First-time success

Sukoon Tower's swift rise has been a strong start for the developer

The construction of the podium floors was a challenge because the gap between each level was a different height from the next.
The construction of the podium floors was a challenge because the gap between each level was a different height from the next.
ANALYSIS, Projects
ANALYSIS, Projects
ANALYSIS, Projects

Bahrain’s construction market is more likely to launch the odd project of interest to the wider industry rather than a sustained building boom, as in Saudi Arabia, but the buildings are not without innovation, both in their construction, as well as the end result.

The Sukoon Tower is situated in Juffrair, a surburban hub of the capital Manama that backs onto the ocean that has seen intense building activity in the last decade.

The 45-storey twin residential tower, developed by Tashyeed Properties, will be the highest point in the area when completed, and stands at 38 floors at the time of visit.

The two towers, mainly for residential purposes, though with some space dedicated to offices, are joined for six floors from ground level by a podium. The two building columns then launch into the air and will be joined by a bridge on the 37th floor.

The building will contain 598 apartments with a dedicated recreation floor on the sixth level, complete with a landscaped section, a health club and other related facilities.

It is the primary project of Tashyeed Properties, a Bahraini property developer. Syrconsult Consulting Engineers provided initial architectural advice to Tashyeed, and construction work began in October 2008 after Al Ghanah Contracting Company, a local firm, was mandated to complete the piling and foundation work, along with the first six floors.

However, the abundance of other consultants on the projects, including Dubai-based Projacs as the initial project manager, led to a lengthy approval process at each stage of construction for Al Ghanah, according to Thomas Matthew, contracts manager at the company, which meant that the contractor pulled out of the deal after the second floor.

“What happened was that there were two or three consultants, so there was a delay in getting approval, and we had to go through all the formalities,” he says, adding that it hindered the company’s thriving business during “peak time” for building in Bahrain at that stage.

Tashyeed eventually developed its own contracting arm for the main building work, called Tashcon, not to be confused with Tashcon Corporation, the California-based building firm.

The decision to create its own contracting company was part of a wider assessment by the Tashyeed board as to what other services can be developed in-house, and which can be outsourced, according to Nader Rajab, vice-president for construction at Tashcon.

“The owners of the company met and said: ‘Why don’t we establish a construction company?’ So the owners went ahead and started Tashcon for the Sukoon Tower. But the long-term objective is to establish itself in construction outside Tashyeed. We have a good team in place, and we are tendering for projects,” says Rajab.

The company also has a complete MEP team with a full set of engineers, he adds, which acts as core supervisors for the rest of the workforce in this area, which can be obtained from outside.

“There are bigger construction companies that face serious financial problems, maybe if they have hired 6,000 workers and they must deal with compensation,” he says.

“We decided on creating a construction management firm that could outsource. For example, our MEP team has got electrical engineers and draftsmen and would call on electrical labour contractors [for workers], and our engineers oversee the process. This has saved a lot of money.”

Doka, a formwork company, started working on the project in May 2009, and has provided vital support for the structure up to its current height. For the core walls, the company supplied its large-area Top 50 system, which the company terms a ‘construction kit’ for its flexibility in that it can adapt the shape, size, tie-hole pattern and form-facing of the respective elements.

Alex Galicinao, Tashcon’s construction manager, said: “In the core wall there are eight elevators, and the space is 350m2. The Top 50 system is good for large-scale projects as it can accommodate big panels.”

Omer Khawaja, head of marketing at Doka for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, says it is a typical project for the company based on the thickness of the slab and columns and the gap between the floors, “where you need proper system formwork”. Climbing formwork 150 F was also used for the core wall, and the Top 50 system was also used for the erection of the columns.

However, the construction of the podium floors presented a challenge for Tashcon, specifically in that the gap between each level was a different height from the next. The ground to the first floor is a height of 5.2 m, but the height between each of the next five floors after that is 3.6 m; the fifth to the sixth floor is 5 m; then all the floors after that are 3.6 m. The Doka formwork only reached 3.6 m in height, though it was able to add support for the 5 m and 5.2 m heights.

