Material World

Oliver Ephgrave speaks to regional experts on the challenges and recent trends for material specification in the Middle East.

The GCC’s abundance of sunlight might be a blessing for barbecue lovers and beachcombers, but for the region’s architects it is a constant challenge. One of the major considerations is the specification of appropriate materials that can withstand the extreme heat and humidity.

Tarek Qaddumi, principal for UAE-based TNQ Architectural & Engineering Consultants, remarks: “Extreme heat is always top of mind for architects and engineers in the GCC. This translates into choosing high performing materials with strong heat insulation qualities, and heat resistant materials which will maintain their integrity throughout their intended lifetime.

“Unfortunately sometimes we see a specification of natural materials with low tolerance to heat, humidity and strong sunlight.”

Qaddumi suggests the industry should be more proactive in finding ways to beat the heat. He continues: “I think the weather has been a strong reason for a very conservative approach to the exploration of alternative materials.

I would highly encourage exploring the viability of different materials to expand the pool of tried and tested products. But equally, I would encourage such endeavours to proceed with caution, research and experimentation under actual conditions.

“Most technological advancements in the field of construction have been geared to serve colder climates, while I think hotter climates have just as much need for research in the field. Over the next few years, we at TNQ intend to explore different systems as we’ve already started in several of our projects.”

Another consideration for specifiers is the distance from building materials manufacturers. “Most materials are not manufactured locally,” he continues. “Shipping materials across large distances has its environmental impact. Availability of samples locally for physical inspection and readily available stock for delivery on site at short notice are also missed because of these distances.”

For this reason Qaddumi states that regional specifiers are more inclined to work with “reputable traders who come prepared with samples and carry a fair amount of stock” rather than those that depend entirely on orders to import material.

He says his firm is not averse to specifying local materials, adding: “I have no concerns over specifying locally – the products are fairly competitive in price and quality. The concern stems from products that are imported from less than dependable sources.”

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