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Sat 16 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Italian style

IBS Mapei’s Laith Haboubi and Naheed Younis discuss their company’s role in helping build the world’s tallest tower.

Italian style
Laith Haboubi, Business Development Manager.
Italian style
Naheed Younis, Commercial Manager.

Construction adhesives and building chemical specialist IBS Mapei played an important role in ensuring the Burj Khalifa was delivered on time. IBS Mapei’s Laith Haboubi, business development manager, and Naheed Younis, commercial manager, discuss their company’s role in helping build the world’s tallest tower.

How was your company involved in the Burj Khalifa project?

Laith Haboubi:IBS Mapei supplied several solutions for the project and in particular, The Armani Hotel. As befitting one of the most stylish and luxurious hotels in the world, the level and quality of finishes and the demand on materials for the installation were tremendous.

Mapei supplied its KERAFLEX MAXI adhesive for the installation of the marble flooring and KERACOLOR FF coloured grout for grouting of joints to ensure the maximum aesthetic effect and long term durability. KERAFLEX MAXI is a high performance adhesive complying as a C2TE to ISO 13007. Other adhesives included ADESILEX P10, a product specifically for the installation of glass mosaic.

Substrate preparation was carried out to certain critical areas such as the ballroom and business centre using Mapei’s rapid hydrating systems such as MAPECEM screed and ULTRAPLAN self-levelling compound. All these systems are capable of accepting subsequent finishes 24 hours after application. This was an important factor to consider due to the tight program of works, but also to avoid compromising quality.

A dazzling array of Mapei products was used to complete the finishing on The Armani Nightclub, which will surely become one of the hottest night spots in Dubai. Mapei supplied GRANIRAPID and KERAFLEX MAXI for the rapid and safe installation of marble and stone. Wet areas were first waterproofed with MAPELASTIC, a highly flexible cementitious waterproofing membrane, which ensures complete compatibility with the subsequent tile installation. Tile joints were grouted with ULTRACOLOR PLUS and also KERAPOXY, a hard wearing and highly durable coloured epoxy grout.

The project also included some of the highest quality pre-engineered wooden flooring ever installed in the region. To ensure the complete success and long term durability of such an application, ULTRABOND P990 1K, a specially formulated single-component polyurethane adhesive with very low VOC emissions and which complies to the stringent GEV Emicode standards as class EC1R, was selected and provided problem-free, safe and efficient use.

Our involvement on the Burj Khalifa is typical of projects where world class standards are to be met while also working with different materials and substrates and also keeping up with tight program times. Mapei products consistently perform under such high pressure situations; hence they are the systems of choice for professionals working in such environments.

What was unique and challenging about working on this project?

LH:For us, the most challenging part was the Armani Hotel. It’s not just the quality, but also the style and for the contractors to get it right was obviously extremely important. Because Mapei is an Italian company, we are often specified by a lot of Italian companies, be it for the installation of tiles, wallpaper and even leather wall coverings. These are not the usual type of materials you would associate with projects here and therefore a lot of expertise in installing them was not available here.

From our side, although we were able to supply from the UAE, a lot of the technical advice came from our head office in Italy, from our technical assistance department. Quite simply, some things on this job had not been done here before.

Naheed Younis:Our involvement started right at the beginning of the job even though the finishing would not happen until twelve months after. Our testing of the material started eight to twelve months prior to the work starting. We conducted an intensive process of research to ensure its compatibility and long term durability. We have a technical team here on the ground, but there were things that hadn’t been done before in the UAE. Therefore, the technical team from Italy was involved in helping us in the selection of materials.

LH:We had the products, but correct selection of products was something we needed help with. We may have up to four different solutions for each application. We make it our job to test all of those to see which one is the best for the job and which one is most cost effective. NY:A client may sometimes change the material he wants to use and we have to be as quick as him in selecting the right product. The product may not be available in the UAE and we have to airfreight it in immediately. Within 72 hours, it has to be in Dubai to do the mockup. We always had people on site and prior to any application, we would be there training people how to use our product.

LH:In certain parts of the project, we were able to provide rapid-setting screeds; the whole idea of that is you install it, and you can walk on it three or four hours later without damaging it and work on it within 24 hours because the moisture content is so low.

There’s no trapped moisture that will come back through and damage the adhesive or stain the subsequent finishes. That’s not something that is done here very often; this is one of the first projects here that actually used the MAPECEM technology.

Why was Mapei selected for the job?

LH:When you look generally at Italian workmanship, it’s well known why there are so many Italian designers. A lot of the Italian suppliers of tiles, furniture and wooden flooring really rely on Mapei. It’s a product they’re very used to. To be involved in the highest project in the world is an accolade for everyone.

NY:It is very much part of our strategy not to go into every job, but to focus on the prestigious jobs, like Burj Khalifa and Dubai Metro. In volume and size, they are large, but it’s the prestige that is important to us. Now that this job is coming to an end, how do you view the business outlook?

LH:We’re cautiously optimistic, looking at a period of stability in 2010. Our expectations are perhaps more realistic than other people’s, but we are still growing. We grew in 2009 over 2008.

What we are finding is that owners, consultants and architects are keen to raise standards. It doesn’t cost a lot to raise the bar. We’re not the cheapest in the market, but the feedback we receive from customers is that we save them money, whether through time, reduced wastage and reduced snagging.

NY:The principle we try to promote is: Do it right the first time.

LH:One area where we’re adding value is with the changes in tile technology. Adhering new materials onto new substrates requires a new type of adhesive. You cannot keep using the same materials as before and this is where we add value. We can advise the designers on which adhesives to use to achieve the finish they want.

Anything final to add about your plans for the region in 2010?

LH:As Mapei, we are expanding our product ranges this year. We’re number one in adhesives worldwide, but we will be introducing more ranges this year. We have a new range of waterproofing as part of our acquisition of Polyglass, we will also be bringing in some new concrete admixtures as well as other building and finishing products. We are broadening our offering, but with the same Mapei quality and the same level of on-site support.

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