This month’s Specifically Speaking is with David Mills, Head of Forster Profiles Middle East, and a long time supporter of the Safety Design in Buildings (SDiB) campaign. Forster originates from Switzerland and specialises in high quality steel frame profiles for buildings which help keep fire spread and smoke development in buildings under control, as well as ensuring burglar and bullet resistance.
Forster is well known in the fire glazing and steel profile systems market. But can you explain your global, and regional, market position right now?
Forster Profile Systems is an international business and our profiles have been used on construction projects around the world for many years. The Middle East is a key region for us and over the last few years we have seen significant growth especially within the passive fire protection industry, where we sell our range of fire glazing systems. While it is difficult to ascertain our true market position here in the Middle East, we have secured work on a number of very high profile projects (such as Abu Dhabi Airport Midfield Terminal Building, UAE, and Muscat International Airport, Oman) and are confident that our business will continue to grow year on year.
How has 2015 been in this region performance wise? There have been both talks of another construction boom – but also a small economic slump (especially in the property market) – how has this played out for you in terms of profits?
2015 has been a record breaking year for Forster Profile Systems in the Middle East. We have seen a tremendous increase in both sales and turnover, and the forecast for 2016 is very good. We believe that safety is a paramount concern to all building designers and because of this we are confident the passive fire protection industry will continue to grow.
As a supporter and participant in the Safety Design in Buildings Campaign, have you noticed any shift in the audience awareness about safety strategies in the GCC over the past two years?
The people and organisations here in the Middle East are very keen to learn, and we always see a good turnout at the SDiB conferences. The Civil Defence Authorities in particular, have been doing excellent work in helping to drive building safety strategies throughout the region. The Civil Defence requirements are now very stringent and this is forcing the construction industry to encourage safe building strategies throughout the procurement process, from concept design through to the management of live building.
What’s new for Forster technology wise?
We are always developing new systems and innovations. For the Abu Dhabi Airport building we designed, tested and certified a bespoke fire resistant façade system to be used on the Gate House Buildings as well as a bespoke fire resistant façade system to be used on the internal hotel building. Our team in Switzerland has also developed a fire resistant sliding door c/w breakout function and our UNICO XS system is possible the most narrow window system on the market, offering profiles which are only 23mm thick.
If you could change one thing about the safety industry tomorrow what would it be?
I think if I could change one thing, it would be to establish one set of construction safety codes which could be adopted throughout the entire region. In many ways the Middle East region is quite unique, as the building specifications often utilise standards from the UK, Europe and North America and this can lead to confusion when companies come to tender work.
On a personal level, what are the greatest challenges of your role? What is most rewarding?
The projects here in the Middle East are like nowhere else in the world, both in terms of their scale and the innovation required to construct them. Our challenge is to stay ahead of the game, continue to develop the most extensive range of fire glazing systems in the market and be ready to initiate project specific developments within extremely tight deadlines. The most rewarding aspect of my job is the fact I have been directly involved in so many landmark projects and to know that our systems will make people safe.
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