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Middle East formwork needs innovation in product development

Formwork companies are being driven to change as contractors seek to stay competitive amid challenging market conditions

The global formwork industry must evolve to succeed.
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The global formwork industry must evolve to succeed.

The Middle East’s construction industry is rapidly adopting construction technology advancements as cost, time, and efficiency pressures increase for regional contractors. For instance, speaking to Construction Week in March 2019, executive manager of Acrow UAE, Khaled Amin, said the GCC was rapidly becoming a saturated market for formwork suppliers.

Commenting on how challenging market conditions are driving change at formwork companies, Amin said: “The sales focus has changed from quality and speed to reusability and long-term returns on investment.

“That seems to be where market requirements have migrated over the last couple of years.”

That contractors are choosing to reuse or upcycle their products is a commendable trend, especially as global industries opt to operate through the ‘circular economy’ model that is considered the ideal mechanism to drive a zero-waste community.

As such, it is important for contractors to understand whether a formwork product will be reusable in the mid- to long-term. For instance, plastic formwork can be fixed with ease, does not shrink or swell, and does not absorb moisture.

Understandably, reusable plastic formwork is a preferred item for contractors around the world – especially as it can also be easily assembled onsite through modular systems or interlocking.

Regardless, the choice of formwork must be driven by the project types that the contractor is working on.

Plywood formwork was commonly used for structural construction, but was replaced by aluminium and plastic due to its ease of use and affordability. The latter materials were also helped by their ability to be easily detached from concrete.  

Technology is also a key factor in the formwork industry. Take the example of an indoor tennis centre that is being developed as part of Kuwait University’s Student Activities and Athletic Facilities Project (SAAF) in Al-Shadadiya.

Formwork company Peri announced in July 2019 that to efficiently translate the vision of the project team, its engineers designed the 3D building models as well as 3D plans on the basis of the building plans.

To construct the complex, curved reinforced concrete walls with differently sized box-outs along with varying wall thicknesses between 20-30 cm, and customised 3D special formwork elements were used.

In the process, the statically load-bearing elements were based on the Vario GT 24 Girder Wall Formwork, Peri said, adding: “After site personnel had undergone comprehensive training under the watchful eye of a Peri supervisor, assembly of the 3D formwork units and individual elements was carried out directly on the construction site in accordance with the Peri assembly plans.”

Be it through product development or site works, the global formwork industry is being compelled to adopt greater innovation – for contractors in the Middle East, this can only be a good thing.

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Construction Week - Issue 751
Oct 13, 2019