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High-tech surfaces make cladding king

Two years ago, the way the cladding industry operated in Dubai changed for ever.

A thermal insulation law was introduced to the construction industry, which meant that it was mandatory for all developments in Dubai and Sharjah to be thermally insulated.

The government initiative received warm approval given that countries across the globe, not just in the Middle East, were facing an acute energy crisis.

Thermal insulation reduces electricity consumption by up to 40% — by cutting the thermal load for residential, commercial and industrial buildings thereby bringing down the energy costs.

In the Gulf, the demand for energy shoots up drastically between the months of April and August due to the stifling heat.

It is estimated that the power consumption in the UAE during the summer season is as high as 75 to 85% of the total power generated due to high usage of air conditioning.

This has led to more advanced cladding technology in building designs and service capability range extensions, meaning big business for companies.

One of the major beneficiaries is Alumco, a specialised aluminium façade contractor, and the UAE’s largest manufacturer.

The company designs, engineers, manufactures and installs all types of façade systems, including the most advanced curtain-wall and cladding systems offered anywhere in the world.

Its scope of work covers skylights, cladding, doors and windows, double-glazing, tempering, powder coating and steel fabrication.

Already firmly established in Dubai, Alumco has completed major projects, including six towers at the Burj Dubai development, Burj Residence precinct, Dubai Police Headquarters, Al Murooj Complex on Sheikh Zayed Road, and Shatha Tower in Dubai Media City.

And the work shows no sign of slowing up — the company recently won a landmark US $11.4 million (AED42 million) contract to supply its aluminium façades to the 44-storey Sky Gardens project at the Dubai International Financial Centre.

Under the terms of the deal entered into with main contractor Arabtec, and the Kuwaiti owner of the project, First Dubai Real Estate Development Company, Alumco will supply 33,000m2 architectural fins that extend out of the building, 28,000m2 unitised curtain wall and 3,000m2 doors and windows for Sky Gardens.

Upon completion in June 2007, Sky Gardens will be clad with unitised aluminium panels 1.5m wide by 3.4m high, including a horizontal louvred fin (850mm deep) fixed on each panel to form a continuous horizontal sun breaker all around the building’s glazed area on each floor.

It’s not that the unitised system, which offers a range of system and custom-designed windows and curtain walling incorporating full thermal breaks, is anything new in Dubai — the Citadel Tower in Business Bay, Liwa Height and Fortune Tower in Jumeirah Lake Towers and Emirates Crown in Dubai Marina all feature it thanks to Alumco.

The company is now planning a major expansion to its present production capacity of aluminium line, an integral aspect of its strategy to establish itself as one of the leading players in the manufacturing and installation of cladding and curtain walls on high-rise towers.

“With billions of dollars worth of projects currently coming up in the UAE and the region, we see tremendous potential for expanding our business,” says Alumco managing director, Samer Barakat.

“As we have already become an established player, we see spontaneous growth in the following years. The UAE has the most flourishing, active and attractive real estate market in all GCC countries and the Middle East.”

Tabreed has offered district cooling services as a utility for over five years, pioneering energy efficient gas-fired and electric-powered district cooling solutions in the UAE and across the region.

Now the largest district cooling service provider in the world, Tabreed offers customers an integrated energy system devised to help them optimise energy usage and reduce power and maintenance costs.

When it won a contract last year to supply cooling services to the entire development of the Six Towers project, a major residential and commercial complex in Abu Dhabi , the structures became the first in the city to feature a system of wall cladding that combines energy-efficient glazing panels and natural marble finishes.

In addition to the Six Towers project, five extra cooling stations are also under construction in different locations in the UAE.

“Our portfolio of projects is gaining pace in Abu Dhabi and with more commercial and residential projects being planned, we are in a strong position to capitalise on this growth,” says Mohamed Al Qamzi, chief operating officer, Tabreed.

“We are constantly looking at options that will allow us to address the anticipated demand for district cooling.”
It’s not just regional companies that have acknowledged the growth potential of the UAE market.

Swiss firms Inovex and Schmidlin formed a joint venture company, Schmidlin LLC, as recently as June 2005 combining their strengths and expertise to form a quality supplier of glass façades to airports, offices and shopping centres across the Gulf.

It now offers standard systems and high-end custom designed façades, with products in different types such as conventional, point fixed or structural glazing.

Iyad Al Barghouti, Schmidlin LLC general manager, said at the time: “Considerable research has been undertaken to determine the potential size of the UAE market and a strategy has been developed that will enable us to become established quickly and be competitive against the major local manufacturers.

“We are confident that Schmidlin LLC will be a successful and profitable leader in glass façade technology and will be in an ideal position to win large and complex projects in the UAE and the Middle East.”

Little did Barghouti know that he would be spot on with his vision of the company’s future.

Schmidlin LCC, in joint venture agreement with Arabian Aluminium, was awarded the contract to provide the façade of the Burj Dubai project — the world’s tallest and most prestigious building project.

The high performance exterior cladding system employed will easily be able to withstand the extreme temperatures during the summer months in Dubai.

  Primary materials include reflective glazing, aluminium
and textured stainless steel spandrel panels and the vertical stainless tubular fins accentuating the height and the slenderness of the tower.

The project’s cladding will also reflect the sun, but only if it stays clean. With so little rainfall to dampen the soil, the Burj Dubai’s surroundings are incredibly dusty. Thin films of dirt settle on any horizontal surface so even the most high-performance cladding fails to reflect heat if it is grimy.

However the solution is all down to the architecture: the tower cladding will have no horizontal surfaces. As a result the dust won’t be able to settle so easily and the reflective cladding will stay sparkling and working at peak performance.

Other key projects for Schmidlin LCC include the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority building on the Corniche, which required a double façade design in a complex structural geometry, to withstand extremely high wind pressures and climate.

Schmidlin also manufactured and installed a double glass façade on the Burj Al Arab. With a total height of 321m and a total surface area of 32,000m², Schmidlin had to find the right materials and a unique structural design that could meet the special requirements regarding wind pressure, due to the particular shape of the building. Inevitably it came up with just that.

According to, the definition of the word cladding is simple: a term used t
o describe the siding or materials covering the exterior of a building.

With cladding nowadays being heat and corrosion resistant, weatherproof, decorative and/or functional, the description deserves far more than that.

Source: ITP Business.Net - by Tim Wood




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