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Site visit: Al Hikma Tower, Dubai

by Yamurai Zendera on Oct 4, 2014

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For the world’s biggest contracting company, with 57-years in the business, you wouldn’t think China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), has many more project milestones to achieve; but in Dubai it is working on a scheme that has proved a first in many ways.

Al Hikma Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road, measuring an impressive 283m, is the tallest building that CCSEC has built to date in the UAE.

Moreover, the project comes with something of a profile given that it is being constructed for Sheikh Issa bin Zayed Al Nayhan, the son of UAE founder Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who will not only use three floors of office space in the building but has dedicated the project to his late father.

An LED-generated image of Sheikh Zayed will crown the top of the building for all to see when it is finished at the end of the year.

“The client really believes in us,” said project manager, Ji Tao. “We know how important this project is to Sheikh Issa and we want to do a proficient job.”

The 57,945m² office tower situated just in front of the Burj Khalifa contains two basement levels, a ground floor, mezzanine, 60 typical floors and a separate automated car park. CSCEC was appointed to the project in September 2009 through Sheikh Issa’s real estate firm, Pearl Properties, under a AED390mn ($106mn) contract. That the tower will have taken five years to build come handover – an age by Dubai standards – has been something of a challenge for the contractor.

The project had been running smoothly up until February 2012 when it was suddenly halted as Pearl Properties wanted to take a look at introducing some major design changes, including turning it into a hotel. Obviously, this had a knock-on effect for CSCEC and the other subcontractors at the time.

“We had nearly 1,000 labourers on the project at the time,” said Tao. “Around 400-500 belonged to us and the rest were the various subcontractors. We had finished about 60% of the MEP works at that time, so we said we could not change this because it will cost too much.”

Having workers idle on site for an indefinite period was clearly never going to be an option so CSCEC had to think on its feet – and fast. Fortunately, the fact that it is the world’s biggest builder meant it was able to deploy workers onto other UAE construction sites as design change issues were being resolved.

“We shifted around 150 workers to a pipeline project we were building for Adco (Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations) from Dubai to Fujairah,” said Tao. “Other workers we shifted to the City of Lights project in Abu Dhabi that we’re doing for developer Al Tamouh.”

CSCEC is building five out of 13 towers at City of Lights. All in all, the suspension at Al Hikma Tower lasted 14 months. However, senior project manager Konudula Rao said Pearl Properties was kind enough to award costs for the programme’s prolongment, believed to be around AED25mn ($6.8mn).

“We were very grateful for this because you have to remember, for example, that you cannot just remove the tower crane from the project because it has stopped,” said Rao.

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