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Sat 17 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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Recycled solution enters hoarding sector

Innovations in the fencing and site-hoarding market are moving towards the use of recycled plastic for building perimeters. Christopher Sell reports on the rise of a new competitor in the steel-led Dubai market.

If a bare patch of land in Dubai doesn't suggest that a building is about to take shape, site hoardings certainly give the game away. In what is a relatively niche market with a handful of players, new companies are sensing an opportunity to set up in the region, bringing with them innovative solutions to the sector. Until three years ago, the material of choice for site and fence hoardings was wood. This changed when UK site fencing company S&B entered the market, bringing with it steel solutions, which offered numerous advantages, namely stronger fencing, lower maintenance and ease of assembly.

Now IT&S has appeared in the market and is confident of establishing itself with not just a range of steel fencing, but also more innovative solutions.

According to Al Ghattaura, group sales director for IT&S in Dubai, the company has spent the last seven months looking at ways of expanding the business before deciding that site construction logistics was the way forward. The company recognised that the scope of options for site fencing in Dubai was not extensive, and therefore identified it as an opportunity.

"There's only one type of hoarding in Dubai at the moment, but different companies are looking into alternatives, because it doesn't fit into the schedule they require," says Ghattaura. The conventional type, according to Ghattaura, is steel sheets, which are effective as they overlap round a site, but their use can be limited. Consequently, Ghattaura explains, IT&S is pursuing an altogether new concept in the region: recycled material, and the firm is not simply looking at Dubai.

"Our main interest is that we have signed an agreement with a company in the Far East where we are the sole distributor to the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia of recycled plastic hoarding," he says.

This overcomes many of the disadvantages that afflict steel hoardings, adds Ghattaura. For example, the recovery rate of used fences is up 86%, but only 30 to 40% of this is actually reused, as the structure can be damaged from external impact or rusting due to exposure to salts. There is also a case that steel structures can be susceptible to strong winds, which may push them over. And from an economical point of view, steel fencing requires the attachment of a separate frame to their surfaces for advertising, which is impossible to repair.

Ghattaura says that recycled plastic reduces the cost of construction, makes work sites tidier, while also offering sound-proofing technology - it can, claims Ghattuara, reduce the noise of construction sites using an independently developed sheet structure by over 500hz to 25db. It is also lightweight and is non-flammable, unlike wood fencing, and is impervious to corrosive exposure from salt and moisture while also being easy to fix. He adds that from an advertisers' point of view, it is also possible to directly print out corporate images onto the material. It also affords environmental advantages, as it can easily be re-used in the event of a breakage or the need for replacement.

The company is currently in the process of setting up an office in the region, with a scheduled opening date of 1 April, while in the meantime it is negotiating a contract to fence a significant site within the UAE, although the details are yet to be released.

However, according to Paul Grundy, director of S&B, steel fencing still has plenty to offer and is durable enough to withstand the harsh Gulf climate with its sunlight, high winds and humidity.

Even if it has been attacked by the elements - fencing must be expected to endure a number of years - and if its coating has been eroded away, it can be recoated and re-furbished at minimal cost, says Grundy, unlike timber which could need replacing a number of times during a project.

S&B, which is based in Dubai, is supplying fencing to a number of high-profile projects including the Burj Dubai, Dubai Metro, Palm Jumeirah, Dubailand and Business Bay. One of the company's largest contracts to date is Aldar Properties' Al Raha Beach development in Abu Dhabi, which saw S&B employ 200 labourers to erect 8km of fencing in just 30 days.

Grundy adds that while site hoardings are plentiful in the emirate, due to the expensive nature of advertising hoardings and the need for engineering tests and wind-load factors, the company is also developing business interests elsewhere. To that end, Grundy says he is looking more at the edge protection market, which has applications in the high-rise market where mesh fencing is applied to the side of buildings to intercept falling objects.

Cost is inevitably a key part of the industry, and while Grundy advocates steel, fluctuating market prices in the region are hampering contractors, which is where, says Ghattaura, the cheaper recycled plastic technology offered by IT&S holds the edge over its competitors. That isn't to say IT&S is ignoring the potential offered by steel, especially as alternative products such as timber hoarding come with high maintenance costs and is time consuming and costly to install. This approach also means the construction site looks untidy, which reflects poorly on the contractor and developer.

The company provides both 2.4m and 2.8m-high standard steel hoarding system with galvanised channels, together with an excel hoarding system that has sheeting and channels fully painted in bespoke colours. Both provide an aesthetically pleasing, uniform look, which makes a positive impression - a key requirement in light of the decree issued last year by Dubai Municipality that fencing panels should be placed alongside each other. And in light of the volume of construction taking place in the region, smart fencing is almost a pre-requisite for contractors.

With more projects being unveiled on an almost daily basis in Dubai and the wider region, it is clear there is only going to be greater scope for companies like IT&S to implement innovative technology to every facet of the construction process and it will be surprising if the next 12 months doesn't see more companies looking to make an impact on this understated, yet essential, part of any development.

“There’s only one type of hoarding in Dubai at the moment, but different companies are looking into alternatives, because it doesn’t fit into the schedule they require.”

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GRANT FINLAYSON 13 years ago

I have a residential fencing company in geelong . Is there a demand for residential fencing in dubai.If so which type do they use?. thanks grant