Changes in cladding and façades in the UAE’s growing market place by NEB’s Ahmed Salem

For the past few decades in the UAE and around the world, aluminium composite panel, or ACP, materials have been a popular choice for façades due to their many characteristics. Our streets from suburbia to the main central business districts are saturated with buildings and towers that are mostly specified with aluminium cladding skins, making our urban landscape render silent in terms of colours, grains, textures and patterns.

As architects and designers, we have the responsibility and drive to explore, with the ability to influence façade trends in the market, but we are held back by the majority of stakeholders who prioritise more efficient projects due to their practicality and their budget allotments.

Our objectives are to capitalise on our capacity to provide high-quality designs that are capable of adding value to clients’ assets and investments.

In the overview of the general business environment, I would say there are two aspects to consider: firstly, the market and secondly, the design aspect. The market is now reacting with caution to authorities and their implementation of more stringent measures or regulations for the use of ACP for building façade systems. ACP is a leading choice in the market for building skins as it’s a lightweight material that provides durability, less heat gains, and comes in a variety of designs and colours.

With the recent introduction of new types of ACP, the A2 has been recognised for its fire retardant capabilities, as it uses an innovative mineral core material that’s non-combustible compared to its predecessor. However, the A2 adds more to a project’s construction costs since it bears a 30 to 40 percent increase in its price, creating a smaller gap between costs of other cladding materials, like rain screen systems that use ceramic natural stone or terracotta finishes.

The cost impact of the new ACP system has led to stakeholders considering their options, which allows for other materials to compete. I now expect this to change the perceptions of the developers toward the use of ACP, which has come to wrap our cities.

Cladding product research and development is continuously evolving and inventing new technologies in the market, edging and competing on their own to surpass and offer better options. This entails a tremendous amount of developmental capital, with the cost being passed on to the consumers in the end.
The manufacturer’s business concept is to enter a product with a high initial capital cost, but vouching it would benefit end-users on a long term basis, as it would assure the product’s ability to weather the passing of time. Still, high cost in cladding prevails, and products are becoming scarce and limited, forcing manufacturers to engage in the expensive research of alternative resources.

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