comes to building restoration, using the right chemicals is the most efficient, timely and cost-effective way to restore and maintain façades and surfaces,” comments Fabrizio Nicoli, commercial director of the Middle East branch of FILA Industria Chimica, an Italian chemical company that has worked on the restoration of historic sites like the Unesco World Heritage Site Venaria Reale in Italy or the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua, Italy. “Indeed, in some cases, top-performing chemicals are the only option to prevent more drastic measures like the replacement of the surface, which can be very costly, and which is damaging to the planet as it means precious natural resources have been wasted, particularly in the case of marble and natural stone,” he says.

“The façades and internal surfaces of most buildings that were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s were not sealed after the laying, which explains why unsightly marks have appeared on some of the buildings.”

“What’s more, the climate of the Middle East is very harsh on surfaces, and with the spectacularly fast-paced development of the region, issues like smog - that was not common here at the time – have developed rapidly.”

This explains why there is now need for a thorough restoration of façades and surfaces in the region, particularly as the most commonly used materials in construction have been natural stone, concrete, marble and granite, all extremely porous materials, hence highly susceptible to stains if not retreated properly.

Restoring a surface means deep cleaning it with the proper detergent and sealing it with the right protection to ensure the beauty of the surface is preserved in the long term. The type of surface and the nature of its stains should be considered to select the proper detergent. Optimal products remove difficult stains but are delicate enough not to damage stones or ceramic tiles, which is why surface patch-testing is recommended before starting the cleaning process. Yet, in order to perfectly restore a building, long-term protection should be applied to its surfaces so that it remains in pristine condition for a long time. A sealer should be applied to both its interior and exterior surfaces as they are all subject to stains, dirt and marks. However, such protective treatment is not a magical formula that will protect the surface forever. It is important to maintain the surfaces and reapply the sealers over time – like a beauty treatment for the skin. The most effective and high technology protection can safeguard a surface for up to ten years, even in the harsh climate of the Middle East.

“The UAE is very aware of the need to have a long-term vision when constructing new landmarks.” Nicoli comments. “That is why the new Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi has been thoroughly pre-treated during the construction phase. As it makes use of the most precious and noble stones, a complete pre-treatment was applied to its surfaces, both interior and exterior ones.

“This means the stones will not yellow with time, UV rays will not alter their colours and smog will not blacken the Palace’s façade. And when a new coat of sealers needs to be applied, prior deep cleaning will be faster and easier than if no treatment had been applied.”

The high quality of available chemical products today therefore means that building restoration can not only be a faster process, but also a cost-effective one as chemicals can protect surfaces in the long run.

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