Dubai, United Arab Emirates
A Visit to the Regional Technical Center
with Mohammed Sanaobar
International Knowledge Transfer Delivers Regional Solutions for the Construction Industry
It’s morning. A glance at the thermometer reveals that it’s already 38 °C, with relative humidity at well over 70%. “Environmental conditions here are challenging for more than just human beings,” as Mohammed explains. And he knows what he’s talking about. Mohammed is the regional technical director for WACKER Middle East & Africa, where he is responsible both for the technical center and for the WACKER ACADEMY in Dubai. His area of specialization: construction chemicals.
We met up with Mohammed at the local technical center, which also includes the local ACADEMY. Today he is going to show us around the facilities and tell us about his work at the site. He gets right to the heart of the matter as soon as we arrive: “Climatic conditions in the countries of the Middle East and Africa are a real challenge, and so is the variety of market demands.” With evident pride, he tells us how researchers at the WACKER ACADEMY and the technical center are working to accommodate precisely those regional conditions.
The WACKER ACADEMY in Dubai
Mohammed Sanaobar has been at WACKER since 2006. Right from the start he was involved in setting up the ACADEMY branch and competence center in Dubai. Both institutions were founded in 2009, at the time of the move to the Dubai Silicon Oasis.
“We started out back then with about 60 local seminar participants per year. In 2020 we’re expecting over 1,400 participants.” That growth demonstrates how their offerings benefit the industry. “The greatest challenge in the region,” Mohammed points out, “is the lack of standards and, to some degree, a lack of expertise. The primary goal at the ACADEMY is to raise quality awareness on the market.” And that demands a sixth sense for local needs. Conducting seminars and symposia in the Middle East requires cultural competence.
An Interview with Mohammed Sanaobar
Dialog Instead of Top-Down Teaching
People from very different cultural backgrounds participate in ACADEMY courses. For that reason, Mohammed makes a point of explaining right from the start that the aim of the ACADEMY is to share knowledge and communicate challenges. “The ACADEMY is a place where visitors can find a solution and seek advice without having to feel like they’re just playing a passive role in a classroom setting.” After all, courses are geared toward an audience larger than just WACKER customers.
“I see the WACKER ACADEMY as a neutral place for discussion and direct dialog between different interest groups within the construction industry. We don’t limit ourselves to inviting just WACKER customers – we gear our portfolio specifically toward regional customers, contractors, consultants and regulatory bodies. Our goal is to familiarize them with best practices so that they will be able to distinguish between good and bad products.”
On Knowledge and Networks
Mohammed and his team benefit greatly from the many synergies that arise through the global network of ACADEMIES. Experience and findings gathered throughout the region – as well as those from one’s own country and countries like Germany – form the bedrock of the one-of-a-kind expertise within the overall ACADEMY network. Understanding local raw materials and how to work with the harsh climate in certain parts of the market is what qualifies the team to tailor products to the needs of specific customers and markets – all while still meeting international standards.
“All we have to do is discuss issues with our colleagues. Often they will have already confronted the same challenge. So we can take a look at the kind of solution they offered in their market. And then we check to see if we can apply that same solution from their region or whether we can modify it to fit our own region. Sometimes it’s just a matter of having to do some fine-tuning. That means we can save a lot of time and effort.”
– Mohammed Sanaobar
“We help our customers develop a product that is relevant to their region while simultaneously meeting international standards.” But for Mohammed and his team, their work is about more than just standards – what they care about most is sustainability: “Today, for example, my day began with a meeting with local regulatory officials, where we talked about issues related to the environment. Sustainability has become an important concern in the construction industry too – just as it's generally become one of the global challenges of our time.”
Local regulatory agencies, for instance, have begun recognizing the importance of conserving resources and energy, and of reducing their carbon footprint. Developing solutions based on local raw materials is becoming more and more of a priority as a way of achieving sustainability goals, such as conserving cement and reducing CO2 consumption.
“Laying tiles is a good example here. People in our industry usually use an old technique that consumes an unnecessarily large amount of sand and cement. By now WACKER has had so many technological achievements in this area that we’ve entered into an agreement with the authorities to begin standardizing tile adhesives. In other words, we played an essential role in finding a new solution that uses tile adhesives to reduce cement consumption and save time and resources.”
How Does That Work?
“WACKER products allow customers to switch from a thick-bed to thin-bed method.”
A Model House for Dubai
Before we part ways, Mohammed shows us a project that means a great deal to him: the model house – and experimental setup that, for many reasons, he feels represents a milestone for the Dubai office. “The model house employs multiple WACKER applications all at once that can help improve not only sustainability, but also the living conditions within the building. Another sign that house has been a success is that even local regulatory authorities, like the Dubai Central Laboratory Department, are successfully cooperating with WACKER in this area.”
In his day-to-day work, Mohammed has shown that WACKER technologies have the potential to save significantly more energy than existing technologies on the market. “We were able to reduce the energy that the cooling units consume by over 60%, for example. When all is said and done, the model house project represents what our work here is all about: regional solutions that do more than just save energy and improve sustainability – they also improve the quality of life for the people who live in the house.”