What are the major opportunities you spot in the GCC/UAE concrete industry?
The market in the GCC/UAE is changing and the position is progressing rapidly for the construction industry. Mega construction projects are on track for example Expo 2020 and Emaar’s projects such as Dubai Hills and Creek Side in Dubai, Al Riyadh City for Mudon Real Estate, Al Dabb'iya Surface Facilities for ADCO and Midfield Terminal Project in Abu Dhabi and Vision 2030 economic restructuring programme for Saudi Arabia, to name a few.
Gulf precast takes great pride to mention that we are one of the contractors awarded with contract to these very prestigious projects particularly in the country.
The UAE is at the forefront of the construction industry worldwide, using technologies that ensure speed of construction and quality as well as sustainability and safety, such as Precast Concrete. As focus H.H. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid and H.H. Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan as stressed during the launch of the Smart Buildability Index in Dubai on October 26, 2016 is the “Standardization of building designs that adopt modern building techniques such as 3D printing and use locally manufactured steel structures, pre-fabricated pillars and walls (Precast Concrete systems).”
The Index seeks to promote the use of techniques and materials that accelerate construction processes, increase productivity and rationalize the use of unskilled labour - such aims can be accomplished through the use of precast concrete. This UAE Leadership in construction technology have started to spread through the GCC Countries.
What are the major growth drivers for the concrete industry in the UAE or Dubai?
In the UAE, housing and infrastructure remain the key drivers to the growth of the concrete industry. In fact, the tremendous drive for excellence of the Emirates fosters the high energy and continual improvement of the construction at large, and even more the concrete and Precast industry. Not only does this technology match the vision of the rapid growth of the government, but it also matches that of increased safety, quality and environmental care of our Leaders.
In terms of safety, for example, the current emphasis on fire protection in construction has placed concrete again as the construction technology of choice for its inherent fire resistance capabilities which can be combined with the latest fire resistance techniques.
According to you, what are today’s top 3 trends in the concrete industry?
- Advances in technology being used in precast production – Technology has the potential to change a whole host of current methods and jobs in the construction industry, improving productivity and efficiency. Exciting new developments could see:
- 3D printing becoming more widespread, allowing a variety of components and complex parts to be manufactured cheaper and faster. In this regard, one should mention the participation of Gulf Precast in the construction of the first 3D printed offices in Dubai.
- Drones might offer a unique, efficient way to map, monitor and inspect construction sites
- Virtual reality (VR) providing an innovative way to present how a building will look when completed, with clients able to do a virtual walkthrough of a space
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is changing the way building planning is apprehended. BIM is a process whereby digital representations of places and their characteristics can be generated and managed. All trades of a construction, such as architects, surveyors, engineers and contractors to name but a few, can update its specific design within the all-encompassing BIM model. This allows a building to be virtually constructed and alterations to be made before physical construction commences, enhancing safety and resolution of conflicting, thus enable a smooth-running, cost-efficient project. Major projects such as Midfield Terminal Airport extension, for example, in which Gulf Precast is a key participant, have opted for such a technology.
- The use of Glass Reinforced Concrete (GRC) has seen a major increase in demand over the past couple of years. This Precast Concrete technique using fibreglass as a main component, allies many quality of Concrete with a highly versatile beauty. Architects looking for the elegance of construction are increasingly turning towards GRC use.
- Green building. The focus on environmentally friendly products and sustainability – often driven by consumer interest – has not passed the construction industry by. As well as creating energy efficient, sustainable buildings, there is great interest in making and sourcing eco-friendly building materials and using more environmentally friendly construction methods. Precast Concrete is successfully answering this growing demand.
How do you think the concrete industry will evolve in the next years?
The precast industry, in particular, will continue to grow with a lot of new technologies available. At the moment, Gulf Precast has the capacity to build quickly and efficient Precast semi-mobile plants, allowing a swift adaptation to the market requirement. These plants are then dismantled to cater for the next major project. Semi-mobile Precast plants could become the norm in the coming years.
With the enormous high demands of the construction projects, the Precast industry will continue to provide a solution of choice to construction challenges and will develop to meet latest demands in the construction industry.
Nowadays we are reading about many new innovations in concrete such as bendable concrete, translucent concrete, self-healing concrete, organic concrete and so on. We strongly believe that the buoyant UAE Construction Industry will be at the forefront of such innovations in the near future.
What is the biggest challenge for you in the market this year and why?
The toughest factors that challenge most of the contractors/subcontractors nowadays are project cost and delayed payments.
Most of the projects we faced have enormous demands and very high requirements but the project budget is very low. While there are so many competitors in the construction industry, competition for projects has increased tremendously, thus in turn, many contractors/suppliers are lowering their tender prices for the sake of getting the project whereas more often than not the profit margin is at stake.
Due to fluctuating market condition, by and large, many contractors/subcontractors are downsizing by any means and reorganizing merely to withstand the ongoing economic situation. Consequently, delayed payments have become a norm-creating cash flow difficulty to the company.
Are there any innovative Products/Solutions your company has developed? Please provide details
Gulf Precast is always looking for and introducing Product/Solutions innovation. Amongst many innovations introduced by Gulf Precast, the following can be noted:
- Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC)
- Improving the connection system, and generating designs for G+10 buildings fully precast
- Producing high strength hollow core slabs
- Successful assembly of 3D printed elements for the Office of the Future.
- A fully integrated ERP system, encompassing the whole value chain from Engineering, Production, Delivery to Erection, as well as all support processes, and using the latest technology such as bar coding and GPS tracking.
Why are they innovative?
For example, UHPC is one of the latest advances in concrete technology and it addresses the shortcomings of many concretes today: It provides high strength to weight ratio, high tensile strength, high ductility, and volume stability. It has a compressive strength 2 to 3 times greater than conventional concrete and a flexural strength 2 to 6 times greater. These mechanical properties of UHPC make it ideal for prestressing applications. In addition to achieving high compressive strengths in excess of 25,000 psi (sometimes greater than 30,000 psi), UHPC is also nearly impermeable.
While Precast combines well with other construction technology, a G + 10 fully Precast construction combines the speed of construction with only one structure subcontractor, thus limiting interfaces between trades.
Where space is an issue, using long spam hollow core slabs reduced the need for vertical structural elements that can interfere with the users’ experience and provides vast and aerial spaces.
The Precast Concrete processes combine elements of factory manufacturing with elements of construction management. While many ERP systems cater for manufacturing processes, and many others cater for Construction processes, Gulf Precast could not find any that would successfully cater for both. We thus opted for a manufacturing-oriented ERP that had to be adapted to also integrate Construction components.
What products will you present at the Middle East Concrete Show this year?
- All kinds of precast elements with various finishes.
- Glass fiber reinforced concrete (GRC) samples and project examples.