Project fit-outs demand flooring innovation
The potential for the flooring sector is massive. From car parks to villas and towers to airports, the need for quality, durable products is extremely high. Christopher Sell investigates the latest innovations from an industry that has a lot to look forward to.
Within a region that is noted for its high rises, it is perhaps worth noting that what remains rooted on the ground is equally important. Dubai's flooring industry is another tangent of the construction boom currently taking hold of the emirate that is witnessing a surge in demand. This was demonstrated by the announcement this week that Domotex Middle East, the specialised international trade fair for carpets and floor coverings, is expanding in just its second year to meet the growth in regional and international demand, as the sector attempts to service the region.
According to industry analysts, over US $1 trillion (AED3.7 trillion) worth of projects are currently planned or underway throughout the six GCC states of the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. Within Dubai, this translates to 7.3 million m2 of commercial office space under development - the second highest in the world after Moscow - while construction projects are expected to be worth $300 billion in 2007.
Consequently, demand for flooring of all descriptions - from luxury villas and hotels to industrial premises - is massive.
Currently, exhibitors such as Italy's Mapei with its cleaning and application technology; German granite, marble and natural stone flooring producer JUMA Natursteinwerke; the UK commercial flooring company provider Polyflor and the UAE carpet manufacturer Ali Dakhili, will all be in attendance and hoping to tap into surging confidence within the sector.
This good feeling from exhibitors can also be witnessed at another exhibition. The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) - the leading international trade association for the US hardwood industry - will be have the first ever US pavilion in the Middle East at the Dubai Woodshow 2007. This corresponds to an increase in demand for US hardwood in the region, which saw the total value of US hardwood exports to the UAE rise by 21% to $6.8 million by September 2006. Recognising the potential for hardwood flooring across the Middle East, AHEC will be launching several related seminars for contractors and developers throughout the UAE on installation and maintenance.
And it is not just AHEC, Al Aqili Furnishings Group announced near the end of last year that it had agreed a landmark deal to become the Middle East's sole marketing agent and distributor for the contract and hospitality ranges of flooring for Shaw Industries - the privately held, $6.5 billion US-based flooring giant.
The deal was announced at Index in November last year. "The UAE alone accounts for 40% of the furnishings imports into the region, and this year the market is expected to expand by a substantial 45%, with an economic value of $6.5 billion," says Mansour Khodjasteh, managing director, Al Aqili Furnishings Group. Shaw Industries produces over two million m2 of carpet every day, with a strong presence in over 91 countries worldwide. Established in 1948, the company has evolved into a market leader in the flooring industry employing over 30,000 people.
But the surge in investment has also brought with it a growing awareness over the responsibility of manufacturers and contractors to investigate more sustainable products, which have also influenced the flooring industry.
A round table meeting held in November last year featuring environmentalist Professor David Bellamy and Habbiba Al Marashi, (chairperson of Dubai-based NGO Emirates Environmental Group), was hosted by Falcon Panel Product, a UK-based supplier of flooring material and chipboard doors. The consensus was that there is an opportunity for environmentally friendly business to make its presence felt in the market. While Professor Bellamy promoted the use of recycled wood and carbon credits, Mark Percival from Falcon Panel Product, encouraged customers to consider the ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“full life cycle environmental costs' of all building materials. Speaking about the environmental benefits of using Falcon's wood-based products, Percival claimed that the company's chipboard core products that have been supplied to the UAE market have saved 185ha of hardwood forest from being destroyed. Approximately 70% of the wood material used in the company's chipboard has been recycled, Percival added.
Aside from environmental products, new flooring technology has emerged within the emirate recently. In September last year, Bubbledeck, an award-winning flooring system was launched in the Middle East.
Bubbledeck is a patented system, which claims to improve building design and performance while reducing the overall cost. The system virtually eliminated dead weight concrete from the middle of a floor slab by incorporating recycled plastic bubbles as a void. The system can therefore incorporate 50% longer spans between columns and the construction does not require beams, which allows architects greater freedom. The slab is connected directly to in-situ concrete columns, producing a wide range of cost and construction benefits. The material offers load-bearing advantages with equal efficiency in longitudinal as well as transverse direction by the use of embedded spherical hollow bodies.
And it is not just internal developments, over the last year, new products have emerged on some of Dubai's major exterior spaces as well. Flowcrete Middle East is providing flooring for the new airport Terminal Three at the Dubai International Airport expansion, where 365,000m2 of its car-park decking system, Deckshield is being used.
A further 30,000m2 of Deckshield is being installed at the multi-storey airport car park used by airline employees at Gate 13, near Cargo Village. The structure includes an exposed roof-top car park deck, explains Dev Sirwani, regional manager, Flowcrete Middle East. The high UV-resistant properties of Deckshield will protect the surface and ensure its integrity for much longer than a conventional surface such as concrete.
According to Grant Adamson, technical director for Flowcrete International, one of the major problems facing building owners and facility operators is damage to the structure of multi-storey car park buildings caused by water and salt ingress, especially in hot, humid and saline conditions in the Gulf region.
Car parks are particularly prone to this kind of damage, and in multi-storey structures, where the decks are subject to movement, a rigid flooring finish such as concrete or epoxy will crack. Cracks in concrete surfaces add further risk when the reinforcing steel is exposed to corrosion as a result of the water and salt ingress. With a waterproof, crack-bridging, flexible polyurethane system like Deckshield, these problems are eradicated. Flowcrete's other projects include the Function Stage at Zabeel Park, which has been installed with a seamless, decorative epoxy known as Mondeco Exotic. The system is durable, easy to clean and enables designers and architects to incorporate intricate multicolour designs into the flooring.
As more projects get underway, this year will present further opportunity for manufacturers of interior and exterior flooring to capitalise on the investment. And with announcements like those from Al Aqili and AHEC within the region, those involved have already taken notice of the opportunities that are presenting themselves in the GCC for flooring specialists.