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Sealed: Inside and out

As a building’s air tightness affects its longevity, environmental quality and energy efficiency, it is important that adhesives and sealants withstand the region’s unforgiving weather. Jerome Sanchez takes a close look.

| | Oct 16, 2013 | 12:12 am
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As a building’s air tightness affects its longevity, environmental quality and energy efficiency, it is important that adhesives and sealants withstand the region’s unforgiving weather. Jerome Sanchez takes a close look.


In recent years, the GCC construction market has discernibly shifted its priorities. With the building industry in the region progressively reaching its maturity, the market is gradually growing more conscious of the quality and sustainability of products on offer, and is slowly realising the benefits of looking at their long-term advantages.

oct2013-focus03Adhesives and sealants are widely used in the construction industry, and with the nascent increase in building projects in the GCC region, the sector is expected to grow proportionally. In fact, Rizwan Shaikhani, Managing Director, Rubber World Industries, says that industry reports have shown that adhesives and sealants constitute 25% of the total demand for construction materials in the region. In his view, this percentage represents an increase, owing to the resumption of stalled projects and the progress of new ones. “GCC economies have implemented and embarked on strategic programmes and projects aimed at developing and constructing residential, commercial and industrial infrastructure,” says Shaikhani. These projects, he adds, along with those coming from the private sector, have ensured a continuous demand for adhesives and sealants, contributing towards the growth of the industry.

With the GCC market’s heightened consciousness of the importance of a healthier indoor environment and of energy-efficient building operation, the quality of adhesives and sealants are now, so to speak, under a microscope. “Today the industry is marked with challenges, like the need to develop new technology for adhesives and sealants. This will enable manufacturers to accelerate [innovation] and increase the longevity of its products,” Shaikhani says.

Taking on the challenge

Adhesives and sealants have a profound effect on a building’s indoor environmental quality and on the energy efficiency of its heating and cooling systems. In light of the region’s unforgiving climatic conditions, adhesives and sealants are primarily used to ensure the air tightness of the building envelope and, thus, the efficient operation of its air conditioning systems, as well as to prevent the deterioration of the building’s interiors due to detrimental levels of moisture, temperature and humidity.

In an article titled, “Brighter future for coatings and sealants” by Sona Nambiar, William Whistler, Managing Director of building air leakage testing specialist, GBSI, said that the air tightness of a building envelope is a significant factor in the overall energy consumption of buildings and homes in the GCC region. He explains: “The energy required to comfortably cool and maintain humidity in buildings increases dramatically if there is uncontrolled air transfer through the building’s exterior fabric. Leaky buildings are vulnerable to moisture infiltration, deterioration of building materials, poor indoor temperature and humidity control.”

Nabil Siyam, Senior MEP Engineer, Civil Engineering Division, Department of Planning and Development, Trakhees, during the 1st Annual Middle East Indoor Environmental Quality Conference in May in Dubai, explained how air tightness in buildings affects energy consumption. “Air tightness is the resistance of the building envelope to inward and outward air leakage,” he said, adding that excessive air leakage could result in increased energy consumption in a draughty and cold building. Ensuring air tightness, Siyam said, is achieved through a careful implementation strategy throughout the design and construction phases. “The effect of structural envelope elements, both exterior and interior, becomes increasingly important,” he said, “whereas the good coordinated foundation-design entails not only structural soundness and good installation but also appropriately controlled moisture, contaminants and indoor quality.”

Improving the performance of the building envelope, to which adhesives and sealants are critical, is said to be 10 times more cost-effective than endeavoring to make air conditioning systems efficient. “From my perspective,” says Whistler, “the sealant is the most important material used in the construction of the building.” He says that there are many five- or six-year-old buildings that look older, because most of the sealants and gaskets around the windows have failed in harsh climatic conditions, resulting in air infiltration.

Shaikhani agrees and says that the failure in performance of adhesives and sealants can cause large problems if they allow moisture to get through. He shares his view that improper installation is a factor that could be the root cause.

In Whistler’s opinion, currently, the market is seeing better products that can tolerate the unrelenting heat and special weather conditions of the region. “One is also seeing products that have less carbon emissions and that have decreased the use of petroleum-based products in their materials,” he says.

Shaikhani substantiates Whistler’s observation, when he says that his company is ramping up its R&D in order to develop products that are sustainable and highly eco-friendly. “We are also developing products that are designed to assist contractors, designers and end-users and that are fully compliant with set international ‘green’ standards,” he says.

In addition, with the region’s more stringent environmental and safety codes and regulations, adhesives and sealants companies are working to provide safer, less toxic and more environmentally friendly products. “Our R&D team,” Shaikhani says, “has conducted key tests to prove that our products, particularly Gulf-o-Seal and Gulf-o-Glue, have low carbon emissions and have low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Our products are purely aqua-based, contribute to energy efficiency and are all air-tight.”


With the region’s unique environmental conditions, the GCC market requires a higher degree of reliability and performance from adhesives and sealants. Adhesives and sealants play a crucial role in ensuring a healthy indoor environment and in maintaining the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. By contributing to a building’s air tightness, adhesives and sealants encourage the longevity of the structure, good indoor environmental conditions and cost savings from cooling and heating systems.

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