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Site visit: City of Lights, Al Reem Island

by James Morgan on Jul 4, 2015

City of Lights will be handed over in July 2015.
City of Lights will be handed over in July 2015.

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A considerable amount of time has passed since work began at the City of Lights. The 65.6ha development, situated on Abu Dhabi’s Al Reem Island, was launched by Tamouh back Q1 2008. Owing to the subsequent financial crisis, the first phase of the community – 14 high-rise towers – is now reaching its final stages, with delivery slated before the end of this year.

China State Construction Engineering Corporation (Middle East) (CSCEC ME) secured a $451m (AED1.656bn) design-and-build (D&B) contract to complete five of these towers. When the company arrived at the site in April 2009, the City of Lights represented the first D&B contract that it had undertaken in Abu Dhabi. Six years and three months later, CSCEC ME is finally ready to hand over the towers. Completion is expected before the end of July 2015.

Four residential towers (C2, C3, C10, and C11) and one office tower (C10a) comprise the fruits of CSCEC ME’s labours at the City of Lights. The five buildings straddle one of the development’s main transport routes, currently referred to as ‘road P&Q’. Towers C2 and C3 are perched on the outer side of this road, whilst towers C10, C10a, and C11 have been built on the inner ‘island’. Towers C2 and C3 offer a combined 699 residential units, and a built-up area of 128,280m2. C10 and C11, meanwhile, are slightly larger, with 710 apartments altogether. The latter two sit alongside the 44-storey centrepiece, the C10a office complex, and together, the trio boast a total built-up area of 255,344m2.

Substantial though these towers are, you’d be forgiven for thinking that 75 months on site is a little excessive. And in truth, you’d be right. Initially, CSCEC ME and Tamouh expected to complete by the end of 2011, but as the contractor’s deputy project director and chief representative, Chen Zhonghua tells Construction Week, the global financial crash threw a sizeable spanner in the works.

“We started work at the City of Lights in 2009, and our original completion date should have been Christmas Day, 2011,” he recounts. “It was a 32-month contract – from May 2009 to December 2011.

“We made good progress at the beginning. We finished all of the foundation casting within the space of a month. Between August and September 2009, with strong support and cooperation from Tamouh, we cast almost 40,000m3 of concrete – five towers, each necessitating between 6,000m3 and 8,000m3.”

Unfortunately for CSCEC ME and Tamouh, it wasn’t long before the effects of the financial crisis hit. Zhonghua recalls that the project started to slow down in early 2010, owing to cash flow-related problems faced by both companies.

“This slowed our progress considerably,” Zhonghua explains. “It meant that we could only focus on structural construction because, at the time, [there wasn’t] sufficient finance to support other works.

“We focused solely on structural works, but nevertheless, we continued.”