Market breakdown: the GCC's demolition sector

Expert perspectives on the GCC's burgeoning demolition sector

An employee of GTS Demolition gets to work with a Chicago Pneumatic breaker.
An employee of GTS Demolition gets to work with a Chicago Pneumatic breaker.

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Historically, demolition equipment has not commanded the largest market share in the Middle East. This, after all, is a region ripe for development. Its vast open spaces and rapidly growing cities tend to encourage construction, not deconstruction.

With this in mind, the majority of demolition tools purchased in the Gulf and wider Levant tend to be used to reshape the natural landscape as opposed to manmade structures.

If you’re in the business of building roads between remote cities in Saudi Arabia, for instance, you’re more likely to raze mountains than you are skyscrapers.

“A number of Montabert hydraulic breakers are currently being used to clear the way for road-construction projects,” explained Karl Fakhoury, district attachments manager at the French equipment manufacturer.

“One of our customers, for example, is working in the southeast of Saudi Arabia, near to the border with Yemen. He is using 3.5-tonne and 4.5-tonne Montabert breakers in conjunction with 42-tonne and 50-tonne excavators for mountain demolition applications,” he told PMV.

Clearly, hydraulic breakers such as these are best-suited to contractors with requirements at the heavier end of the demolition spectrum, but as Fakhoury explained, they also boast features designed to maximise versatility.
“Our hydraulic breakers are available with automatic-speed functionality,” he said.

“The power that is delivered to the breaker adjusts automatically depending on the hardness of the terrain. This feature drives efficiency, not only in terms of fuel costs, but also in terms of the number of operators and units that are required to complete jobs.

“For example, having an automatically adjusting, variable-speed attachment, means that a contractor can minimise the number of breakers, excavators, and operators that he has to deploy,” commented Fakhoury.

As general manager of CMC, Joe Lahoud is also well versed in demolition. The Dubai-based equipment dealership is the authorised Emirati distributor for both Chicago Pneumatic and Rockwheel.

Just like Montabert, Chicago Pneumatic’s hydraulic breakers are used primarily to assist excavation in hard-soil or rocky areas. However, these units are also gleaning increasing popularity as precision demolition instruments.
“It genuinely depends on what it is that you want to demolish,” explained Lahoud.

“If you want to raze an entire building, you’ll probably turn to a wrecking ball or controlled explosives. More and more, however, contractors are being asked to demolish specific sections of structures.

“These are what we refer to as ‘surgical operations’. They are targeted demolition jobs that allow existing buildings to be modified or expanded,” he told PMV.

If Chicago Pneumatic represents the traditional segment of CMC’s demolition offering, it could be argued that Rockwheel is the dealer’s young gun. The German manufacturer produces demolition and trenching equipment designed to maximise productivity and efficiency for end users.

“Rockwheel makes products that can be used for excavation and demolition,” said Lahoud.

“The beauty of a Rockwheel unit is that it can be used to replace a breaker and a bucket with a single product,” he added.

Even so, Lahoud is confident that there remains enough room in the UAE’s demolition market for both of CMC’s principals.

“Hydraulic breakers will always be popular in the Middle East because of their versatility,” he said.

“It’s just that some customers are finding that they can achieve greater efficiency and lower operating costs with the Rockwheel attachments. That doesn’t mean that these units will replace breakers altogether. On the contrary, they offer an additional option; an alternative tool,” added Lahoud.

The popularity of such products may well be growing in the region, but one shouldn’t get carried away. On the whole, demolition remains a niche requirement in the Middle East. Construction shows no sign of relinquishing its position as the mainstay of the Gulf’s equipment market.

Of course, that’s not to say that there are no opportunities for companies with specialist expertise. UAE-based GTS Demolition, for instance, has built up a formidable reputation within the field of precision demolition.

The subcontractor is currently facilitating expansion projects at a selection of Dubai’s biggest malls, and operations manager, Robert Smith, is confident that such work is likely to become increasingly common within the region’s more mature cities.

“The market has picked up for us in terms of the projects that are being released,” he explained.

“Dubai is a new city built from the ground up – for the most part – over the last 15 years. I think we’re now reaching the point where buildings that were constructed, say, 10 years ago are going to need to be remodelled and updated,” added Smith.

If the GTS manager’s predictions prove accurate, the Middle East’s older cities could well become more appealing to manufacturers like Montabert, Chicago Pneumatic, and Rockwheel. The vast sums that are being poured into strengthening the region’s infrastructure certainly won’t harm the situation either.

By its very nature, demolition is destined to account for a relatively small portion of the Gulf’s equipment market. However, as roads and rails are laid, and buildings modified, it’s likely to represent an increasingly lucrative portion.

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PMV Middle East - September 2020

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