Aluminium and glass clothe 250 towers in next five years

Somewhere in the region of 250 towers will be built in Dubai over the next five years. The vast majority of these structures will have one thing in common; they will have aluminium facades and glazing.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  July 13, 2004

Aluminium and glass clothe 250 towers in next five years|~|Samer body.jpg|~||~|Somewhere in the region of 250 towers will be built in Dubai over the next five years. The vast majority of these structures will have one thing in common; they will have aluminium facades and glazing. With so much work in the pipeline Construction Week spoke to Samer Barakat, managing partner, Alumco, about how the industry is coping with rocketing demand.

How long have you been in Dubai?

I have been in Dubai for 8 years now. The place has changed significantly from when I first arrived. The infrastructure and the roads have improved. In fact, construction in general has grown massively, especially over the last two years. During my time here I have been working for Alumco for the past year, and before that I was the general manager of Union Industries.

Who set up Alumco?

Alumco is a company set up by Mohommed Saif Al Shafar and myself. Al Shafar has a big contracting company, Al Shafar, and an air conditioning company, Saifco. We had discussed setting up an aluminium company for a number of years as Al Shafar were interested in having an aluminium company to support their own contracting operations and other players since the market for aluminium facades and glazing is not yet saturated when it comes to bigger companies. There are only a few big companies that are capable of engineering a design and translating it into a properly fabricated installation.

How big is the market for aluminium in Dubai?

The market is huge at the moment. We are talking about billions of aluminium work. There are about 250 towers that will come to life over the next five years. I expect that all the big companies in the market will have full order books for aluminium facades and glazing.

Why is aluminium so popular?

Actually all buildings have aluminium and glazing, It depends on the architect really. He can decide to use glazing for 100% of the facade down to about 25% of the facade. On average about 40-50% of an elevation will be glazed.

Have there been any trends that architects have followed?

Glazing has been very popular in Dubai for some time now. The buildings that were built on Sheikh Zayed Road relied heavily on a number of different colours of glazing. Gold, blue, and green were particularly popular. Even though Dubai its very hot, different types of high performance and reflective glass were used to prevent heat transfer.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

We are pricing some huge projects at the moment. For a tower the glass and aluminium accounts for 10 to 15% of the total value of the building contract. This is because high performance glass must be used.

Does Alumco produce the glass?

Not right now, but we do have plans for it. We already have land next to our existing factory in Dubai Investments Park and we have plans to build a factory with an area of 10 000 m2 that will be for tempering, double-glazing, and lamination.

Where will the float glass be procured?

The most popular float glass is Guardian. It is an American brand but they do have one plant in Saudi Arabia and we will be able to purchase clear glass from there. For the reflective glass Emirates Glass, which is based in Dubai and owned by Dubai Investments, are coaters of glass and can supply all colours of glass. There is also a company called Intraco in Jebel Ali that supply all kinds of reflective and high performance glass from Ford, Pilkington and other sources from Belgium. The type of glass required is related to the specification set by the designer. When the specification comes in we suggest a number of possible alternatives that suit the specification, which most of the time is related to the air conditioning of the building.

Does the company have any other new ventures on the horizon?

We have land set aside for a powder-coating factory and have plans for a stainless steel workshop. Powder coating is a must for the aluminium business. All aluminium must be powder coated with different colours, and different coatings have different qualities. Powder coatings from Jordan that last 25 years are now available on the market so quality has really been upgraded when it comes to product life. We now talk about 20-25 years when we talk about durability. There are no more buildings that last for just 10 years before the colours fade away.

What will the steel workshop fabricate?

The workshop will fabricate stainless steel cladding and railings. We are currently working on the steel for the police headquarters in Dubai. That project alone had more than Dhs2 million of stainless steel work that fell under our scope. For that project we fabricated the steel in a mini workshop in our current factory.

How do you feel the market will fair over the coming years?

It seems that everybody has confidence in the market situation. Even international companies are coming here and setting up operations now. Many of them are now looking to set up joint ventures for many projects. With all the projects under design and execution, I imagine that there will be enough business for all the local companies for a minimum of five years and a maximum of ten years.

What projects do you look to supply?

High-rise buildings. We are only interested in high-rise buildings and towers. We have already been awarded four Jumeirah Beach Residence towers along with the six towers of the Burj Dubai Residences.

How does the market for compete?

There are several categories of companies. There are lot of fabricators but they lack engineering and design. Alumco is categorised as one of the few big companies with a big engineering department. We work with the consultant even before the project is fully conceived and do a lot of design work with the consultant to make things practical and in some cases cheaper for the client. We try not to use bulky aluminium items when it is not necessary. Bigger items were used years back, when the bigger the sections were, the better the aluminium. By studying the building, making structural calculations, and studying the loads in wind tunnels, we can design the optimum profile and reinforcement required for the building. It is now possible to use 110 mm of aluminium that will give the same inertia as 210 mm would in the past. There is no reason for putting more aluminium onto a building if it is not required.

What challenges do you face?

As a sub contractor we always work under the contractors, so what really scares us are payment issues. We only work for contractors that we feel 100% secure with so that we are not exposed to any risk of not getting our money for engineering and the systems supplied on time.

Are material prices having a big impact at the moment?

Material prices are going up, and this has become a trend in Dubai. Even if prices aren’t going up internationally we still experience price increases here. Steel and cement prices affected the whole attitude when it comes to pricing. The price of glass is increasing, as is the price of aluminium, it’s affecting all items that are used by the construction industry. I expect this to continue because construction is booming, but it will inevitably reach a peak and go down again. It is very much related also to the price of the real estate. Property prices will rise, but they have to reach a peak eventually and when prices fall it will affect the material prices.
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