Building up some speed

Christopher Sell talks to Bryan Wilson about the Jumeirah Lake Towers project and post-Fortune Tower fire working practices.

Bryan Wilson: the executive director of Jumeirah Lake Towers is keen to complete on time.
Bryan Wilson: the executive director of Jumeirah Lake Towers is keen to complete on time.

Bryan Wilson, executive director, Jumeirah Lake Towers, talks about progress on the project and the impact the Fortune Tower fire has had on working practices.

While in discussion with a JLT contractor, there seemed to be confusion over who owned the land, and what regulations he had to adhere to. Is this is a common complaint?

That surprises me; it means the contractor's not reading the documentation that comes to him, or maybe the owner of the development was not making him party to the information. The land is owned by DMCC, granted to us by Sheikh Mohammed. When it was launched in 2003, Nakheel was managing the project for us, because we didn't have a land development arm. But in early 2006, DMCC decided to take the management back in-house, so since then, it's been in our remit. We are sole point of contact for everything now as master developer. It has always been DMCC's land; it has just been managed by Nakheel on our behalf.

But when you brought the running of the land back in-house, did you make it clear that you were doing so and that developers needed to look to you?

 

We had a presentation in the Godolphin Ballroom in August last year and we invited every developer to come and see the new vision and that we were taking over; so it's been pretty transparent. And it was well attended.

DMCC stated a completion date of 1 December 2009. When I spoke to a contractor he said at least 30 towers hadn't started yet. So what is happening now?

When the plots were originally sold to developers in 2003, there wasn't a programme attached to the sale agreement. So it was on a bit of an adhoc basis. We have tried to pull that back together, because we want the community to be completed within a certain timeframe. So we have had additional, supplemental agreements - we have gone back to the developers and said: ‘Here is a supplemental agreement we would like you to execute with us', that creates a time frame for the completion of the project. So now we are forecasting 18 towers to be completed by the end of the year. One tower is already occupied and we estimate 55-60 to be by the end of 2008 and the balance by the end of 2009. Every plot has started work on although the buildings are not all out of the ground.

Were there financial penalties if these supplementary agreements weren't met?

Yes.

Can you say how much they were penalised?

I would rather not go into that.

Were you optimistic that date would be met, or were you pragmatic enough to accept a level of flexibility would be required?

No. When we went there, there were 22 that hadn't shown any activity on site, so we were pretty nervous. And on a daily and weekly basis I invite what I call the slow movers to come in and discuss any problems which as master developers, we could help with. Be it financial trouble, a design problem, or a problem with building permits. That list of 22 is now down to two.

Was there one tangible reason that was holding them back or was it a range of concerns?

Possibly it could have been a speculator who wanted to flip a piece of land and make some money off it rather than develop. The original agreements didn't have programmes with penalties or any incentive to move quickly.

You have a lot of infrastructure surrounding the site. Has this impacted on you?

There are two Metro stations connecting the site. We are contributing to the structure of the Jumeirah Lake Towers station.

Contributing as in financial aid?

It was a surprise to us. At the time the plots were sold, there weren't even plans for the Metro, so factoring in the contribution should have been reflected in the price of the land. The developers got a pretty good deal. But we don't mind, as it affects the whole transportation strategy of Dubai.

What impact did the Fortune Tower fire have on regulations on-site?

People realised things needed doing differently. In May, after the incident, Environmental Health and Safety started to enforce a policy that was probably in place but wasn't enforced in Dubai. This was that you had to provide fire protection in a tower as it was being constructed. Before that they would just build a building and until they turned it on, with fire systems in place, it was at risk. Now as the building goes up, there has to be wet risers, which have to be active as it goes up, so protection is in place.

If contractors are not implem-enting it, inspectors issue stop-work orders and fines of up to 50,000 AED. Eight have been issued so far.

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