The podium contains around 751 car-park spaces, and the recreation floor on the sixth will include facilities such as a swimming pools, children’s play area, a multi-purpose hall, indoor and outdoor cafés and an area of landscaped garden.

By June 2009 the second floor had been completed, and around 3,000 m3 of concrete had been poured in one day during the casting of the core wall.

Galicinao says each floor can be completed on an eight-day cycle, a process that has quickened in pace after the initial intricacies of the initial podium level.

But the key to the efficiency to construction lies in the fact that every floor – if looking from directly above – is essentially divided into four zones. In each zone, a different task can be carried out, explain Khawaja and Galicinao; then when work in each of those zones is completed, the workers move around and complete the same task in a different zone.

“For example, you will have steel preparation in one area, another zone will see the column concreting, another will have slab preparation, and then these activities can be rotated,” says Galicinao.

“Here is a lot of work to do, so the men move around,” he says, adding that work is occasionally delayed as the project gets taller due to the wind rushing through the structure, which can reach speeds of up to 55 mph.

“We stop work then, as safety is an absolute priority.”

On the side of one tower is a lift that shuttles work up and down the structure. Doka’s steel profiles were also critical on level 37, where a bridge was designed to link the two towers.

Galiciano points out that, to erect scaffolding from the podium level up to floor 36, between the two towers, for the construction of the bridge, was both costly and needed great attention to safety in the high winds.

The steel profiles provide a structure that juts out on the inside of each tower, which allows the subsequent slabs that will join the two towers to be laid.

The Dokaflex table system for slab formwork was used to build each floor, and Tashcon developed a smooth system for reusing the platform quickly for each floor, using a nearby tower crane. When a floor was finished, the crane reached into the inner structure of the building, picked up the table system using a belt fastened by workers on the steel profiles, and then lifted onto the top level.

On the top floor, in the sunlight, Khawaja points out the working system that clings to the side of the slab as firm footing for workers to build the next floor.

Galiciano says Tashcon owns the vast majority of the heavy equipment and machinery on-site – a bold expenditure for a new company. “We invested in tower cranes and hoists and the majority of the equipment we use is ours, and we are a start-up,” he says.

Last November, Tashyeed signed an agreement with Arabian Aluminium to supply the curtain wall. The company supplied the same service to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and will supply 30,000m2 of glazing and 34,000m2 of aluminium cladding in total to Sukoon Tower.

The tower’s aluminium system and glazing is based on a consortium of suppliers, the aluminium system applied is based on Hermann Gutmann Werke AG, a leading German supplier, explains Salem Al Mahdi at Arabian Aluminium.

“Though the system is German, the actual extrusion of the aluminium is done by Gulf Extrusion,” he says, adding that the company delivered its first two shipments of cladding – 1,600m2 each – in November, with another 5,000m2 delivered in December.

Around 50 shipments will be made in total, says Al Mahdi, adding that the company is working to Tashyeed’s production schedule.

The glass provided by Arabian Aluminium was sourced from US-based Guardian Industries Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of float glass and fabricated glass products.

Galicinao says it has been a big last few years, he but hopes it is the start of something big for Tashcon, which made major investment in heavy equipment – including the tower cranes – for this and all future projects.

“It has been a big challenge for us, setting up a company and building a tower, and soon it will be the highest in Juffrair,” confirms Galicinao.

Project suppliers

  • Main contractor: Tashcon
  • Main consultant: Syrconsult Consulting Engineers
  • Other/previous consultant: Projacs
  • MEP works: In-house
  • Initial construction: Al Ghanah Contracting Company
  • Aluminium and glazing: Arabian Aluminium
  • Extrusion: Gulf Extrusion
  • Ready-mix cement: Al Khobaisi Ready Mix
  • Formwork: Doka

Facts:

  • 598 Number of apartments.
  • 751 Car-park spaces.
  • 34,000 Number of square metres of aluminium.
  • 124,000 Number of square metres that the building will occupy

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