Interviews

High and dry

Saint-Gobain managing director Craig Chambers reveals the company’s strategy to develop dry-lining solutions and expand its product portfolio

Since the firm’s first project supplying glass for the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, France, in 1665, Saint-Gobain has grown to be one of the largest suppliers of buildings materials in the world.

Operating across 64 countries and employing more than 190,000 people worldwide, the company provides ductile iron pipe systems, plasterboard and plaster, insulation, industrial mortars, ceramics and plastics, abrasives, fire glass and reinforcements.

Today, the company claims to be the number one gypsum plasterboard manufacturer. With around 75 quarries in operation, it produces enough plasterboard annually to go around the world 22 times. This year marks the first anniversary of the opening of Saint-Gobain’s Abu Dhabi-based plasterboard plant.

“For us, the regional construction market poses great opportunities as we look to develop the use of lightweight, internal dry-lining solutions — a construction method that is widely accepted as the norm in many other countries and regions around the world,” explains managing director Craig Chambers.

“Significant savings can be made in the region in foundations, programme schedules, the quantity of materials on site and waste through our ability to offer bespoke product dimensions,” he advises.

Construction has changed, but all sectors have developed. It’s encouraging to see improvement in the areas of environment and sustainability”

Despite the rapid growth, there is still consideration for the local environment with initiatives in energy optimisation, waste heat re-use, water consumption reductions, distribution via rail networks, quarry conservation and a drive to use recycled materials, particularly in the 100% recycled plasterboard paper liners.

Meeting demand

Locally, Saint-Gobain’s key projects in 2010 included the Ferrari Experience, Capital Gate and the Masdar Institute, all in Abu Dhabi, Dubai’s Infinity Tower and the Sheraton Hotel in Muscat.

The company supplies dry-lining solutions, manufactured from locally-produced Gyproc plasterboards, Gypframe metal components and a range of Gyproc accessories, such as jointing compounds, tapes and fixings.

The products and systems can be used in all construction types, including infrastructure, leisure, residential and commercial.

“Dry-lining systems are typically much quicker to install than traditional methods of construction – so the demands we can meet are speed and higher levels of performance in the areas of fire, acoustics, impact, thermal and moisture resistance,” explains Chambers, adding that all products are eligible for the company’s SpecSure system warranty.

Future vision

This year will include expansions to the product portfolio, the introduction of more bespoke solutions for customers and strengthened relationships with architects and consultants, fostered via the quarterly Gyproc Seminars. The forums allow discussion on the technical and locally-significant aspects of dry-lining such as fire performance, impact resistance and moisture performance.

“We will strive to act on the success of 2010. We’re already involved with Abu Dhabi Central Market and the Financial Centre along with the Barwa City in Qatar, to name a few. This region has had significant growth in recent years and there will be more of the same in future,” Chambers predicts.

In addition, to positioning itself to act on the opportunities in Qatar, Saint-Gobain also sees potential in markets in Saudi Arabia, Iran and in Iraq.

“Construction has changed, but all sectors have developed. It’s encouraging to see improvement in the areas of environment and sustainability.”

“Buildings that will last and serve their occupants in a way that is compassionate to their surroundings,” Chambers concludes.

FAST FACTS

Saint Gobain’s products insulate more than half of all homes in Europe

•They have equipped 80 capital cities and more than 1000 major cities with ductile iron water pipes; including Abu Dhabi and Doha

•They glaze one in every two cars in Europe

•The firm employs 191,500 people worldwide

•Has more than 91 major industrial sites

•Sales reached in excess of US $52 billion in 2009

•Reached 388 patent applications in 2009

•Has approximately 75 Gypsum quarries

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