Firms face up to future of formwork

The boom in mega-projects across the Middle East has provided rich pickings for formwork suppliers, and things are set to get even better with more and more projects being announced in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain. Zoe Naylor speaks to leading formwork firms and finds out about new products being introduced to cope with demand.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  May 6, 2006

|~|120prod200.gif|~|RMD Kwikform is using Alshor Plus aluminium shoring on the Dubai Mall.|~|As construction projects in the region grow ever bigger and bolder, formwork suppliers are facing increased pressure to provide systems that hold their own in terms of strength and versatility. The result is a multitude of new product launches designed to help contractors complete their projects efficiently, safely, on time and to budget. Take Sharjah-based RMD Kwikform, which has launched five new products in the past year alone. The GTX beam, which was introduced as an alternative to the usual aluminium beams, is a structural laminated veneer timber beam. Its high strength to weight ratio means it can be used as a primary or secondary bearer in a range of formwork and shoring applications. Comparable to aluminium in terms of strength, GTX is also about half the price. Such new products have enabled RMD Kwikform to supply formwork for jobs such as the Dubai Mall. “We are supplying around 99% of the formwork on this [project],” explains Jim Dewar, regional sales manager of RMD Kwikform Middle East. “This includes our Super Slim Soldier, which is one of the mainstays of our business and is the anchor for all of our wall formwork solutions. “We are also providing a table form system that allows you to form concrete for suspended slabs without striking the formwork and having to rebuild it — you lower it down, wheel it along and put it back in position.” Alshor Plus, a 120kN leg load aluminium shoring system is also being used to make tables on the project and has proved very successful for the company. RMD Kwikform has also introduced a galvanised steel shoring system, known as Rapidshor, which has an 80kN leg load capacity. The Rapidshor system is currently being used on the Dubai International Airport expansion project to help support 1-tonne slabs for the concourse tunnel structure. One of RMD Kwikform’s most innovative products yet is Megashor, which was brought in especially from Hong Kong for use on the Dubai Mall project. According to Dewar, this 1,000kN system is one of the world’s strongest shoring methods. “Megashor is being used to support the 6m-deep concrete beams which will be used in the aquarium area of the Dubai Mall for the very high leg load requirements.” RMD has now been operating in the Middle East for around 35 years and has made a name for itself as a heavy civils company rather than a building firm. But with all its new product launches, Dewar says this could be set to change: “Certainly with the introduction of Alshor Plus, as well as a new lightweight table system that we will be launching in the middle of this year, we are making real inroads into the building sector.” Despite the frenzied pace of construction activity in Dubai, Dewar believes that the emirate is no longer responsible for the lion’s share of RMD’s regional business: “It may have been in the last two or three years, but we’ve seen recent exponential growth in Qatar, and we’re looking forward to a similar performance in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain has also contributed significantly to our growth,” he says. The company has also been involved in the vast majority of projects in Doha as a result of the Asian Games, which are due to be held in December this year: “There is a huge gamut of activity surrounding the Games, not just the construction of the stadia and the swimming pools, but also hotels and roads, and we’ve been involved in the vast majority of those projects.” Add to that Qatar’s petrochemicals sector, which is proving to be a major source of work for RMD Kwikform, and it is easy to see why the company has had to increase its regional staff levels by around 50% in the past year. German formwork giant, Peri, is also raising its profile in the UAE by supplying large-scale projects such as the Palm Jumeirah Vehicular Tunnel for Al Naboodah Engineering, where its Vario wall formwork is being used for bases and walls, PD8 tableforms and SKS platforms. The project itself features tunnel slopes up to 6%, as well as special concrete for bases and roof slabs with an initial setting time of seven hours and a final setting time of nine hours. This results in a high concrete pressure on the formwork. “Additionally, the tie rod holes have to be watertight up to 3-bar pressure,” explains Peri managing director, Hans Rau. “To overcome this we opted to use Peri’s DK sealing cone system that is water proof up to 5-bar pressure.” This year also sees the launch of Peri’s Trio panel system to the UAE market. “While the system has been used in Europe for many years, it has not yet been offered in this market due to its initial cost over our other wall formwork system, Vario,” says Rau. “However, with the ever-reducing programme times for buildings here, speed is an important factor. As well as the wall formwork we will also be offering Peri Trio column formwork, which is a versatile, cost effective and fast column formwork system,” he adds. As far as market trends go, Rau adds: “There is currently a high demand for slab support systems such as our swivel head table forms for typical floors, and PD8 tower systems for higher non-typical floors, due to the large number of multi-storey towers under construction.” While the majority of Peri’s work over the past nine years has traditionally come from Dubai, Rau believes a change is afoot: “Over the last year, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain have seen an increase in construction, and it looks as though Abu Dhabi could be one of Peri’s busiest areas this year,” he adds. Elsewhere, Aluma Systems Middle East is hoping to find a market hungry for its new products. “We will be supplying our new quick strike decking platform, Aluma Dek, for the first time in the UAE,” says Daniel Taylor, marketing manager of Aluma Systems Middle East. “Since its launch three years ago, the system has been widely used throughout North America, and now we feel is the right time to introduce it to Dubai,” he adds. According to Taylor, Aluma Dek will also be supplied to concrete frame contractor Robodh Contracting for use on the upcoming 82-floor Index Tower at Dubai International Financial Centre for main contractor Nasa Multiplex. Taylor says the advantages of this decking system are far reaching: “The Dek panels are 100% aluminium frames with a plywood face insert, which allows for very easy handling during stripping and erection, and high labour efficiency. “In addition, the panels can be removed from the slab three days after casting, leaving just the back-prop in place. This facilitates very quick floor cycles.” Another new launch for Aluma this year is the column-hung system known as Hi Flyer. With the Hi Flyer system, the columns are used to support the falsework for the slabs. This means no vertical shores of any kind are required for the slab formwork, allowing a clear area throughout the live deck. “The forms can be removed in three days and no re-shoring is required since the weight of the form on the floor above is transferred directly through the columns,” explains Taylor. The forms themselves utilise Aluma Beams and can be quickly moved from floor to floor in one crane lift. “This system will help contractors achieve the quickest possible floor cycles, and reduce labour and craneage to a minimum,” he adds. The regular announcement of GCC mega-projects is proving rich pickings for formwork suppliers, and Dubai has traditionally offered the lion’s share of work. However, with the region’s formwork suppliers increasingly looking farther afield in the direction of Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain as a source of future contracts, that could be set to change in the near future.||**||

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