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“Increasing Demand for Higher Performance Façades Increases Our Contribution to Major Projects”
By: Richard Lee
In a conversation with Window & Façade Magazine, Richard Lee Managing Director at Brital Limited, UAE talked about Brital’s journey and its plans and also about the aluminium façade industry and its impact in the region. Here are the exceprts…
Please brief us about Brital’s journey.
Since being founded in the mid-1990s to serve the Gulf region markets, Brital systems have evolved to meet the regional market requirements and customer expectations, which has resulted in one of the most comprehensive ranges of façade systems available today.
Tell us about Brital’s product offerings? What benefits do they offer?
Brital systems are unique in that they have been specifically designed to suit the climatic and performance requirements of the Middle East region, they are not adapted systems originally designed for other markets. Having highly qualified and experienced design staff at our disposal enables us to offer practical technical solutions to any type of façade requirement and to remain market led to suit our customers’ specific requirements.
Name some of the major projects in the Middle East in which your products have been used?
Al Hikma Tower, Dubai; Aramco North Park Offices, KSA; Sidra Tower Dubai; Al Bateen Towers, Dubai; CIB HQ, Kuwait; Al Khobar Gate Tower, KSA; HSBC HQ, Dubai; Palm Tower, Sharjah, etc.
The Middle Eastern façade industry is highly competitive, how do you stay ahead of the competition?
By continuing to offer a high level of technical support to our users and by designing and developing systems specifically for the regional project requirements. As we only supply our systems to a network of approved fabricators, our customers’ success is reflected in our business accordingly.
What changes aluminium façade brought to the construction industry in the Middle East?
Aluminium has long been the material of choice for façade projects in the Middle East. The main changes we have seen in the last 20 years are at the level of expertise and skill of the fabricators. 20 years ago, the fabricators generally had a much lower level of skill and manufacturing capability than they do now and as a result, our products were designed to be manufactured within these capabilities. In recent years, most manufacturers have invested in advanced manufacturing equipment that has allowed designs to incorporate more advanced manufacturing techniques, such as pre-programmed CNC machining of components. As the focus in the UAE has shifted from what was a fairly basic level of performance, façade systems have had to adapt to meet levels of performance that are now among the most stringent found anywhere.
The areas that have seen major changes in performance are:
•Weather resistance: Increasing levels of performance for both air and water penetration.
• Thermal performance: Increasing levels of performance and the introduction of the Green Building Guide requirements.
• Fire resistance: Increasing awareness of the risks associated with certain materials (e.g. ACP’s) and the introduction (in UAE) of the Fire and Life safety code
• Reduction in the risk of falling from windows: Following concerns over falls from buildings the introduction (in UAE) of the Fire and Life safety code which limits the openings of the windows.
What are your expectations for the aluminium façade industry in the Middle East in the coming years? What changes do you foresee?
The changes that have happened in the UAE are likely to expand across the region to the other countries in the area with an ever-growing focus on environmental performance and safety aspects of the façades.
What do you see as the main challenges faced by your industry?
As the levels of environmental requirements are raised, it will become ever more difficult to achieve improvements in performance, hence we will be in a situation of diminishing returns for what could be significant changes in design. With regards to the weather performance of façades, the demands have been constantly increasing over the last few years resulting in more and more complex designs. We would question whether, in the context of the Middle East environment, these are necessary and if they are providing any real benefits to building developers and owners. While façades must perform satisfactorily in service, the use of European or US standards, which may not reflect the local conditions, is overestimating the requirements, particularly with regards to weather resistance.
What are the major opportunities for your business in the Middle East?
The increasing demand for higher performance façades makes our contribution to major projects via locally and internationally provided technical support more and more relevant to aluminium façade contractors who cannot successfully execute such projects without major systems company support. Increasing our resources to support our customers in this way makes our service of increasing value to our customers. As this trend expands throughout the region, it will enable us to increase our geographical reach into new markets.
What are your goals and plans for the next 4-5 years?
We aim to continue our high levels of technical support to our existing network of approved fabricators and to increase our network of approved fabricators throughout the region and to establish a presence in new geographical markets throughout the wider region.
Richard Lee has spent the last 30 years working in the façade industry in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, during that time, he lived in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Amman, Tanzania, and the United Arab Emirates. He worked as an independent consultant in the façade industry specialising in structurally glazed curtain walling systems and for the past twelve years, he has been the Managing Director of the façade systems company Brital Limited, based at Dubai. In addition to his working career in the façade industry, he has also been a guest lecturer on façades at Dubai Men’s College, Higher Colleges of Technology and is a Fellow of the Society of Façade Engineering professional industry body.