Plasterboard is more than just a wall

Drywalling products are as much in demand across the region as any other building material. Christopher Sell identifies the process by which it is made and explores the development of plasterboard technology that is set to take the industry by storm.

Drywalling products are as much in demand across the region as any other building material. Christopher Sell identifies the process by which it is made and explores the development of plasterboard technology that is set to take the industry by storm.

Drywalling improves a building’s resistance to fire, mildew and water. It is well documented that the ongoing construction boom has accentuated supply problems within the region. From copper to concrete, and glass to aluminium, materials intrinsic to the ongoing construction boom are in massive demand.

And that is particularly true of drywalling, where demand has soared in recent months, mainly as a result of the surge in residential tower construction.

Made primarily from gypsum plaster – the semi-hydrous form of calcium sulphate – the plaster is mixed with fibre (typically paper and or fibreglass), foaming agent and various additives that increase resistance to mildew, fire and water.

It is then formed by sandwiching a core of wet gypsum between two sheets of heavy paper or fibreglass mats. When the core sets and is dried, the sandwich becomes rigid and strong enough for use as a building material.

Knauf, one of the world’s largest drywall manufacturers is currently in the process of researching a potential drywall manufacturing plant to be built in the UAE.

“We are in the final stages; we are 99% there; so we are going to build a plant in the UAE. And I hope to start building the factory by 1 January next year,” says Michael Morgan, general manager, Knauf Middle East, who added that a deal could be signed “next week”.

Despite operating 130 factories worldwide, and through a factory in Iran, quite a big market share in the Middle East, Morgan admits the company is so busy it cannot keep up with demand for drywalling, hence the new manufacturing facility, which will come in at an estimated 20-25 million m2. This new facility will also justify the expansion policy that Knauf has undertaken since the beginning of the year.

“From 1 January this year we opened a lot of factories and of course the boom in Dubai is very helpful for us. We already have quite a big market share and if we have a factory here I think we can be much more effective with the projects in this part of the world.” Morgan adds that the factory would also manufacture profiles and plasters.

While involved in numerous projects, Morgan singles out a number of high-profile developments that feature Knauf gypsum boards and other related products. These include the Palm Jumeirah and the 67-storey Rose Rotana Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road. At 333m, the building, which is scheduled to finish in 2006, is planned to be the highest serviced apartment block in the world.

Furthermore, Morgan mentions that the company is looking to participate in numerous Dubai government projects. It is looking to supply its product to the Bawadi hospitality project in Al Salam City, Dubailand. This US $27.2 billion (AED100 billion) project is conceived to develop capacity for the forecast increase in tourists in Dubai, which is set to reach more than 15 million over the coming years.

Not only will it double the number of rooms currently available in the emirate, it will add an additional 31 hotels over the next eight years, the centrepiece of which will be the world’s largest hotel, Asia-Asia, which alone will provide 6,500 rooms, combining 5,100 four-star and 1,400 five-star rooms.

Knauf will also be showcasing a number of its products at the Big 5 exhibition. Together with its plasterboards, machines such as the PFT G4 that utilise advanced techniques to apply plasters in a much faster way, will be showcased.

The G4 is a continuously working mixing machine for all ready-mixed dry mortars and can be used in numerous applications ranging from machine-applied gypsum plasters, gypsum-lime plasters and cement renders to insulating plasters or reinforcing and bonding mortars.

The company will also be demonstrating its D179 soundboard as part of the show. It is a flat-panel loudspeaker for not-visible installation in drywall systems. It is made of a gypsum board as surface diaphragm.

The diaphragm operates by initiating and exploiting multiple, organised bending resonance’s in the panel, caused by bending wave transducers (exciters) that are fixed to the rear of the board. The advantage of such an installation in the drywall is that it provides no indication of an installation, providing unlimited freedom of interior design.

Other advantages include overcoming conventional flaws associated with piston loudspeakers such as limited intelligibility of voice in lateral direction that is caused by strong focusing and non-uniform distribution of different frequencies. Knauf Soundboard provides uniform, room-filling sound and clear intelligibility of voice due to broad irradiation of all frequencies.

One of the many international exhibitors that will be attending this year’s show, Tapepro Drywall Tools Company of Australia, will be showcasing their range of automatic taping tools for the finishing of joints in plasterboard construction.

With over 50 years of expertise in the drywall industry, Tapepro’s tools are designed to deliver a professional finish while reducing work fatigue and increasing productivity to work three to four times faster than setting by hand.

This is advantageous in the time-sensitive arena of Dubai construction, as Tom Gill, production manager, Tapepro Drywool Tools, explains: “I believe the Middle East drywall market would benefit greatly from using our tools, as they generally provide a three to fourfold increase in productivity over setting by hand, whilst maintaining a consistently high standard of finish.”

The range incorporates design expertise that provides contractors with greater durability and reliability. As the tools operate in the relatively harsh environment of plaster, they are constructed of rugged, durable materials, and are built to last, manufactured with state of the art precision for ease of operation on every job, and supported with a three-year warranty.

Through continuous research and development, stringent quality control and the largest after market technical support programme available, Tapepro is committed to providing contractors with tools to give them a real professional edge.

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