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Lightweight Construction Dominates Strufex 2014
Economy, Business And Markets

Lightweight Construction Dominates Strufex 2014

Iran’s construction sector, according to official figures, is booming and it’s said to have one of the highest rates of activity in the Middle East in terms of the number of construction projects. The domestic construction industry is divided into two main sections. The first is government infrastructure projects, which are central for the cement industry, and the second part is the housing industry.
The second international specialized exhibition of structures, facades, and related industries, Strufex 2014, kicked off on Saturday at Tehran’s Permanent International Fairground. The event was an ideal opportunity for different construction companies to showcase the latest methods and techniques as well as modern materials and equipment.
In the past two decades, the construction industry has been thriving due to an increase mostly in national investments, if we put aside the last few years when the industry, like any other sector, suffered from a downturn caused by international sanctions imposed on the country over its nuclear dispute with the West.
According to official data, the annual turnover in the construction industry amounts to $38.4 billion. In 2008 alone, the real estate sector contributed 5% to the GDP. Every year there is a need for 750,000 additional units as young couples embark on their married life. According to reports from the roads and urban development ministry, presently, 2,000 units are being built every day although this needs to increase to 2,740 units.
During the past two years, the housing market experienced one of the worst periods in years and consequently, all the industries related to construction, including steel industry and construction materials, went through painful stagnation.
But in general, one cannot ignore the great achievements made by the producers of construction materials. The main problem faced by engineers is that the country is prone to earthquakes, and that is the factor the construction companies are required to consider when designing and producing the materials.
The second international specialized exhibition of structures, facades, and related industries, Strufex 2014, kicked off on Saturday at Tehran’s Permanent International Fairground. The event was an ideal opportunity for different construction companies to showcase the latest methods and techniques as well as modern materials and equipment.

 New Approach to Architecture
Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, and there is no particular statute regarding the compatibility of facades with the country’s traditional architecture.
“These were the main two factors that made us organize such an exhibition,” Jalil Kiani, the Strufex 2014 executive manager, told Financial Tribune, adding that over 70 companies are taking part in this year’s exhibition, some of them representatives of companies from foreign countries such as Sweden, Finland, the United States, Thailand, Brazil, and Norway. According to Kiani, the exhibition features six main categories, including facades in traditional architecture, modern wooden facades, metal structures, concrete structures, modern structures technologies, and state-of-the-art equipment.
During the recent years, Iranian architects have incorporated traditional methods of design into modern ones. The new desire by customers to use modern structures and facades has also forced designers and manufactures to improve their platforms. Experts say the most profitable part of the construction business is the design of structure and facade.
In order to minimize the construction weight, builders have turned to curtain walls, which are non-structural and can be made of a lightweight material, reducing construction costs.    
Such new facades have become very popular in the country, especially during the past five years. Glass facades, aluminum facades in sheets, and thermowood cladding are widely used in many urban projects, especially in major cities, each with its own merits and disadvantages.
Aluminum cladding, for instance, makes the whole construction much lighter and the sheets are very quickly installed. But when talking about risk factors such as fire, aluminum cladding has a blind spot if it is not fire-resistant. Thermowood cladding has the same weakness but gives a warm look to the environment.

 Highly Resistant Structures
In line with significant growth achieved in civil engineering and construction techniques, Iran has developed a particular expertise in making some of the toughest concrete in the world.
A type of very resistant concrete showcased in Strufex 2014 is the glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC). The hard material consists of high-strength glass fiber embedded in a cementitious matrix. In this form, both fibers and matrix retain their physical and chemical identities, while offering a synergism which cannot be achieved with either of the components acting alone, Moinedin Zafari, a young civil engineer, told the Financial Tribune.
The concrete uses glass fibers for reinforcement instead of steel and significantly reduces the structure weight, especially when considered as the facade since the beginning if designing phase, added Zafari, who is working on the Isfahan Conference Center project.
In addition to very crucial advantages such as high draft, the fibers cannot rust like steel and there is no need for a protective concrete cover thickness to prevent rusting. With the thin, hollow construction of GFRC products, they can weigh a fraction of the weight of traditional precast concrete.  
With the great emphasis put during the past decade by the officials in construction and housing sector to make earthquake-resistant buildings, the GFRC could be an excellent alternative for more traditional facades such as bricks and stones, said Zafari. He emphasized that the application of GFRC would only be economical if the architects and engineers decide to use it when designing the building. In this way, he said, they can economize their construction projects because they know they will have a lighter structure with excellent insulating properties.
The environmental conditions are categorized into four regions. The first region, the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea coasts, has the harshest environment for concrete materials and structures with aggressive exposure to salt, chloride, and sulfate attack. This southern region has high temperatures and humidity in summer. The second region, the Caspian Sea shores, has a high humidity and moderate temperatures.
The third region, the west and northwest of Iran, has cold weather with freeze and thaw conditions for concrete structures. Finally, the fourth region, which has moderate conditions for concrete structures, is located in the central and eastern parts of Iran. Therefore, in designing the facades, the developers and architects should consider all such measures and at the same time incorporate the characteristics of Iranian traditional style of architecture in order to please the customers.

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