While the construction industry in the residential sector of the Middle East is always accused of applying construction techniques relegated by specialists as being stuck in the Middle Ages, there are always new technologies that are challenging the well-entrenched conventional behemoths; So should we pay lip service to some of the new comers or hear out and validate their claims for early adoption?
One such building construction solution is being promoted by ECOFAST construction ( www.ecofast.co ), a newly established contracting company in the UAE, which believes in offering greater added-value to its clients with equally or improved economic competitiveness. They describe their new home-grown system, ECFS, as a monolithic building enclosure system that is most suited for the region and which is primarily composed of three elements: Cold-formed Steel Channels/Studs and Nogs, Cellular Lightweight Concrete (aerated/foamed concrete), and fibre cement boards as an option for external cladding. They further claim that their construction system, namely ECOFAST Composite Framing System (ECFS), has gained approval from the combined Dubai Municipality (DM) and Civil Defence (DCD) as applicable to non-load bearing walls and partitions at this stage.
With their assertion that ECFS offers greater advantages than its three de-facto arch-rivals;
- Cast-In-Situ (reinforced concrete columns and slabs with hollow core masonry block covered with plaster walls),
- The same cast-in-situ structural framing of columns, beams and slabs, with Autoclaved Aerated Concrete – AAC – blocks), or for that matter
- Industrial factory-moulded precast elements (i.e. wall panels, beams and columns, or floor and roof slabs), and notwithstanding
- The non-load bearing dry-wall composed of commercial grade studs, and layers of gypsum board with stone wool layer infills.
ECOFAST boasts about the various benefits of ECFS’s such as
- Lightweight construction (represents 80% reduction of dead load for standard non-load bearing hollow masonry block walls),
- Robust structures (Although the steel is designed to carry the building loads through uniform load distribution, the infill concrete can achieve 3.5 kN/m2 as compared to about 5 kN/m2 for the equivalent hollow masonry block in addition to offering a multitude of supplementary properties).
- High fire-resistance rating as tested in approved lab, and certified by an accredited independent body (over 4 hours for the 100mm wall assembly),
- Improved thermal resistances (thickness of 180mm wall for reaching the DM specified thermal resistance of 0.57 W/m2*K) ,
- Adequate sound transmission rating (45 db for a thickness of 100mm),
- Fast-track production, assembly, erection and construction works due to the availing of high-production related construction equipment (core & shell superstructure can be completed within days)
- Green is not the colour of their concrete but rather, ECFS adorns the Green/Sustainable label with the use of 100% recyclable steel, incorporating Fly Ash as a fill material and a by-product from power generation plants, along with up to three times fewer cement and no aggregates, to the consumption of less water, production and transport of lesser quantities of material, all resulting in a lower carbon footprint than the established conventional building techniques, and last but not least,
- Compliance with local building codes and standards to account for associated dead, live, and wind loads (in addition to seismic considerations),
Will these stated facts convince me to adopt this system? As a person grounded in Engineering, I find that the best way to validate or refute such claims is to go down, visit and challenge them at their stand SS1-C141 at the Big 5, or at their workshop in Al Quoz, where they also claim they can demonstrate some of these features.