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Sat 21 Jan 2006 04:00 AM

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Flooring the future: The science and art of ground under our feet

Looking up at the high-rise future of Dubai, you could be forgiven for never looking down at the ground. But, as Zoe Naylor reports, an entire industry is focused on tailoring the ground beneath our feet to meet our ever changing needs.

from car parks to shopping malls to airports, the technology of flooring reaches far beyond our expectations|~|105prod200.gif|~|Looking downwards: Interior flooring designs at Sharjah’s Mega Mall.|~|In a sky scraper-dominated city such as Dubai it is customary to looks upwards to gauge the level of construction activity. But activity down at floor level also appears to be gathering pace.

Al Gurg Fosroc, the Dubai-based joint venture between HE Easa Saleh Al Gurg and Fosroc, is currently undertaking one of the largest flooring projects in the Gulf region, by providing trafficable floor coating for 23 car park buildings at Jumeirah Lake Towers.

When completed, the car park area will spread over 700 000 m2 and will accommodate more than 20 000 cars.
According to Philip Munro, vice president (Gulf States), Al Gurg Fosroc, there are numerous considerations when providing flooring for these types of traffic situations.

“We mostly use epoxy systems for these type of floorings, but polyurethanes are considered where elastomeric properties are crucial,” he says. “The Jumeirah Lake Towers project incorporates a variety of floor finishes because of the variety of uses required.

“The floors have been designed to be suitable for their specific uses i.e. parking bays and driveways have different considerations than ramps and rooftops.

Similarly, external areas will require special flooring design considerations when compared to internal areas, due to exposure to the sun,” he adds.

As an increasingly important transport hub, Dubai’s aviation
facilities are constantly being expanded to accommodate a growing number of aircraft. And this means providing flooring that is durable, long lasting and protective against specific elements such as jet fuel and engine oils.

This was the case with the flooring for the hangars at the Dubai Airwing, which is the royal hangar for the ruling family and one of the largest private hangars in the world.

Flowcrete Middle East recently undertook flooring work at the Dubai Airwing. The contract from DCA (Dubai Civil Aviation) included eight private aircraft hangars and aircraft maintenance workshops of the Dubai Royal Family, representing an area of 55 000 m2.

The project involved the installation of the Flowcoat SK system, which is resistant to jet fuel, jet engine oils, battery fluids, acids and various other chemicals used in this type of environment.

“The system also displays high UV (ultra violet) resistance, unlike other similar products in the market,” says Dev Sirwani, regional manager, Flowcrete Middle East .

Other criteria, as specified by DCA and consultants Dar Al Handasah, included a smooth surface, ease of cleaning, minimum maintenance and the ability to match a specific colour.

Prior to the final selection, samples of the Flowcoat SK were subjected to various tests, including seven-day immersion tests using 10 different types of chemicals and fuels. “There were no signs of erosion, discolouration or wear. The colour was also the required match,” adds Sirwani.

Flowcrete is also providing flooring for the new Terminal Three at the Dubai International Airport expansion, where 365 000 m2 of its car-park decking system, Deckshield, is being used.

The phased installation is scheduled for completion by the fourth quarter of 2006.

A further 30 000 m2 of Deckshield is being installed at the multi-storey airport car park used by airline employees at Gate 13, near Cargo Village. “The structure includes an exposed roof top car park deck,” explains Sirwani.

“The high UV-resistant properties of the Deckshield will protect the surface and ensure its integrity for much longer than a conventional surface such as concrete,” he adds.

According to Grant Adamson, technical director for Flowcrete International, one of the major problems facing building owners and facility operators is damage to the structure of multi-storey car park buildings caused by water and salt ingress, especially in the hot, humid and saline conditions in the Gulf region.

“Car parks are particularly prone to this kind of damage, and in multi-storey structures, where the decks are subject to movement, a rigid flooring finish such as concrete or epoxy will crack,” he says.

“As well as looking unattractive, cracks in concrete floor surfaces add further risks when the reinforcing steel is exposed to corrosion as a result of the water and salt ingress. With a waterproof, crack-bridging, flexible polyurethane system like Deckshield, these problems are eradicated.”

At Dubai Festival City, Flowcrete is supplying a total of 350 000 m2 of its K-Screed system for the retail areas. Work has already begun on the first phase, comprising an area of almost 100 000 m2.

“Unlike conventional sand and cement substrates, K-Screed offers a high compressive strength and low water-cement ratio, which minimises shrinkage and cracking,” says Sirwani.

He says that the product also offers quick drying times and provides a smooth, durable surface as a base for the final selected floor finish i.e. epoxy resin, fitted carpet, wood, tiles or vinyl.

Other recent flooring contracts undertaken by Flowcrete in the region include the Function Stage at Zabeel Park, which has been installed with a seamless, decorative epoxy terrazzo known as Mondeco Exotic. The system is durable, easy to clean and enables designers and architects to incorporate intricate multi-colour designs into the flooring.

Interior flooring is also big business in the region as more of the UAE’s high-rise tower blocks and residential projects come on line. Dubai-based Ofis (Office Furniture Interior Solutions) — the furniture, flooring and interior business of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group — recently launched Interface’s range of modular random carpets for the UAE market.

Designed so they can be placed in any order or direction, Interface random carpets are available in 10 different designs and are suitable for commercial and residential applications.

The modular carpets are manufactured using stain resistant material and fibres to withstand years of traffic, and are widely seen as less expensive and more efficient than conventional carpets — which ultimately require total replacement.

Replacement is simplified because the random carpet tiles are not batch or dye-lot dependent so the replaced tiles will always match, thus eliminating the need to hold ‘same batch’ stock for future installations.

Ofis is also the exclusive supplier for wooden flooring from Parador, the German specialists in laminated, pre-finished timber and timber floorings.

“In architecture and interior design, wood is enjoying a renaissance,” says Ajai Dayal, general manager, retail and marketing, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group.

“Laminated and pre-finished timber floorings are cost-effective ways to bring the beauty of natural wood into a home or office. It is durable and easy to care for, which is why wooden floors are one of the most popular flooring materials,” he adds.

Parador’s solid timber flooring is available in a variety of wood types including beech and European oak. The solid timber flooring comes with pre-finished, oil-impregnated and lacquer-finished surfaces, and is moisture controlling, smooth, dirt- and stain-resistant and easy to repair.

The region’s variety of construction activity means a range of flooring solutions is needed, from carpets and wood for residential and office developments, to chemical-resistant epoxy resins suitable for industrial applications.

The harsh climate of the Gulf also provides a challenge to the manufacturers of specialist outdoor flooring products, whose materials need to be robust enough to withstand the hot, humid and saline conditions in the region.

In addition to delivering long-term technical performance, other criteria include ease of maintenance and pleasing aesthetics.||**||

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