Damac's serviced-apartment development continues the luxury trend
Damac's first serviced-apartment development continues the luxury trend in Downtown, Dubai's iconic neighbourhood.
Just when we all thought the construction of luxury residential towers in Dubai was temporarily off the cards, well-known developer Damac goes and launches yet another high-end development in one of the most expensive areas of the city.
Uninhibited by a massive oversupply of residential and commercial property and with confidence in its strong customer base, the developer was first in line to purchase the Burjside plot.
In truth, Burjside Boulevard is not your usual high-rise office/residential block, or even a typical Damac project. On the contrary, it is the developer’s first serviced-apartment tower, which actually came about due to a demand from its own customer base.
“The serviced-apartment sector is a sector where we had demand from our customers,” says Damac VP Niall McLoughlin. “Serviced apartments are a different offering from residential. We found a great site, which gave us an opportunity to bring the new product to the market.”
Other developers are likely to agree. Apart from the convenient location, halfway between old and new Dubai, Burjside Boulevard will certainly offer a sense of luxury to its high-end tenants.
“We were very quick off the mark to purchase this land, as it was a cracking site in a premium location, right next to the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. One thing that all of our developments have in common is a prime time location, and that is why we chose to develop this project here.”
But premium or not, the question still remains, why a developer such as Damac would continue to focus on Dubai when it remains extremely oversupplied with residential space. “Every project in Dubai has been affected by the downturn in one way or another, but there continues to be demand for premium apartments in premium locations.
“One thing that is really important is that Dubai is still, and has been for a long time, a centre of this region, the place where multinational firms want to be. And it will remain so.
The infrastructure is prepared for the future, and Dubai is a great place. The fact that prices are coming down and it is becoming cheaper to live here just makes it an ever greater place.”
Upon completion, the project itself will offer 39 residential floors (or typical floors), three mechanical floors, a lobby or ground floor, a leisure floor (at the top of the podiums), five floors of car parks and a basement.
Thus, with as many as 49 floors above ground level and 351 apartments, the building will reach a height of 168.4m and have a total built-up area of 63,754m2.
With the entire development (which includes interior design and furnishing) due for completion at the end of next year, main contractor Sun Engineering, which was previously awarded a contract worth $54.46million, has been working day and night to finish the structural works quickly.
“We commenced with the project in March last year. So far, we have done the basement and the podiums, and we are on the second typical/residential floor, so the eighth floor from ground level,” says project manager John McNamara.
“It is being built like a normal high-rise, the core first, then the structural works, then the MEP and other trades will follow.
“The contractor is trying to go as fast as they can on the structure because we want to gain time for the interiors and finishes. At the moment they are targeting a five-day cycle on the residential floors.”
On the podiums, Sun Engineering did in fact manage an eight-day cycle. “They cut the time down substantially. The problem with a podium is usually the sheer size of it. Normally it takes around 28 days for one floor, so eight days was very fast,” says McNamara.
“Sun did this by having two shifts of workers – a day shift and a night shift – working on it. It also did post-tensioning, and used the jumpform formwork system, which they also used for the core walls of the tower.”
The raft foundation was also built quickly. After the piling was complete, it took the contractor just 22 hours to lay 1000t of steel and pour 6,500m3 of concrete.
“We need to press on with the structure and start the following trades as soon as possible because we need to start doing the interior designs,” explains McNamara. “The interiors are always important on all the jobs, but when you are developing serviced apartments, you are also dressing them – you are doing the furniture and decoration as if it was your own house.
You are giving people a finished hotel room effectively. So someone has to design the rooms, then you need to do a mock-up, then someone has to make all the furniture and deliver it. So you have to start about a year in advance.”
Thus the biggest construction challenge, according to McNamara, has been achieving fast cycles on the structure. Asked why the developer opted for piles on a structure which is slightly lower than most other high-rises, he said it was still necessary for a tower of these dimensions.
