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Painting the town green

There is a discernible growth in the paints and coatings sector, owing to the boost in regional construction activity. But it comes with the challenge of manufacturing safer and more environmentally friendly paints and coatings. Jerome Sanchez has the report.

| | Oct 28, 2013 | 1:38 pm
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There is a discernible growth in the paints and coatings sector, owing to the boost in regional construction activity. But it comes with the challenge of manufacturing safer and more environmentally friendly paints and coatings. Jerome Sanchez has the report.

oct2013-focus01Paints and coatings have a significant effect on the Indoor Environmental Quality and on the overall energy efficiency of a building. With residents of Gulf countries spending an average of 90% of their time indoors, ensuring a healthy indoor environment and an efficient energy consumption of air conditioning systems is of utmost importance.

Taking stock

The paints and coatings industry is expected to continuously grow in the coming years, as a result of the observed increase in activity in the construction sector in the region. Market experts estimate the total size of the GCC paints and coatings sector to be around USD 2.2 billion in 2012, and predict a continuous expansion at a compound annual growth of approximately six per cent until 2017. The demand for decorative paints in the GCC states is said to be greatly influenced by the increase in government spending in infrastructure, owing to an observable rise in government revenue from oil and gas exports. This bodes well for the industry players, especially the Europe-based entities, as they are able to offset the slow pace of business in their home countries, with the revenues they derive from their activities in the GCC region.

Industry players consider Saudi Arabia to be the biggest market for paints and coatings among the GCC states. In fact, market research consultancy, Frost & Sullivan says that GCC paints and coatings market is dominated by the Kingdom, with a 50% share of the total demand. Experts cite the additional government-initiated domestic funding and the influx of foreign capital as the foremost drivers to the growth of the sector in the country.

Qatar is also considered a growth hub for the paints and coatings sector, thanks to the boost in the country’s infrastructure in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which Qatar will be hosting. The planning and the designing of the sporting facilities are said to be under way, with the paints and coatings companies bidding to be specifiers or suppliers for the project.

In Abu Dhabi, the largest and the capital emirate of the UAE, the residential units are reported to increase by 35% from 2011to 2013. In Dubai, on the other hand, the number of existing housing units is expected to increase by approximately 20%, as the emirate recovers from the effects of the economic downturn of the recent years.

Staying competitive

oct2013-focus02Though paints and coatings companies welcome the huge business and growth opportunities presented to them in the GCC region, they sound a warning that, with the harsh climatic conditions in the area, their products have to be tailored to the needs of the region. A few of the special features that customers in the region typically demand that paints and coatings should have are heat shielding, weather resistance and sand repellency.

In an interview at the World Future Energy Summit 2013 (WFES 2013) in February in Abu Dhabi, Abdel Megeed, General Manager, Jotun, Abu Dhabi, spoke about his company’s line of eco-friendly paints, and claimed that one of its products was capable of reflecting heat and reducing the penetration of temperature from the outside of a structure. “When you have this type of reduction in temperature,” said Megeed, “it automatically reflects on the energy consumption, when it comes to air conditioning and controlling the temperature inside the house.”

Paints and coatings companies are also ramping up their R&D in order to introduce new products that would satisfy the region’s stringent sustainability and Indoor Environmental Quality requirements. Sustainability codes, such as Estidama (Abu Dhabi), Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS, Qatar) and the Dubai Green Building Code, are tipping the scales in favour of “green” paints and coatings in the GCC region.

“Changing regulations are pushing the industry to move in a sustainable direction and to develop healthier products,” says Mustapha Selim, Brand Manager, Caparol. The challenge for manufacturers, he adds, is to design products that minimise risks to one’s health and to the environment, without compromising quality and performance.

Selim says that his company’s products receive clearance for large-scale production only when it can be guaranteed that all quality parameters are clearly above the requirement level.

Selim adds that his company puts special emphasis on innovative, environmentally friendly and non-noxious products. “During the late 1980s, Caparol introduced the quality grade “ELF” (emission-minimised and solvent-free) in the field of water-thinnable, environmentally friendly building paints,” he says. He points out that during the process of drying, these non-odiferous paints do not emit solvent, plasticiser or any other harmful substance. “Our products are free of formaldehydes, heavy metals, lead and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have all been proven to negatively affect people’s health and contribute to global climate change,” he explains.

During the interview at WFES 2013, Megeed sharing additional details on the drying process of paints said: “While the paint dries, the liquid part would evaporate into the air…. The liquid part could possibly be made up of water, chemicals or solvents. While the paint dried in days or a few weeks, it could keep emitting VOCs after drying…. It may still take months after the paint dries that it continues to emit other compounds that contaminate the air.” He claimed that Jotun paints contained low VOCs and were anti-asthma and non-toxic, even after application.

Andrew Jackson, Director, SAS International, a manufacturer of suspended ceiling systems, speaks about how the coating on his company’s products contribute to the maintenance of a healthy indoor environment. “Health risks associated with indoor air contaminants can be minimised by selecting indoor materials that have zero or minimal rates of VOC emissions,” he says, and adds that his company’s metal ceiling systems are finished with an electrostatically applied powder coat finish. “This process is well documented to produce zero or near-zero VOCs during manufacture use,” he claims.

New trends

Apart from the increase in construction projects and the sustainability practices in the region, Jackson says that technical development is also driving the growth of the paints and coatings industry in the GCC. He makes the claim that advances in technology allows his company to provide metal ceilings with finishes for different environments, including hospitals, laboratories and schools. “Anti-bacterial coatings applied during manufacture, effectively inhibit the growth of micro-organisms and control potential risks when used in conjunction with routine cleaning procedures,” he elaborates.

Whatever the purpose is, Jackson says that paints and coatings need to provide a durable finish that can be maintained easily in order to retain its appearance over time. “Using approved powder coatings on metal, the paint finish itself can be guaranteed for 30 to 40 years.”

Naturally, consumer preference may also influence the trends that are blowing through the paints and coatings sector. “Consumers’ tastes are constantly changing,” says Selim. “Therefore, manufacturers need to develop products like Caparol Metallocryl (metallic paint), for example.” He believes that the challenge for manufacturers is to stay ahead of the game when it comes to catering to the market’s varied and changing taste.


The paints and coatings sector in the GCC is kept buoyant by the growth in construction activities in the region. The unique regional climatic conditions spur specific market requirements, such as heat shielding, weather resistance and sand shielding. Moreover, stricter sustainability regulations and an increasingly discerning market are driving the innovation in this sector, bringing to light more low-VOC, non-toxic and environmentally friendly choices.

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