“It is a very slender high rise, and the load is concentrated in quite a small area,” he explained. “The ground cannot take the load because there is not a big enough area. On most of our projects we do try and avoid piles if we can, as it is more efficient and cost-effective, but it depends on the bearing capacity, soil, etc.”
Also interesting is the lack of basements, with most towers having at least two basements and seemingly fewer podiums. As it happens, the lack of basements and additional podiums are interlinked, and related to the specific regulations in the area.
“We only have one basement because nobody wants basements – the more you do, the more expensive it is.
The reason projects have basements is because in every area the podium height will be restricted by the master developer (which in this case is Emaar), so whatever you cannot get on top you have to put underground,” explains McNamara.
“Luckily, here we were allowed five podiums, but normally you are not allowed that many; you can only have up to four. You also have a bigger podium height overall. So here it is 20m, whereas in Business Bay it is 14m or 15m and in DIFC it is 14.75m.”
Asked how they managed to fit five podiums in a space of 20m, he explains: “We squeezed an extra one in by optimising the height of the others. So the carpark levels are just 3m each and the ground floor is 4.5m, so in total it is just 19.5m. We also made narrower slabs, with these only 260mm each.”
As for other building regulations, Damac and Sun had little to contend with, apart from the usual codes for standards of construction, common building regulations and normal review and approval processes related to a building’s architectural and external appearance.
“We are obviously paying a lot of attention to the project with it being in the Burj Khalifa area, so we are making sure the building stands out.
Other than that there are no special considerations to construct in this area as there are not any residences nearby, so noise is not an issue, and timing is not an issue. We are only next to the shopping mall. Apart from that, there are no other buildings around us, so we do not have any restrictions really.”
In terms of architecture, McNamara explains that the features are minimal. “There is nothing particularly noteworthy on the architectural front,” he explains.
“Except for the façade - that is pretty unusual. A broken façade, they call it, where different elements make up the building’s shell. In this case there is a combination of cladding and glass so it appears more broken up. Normally you get quite a consistent look.” One thing the developer has taken advantage of is technology.
As well as utilising a new software called ‘E-builder’ – a project control software which Damac is trialling on four projects, including Burjside Boulevard – it also relied heavily on wind-tunnel testing.
“If a building is tall and thin, it tends to wave and it gives people motion sickness. You can control it in a number of ways by installing a tank of water or oil at the top and pumping it to the other side of the building, or you can use a weight which moves up and down.
But we managed to avoid all that by stiffening the building in the right places and by doing wind-tunnel testing at the design stage,” explains McNamara. “This is where a company – in our case Wind Tech – build a model of the building and surroundings and subject it to wind to test the reactions of the building.”
The next step, of course, is to complete the structural works as quickly as possible and select contractors and suppliers for the other trades. Currently Damac is in the process of selecting a lift supplier, an MEP contractor, a cladding provider and a metal works contractor.
“We will appoint the MEP contractor within the next 14 days, and the lift supplier within the next month,” says McNamara. “The cladding and the metal works contracts are also outstanding; we will probably award those within the next couple of months.” Other contracts such as the lighting system will also be tendered as the project progresses.
Damac projects across the region
- Al Jawharah in Saudi Arabia
- Park Avenue Sheikh Zayed in New Cairo
- Hyde Park Villas in new Cairo
- DAMAC Tower in Beirut
- The Heights in Jordon
- The Piazza in Qatar
List of Suppliers
- Architects: Koschany + Zimmer Architekten (KZA)
- Cladding/curtain walling: TBA
- Concrete: Emirates Beton
- Construction software: E-Builder
- Consultants: ZAS PSE
- Fit-out company: TBA
- FM: Damac internal division
- Operator: TBA
- Lifts: TBA
- Lighting: TBA
- Main contractor: Sun Engineering
- MEP: TBA
- Piling: Stromlek
- Steel: Attieh Steel, Dubai
- Waterproofing: Sika
- Wind-tunnel testing: Windtech
- $54.5m Value of main construction contract
- 300 Workers currently on site
- 1,000t Of steel used for the raft foundation