Taking a liberty with space

With the proliferation of tower projects at incredibly high levels, having the additional problem of bumping up against neighbouring developments and finding space to work in makes the contractors task even more tricky, as Christopher Sell finds out...

ANALYSIS, Human Resource

Congestion and limited access to sites is proving to be an ongoing issue with construction in Dubai. Ensuring labourers have safe and easy access to the development, and materials similarly is proving to be a persistent headache, especially for those contractors who find themselves surrounded by ongoing projects.

While some isolated sites are not necessarily privy to the same concerns, those sites, for example within the more clustered areas have to maintain a steady hand on its project, in case they become overshadowed by neighbouring sites.

It isn't that the building is accessible from all sides - it would be much easier if that were the case. With restricted access, you experience delays in manpower reaching the destination.

Liberty House, located in the expanding DIFC is one such project, which has found itself in close proximity to a number of large projects including the Index Tower and the ongoing expansion of the DIFC.

The L-shaped ETA Star building, which resides on a 8,500m2 plot area, will be an office and apartment block. The office building will be 10 storeys with a 24,644m2 total area, while the apartment building will be 40 storeys with 220 apartments and a total floor area of 22,225m2.

Health and recreation is one aspect that has had close attention paid to it during the design of the tower. As a result, part of the 10th floor is dedicated as a landscape terrace, the 11th floor has a jogging track with a badminton court at the centre, while the 12th is a dedicated landscaped swimming pool. For office goers, the 25th floor features a terraced garden, while the 38th hosts another swimming pool and landscaped deck for residents.

Ascon is the main contractor for the $84 million (AED 307 million) development. Although this is expected to increase to $87 million by the time the project is completed in November/December 2008, having commenced on 2nd September 2006. The enabling works were carried out by NSCC for $3.2 million and the aluminium contractor was Arabian Aluminium ($11 million).

Vijay Chugh, senior general manager, projects, ETA Star explains further: "Yes, access is difficult, you have to work around the building to enable the workers to come in," he says. "It isn't that the building is accessible from all sides - it would be much easier if that were the case. With such restricted access, you experience delays in manpower reaching the destination." A small stack-up yard to store materials is located close by, he adds.

Chugh admits to being surprised at the current situation, believing that originally there would have been a more tapered approach to each project in the immediate vicinity. "We are actually surrounded. We never thought that this (construction) would all take place at one point in time, we thought it would probably be staggered.

"The design is straightforward to implement, the main issue we have here is operating within the DIFC and access to the site," he adds.

Nevertheless, Chugh is confident that the build schedule will be met, with procurement agreements for the glass and cladding already in place. "We don't expect any delays. An order for the stone cladding has already been placed with a Spanish company and we expect this to start in the first week of December. It should take at least four to five months to do this," he says.

Currently for the office building, the 15th floor slab is in progress and another six floors are expected to be complete by the end of January 2008. With the apartment block, the 15th floor slab is also in progress, with a further 24 slabs expected to be completed by the middle of May 2008. Block wall and plastering is progressing side by side.

Chugh's position is assisted through being in the enviable position of working for an umbrella company that has many complementary subsidiaries. While ETA Star is the client, it is an offshoot of ETA Ascon, under which its MEP specific company, ETA Melco (who are installing 12 lifts), and concrete specialists, ETA Cement, are all involved in the project. Ascon is the main contractor, while Ascon Marble is responsible for the actual cladding. "Because it is a group company it is better," says Chugh. WSP is the consultant on the project.

ETA Star currently has 30 projects underway in the region, which Chugh says requires careful management to ensure that all the sites are not starved of resources. Furthermore, there are project managers allotted to each, so they can monitor on-site. There is then a weekly meeting for each project, which usually resolves any underlying issues, he adds.

Regardless of the number of companies that can direct their resources at one project, as ETA Star obviously can, the logistics of operating within the confines of Dubai and the even more claustrophobic atmosphere of an expanding DIFC, means the demands being placed on contractors are ever present and changing all the time. As Chugh himself admits, simply having access to materials and labour, through ETA's various subsidies, is not nessessarily enough if you find yourself limited in manoeuvrability. "Everyone is stretched," says Chugh. "But it is not that unusual for Dubai, we are used to these things."

The DIFC is a 110-acre free zone designed to create an environment for progress and economic development in the UAE and wider region. Its aim is to develop the same financial stature as New York, London and Hong Kong. A number of high-profile developments are currently underway within its borders.

Index Tower - The $288 million Nasa Multiplex tower, designed by Foster and Partners of London, for Union Properties will be an 86-storey mixed-use tower in DIFC. It will feature 25 levels of office space and 520 apartments and penthouses over 50 levels. As of last week, construction is at the 42nd storey.

Lighthouse Tower - Earlier this year, DIFC announced the launch of the 400m tower, to be constructed adjacent to ‘The Gate'. Height aside, the new project will be unique for its environmentally sensitive design, which it is hoped will set the benchmark for energy conservation, through harnessing wind and solar energy to reduce its carbon footprint. Atkins, who designed the building is hoping the tower will reduce its energy consumption by 65%. It will feature three large wind turbines and will be clad in 4,000 solar panels.

Sky Gardens - The 43-storey residential development, launched by Al Mazaya Real Estate in 2005 is one of the few residential developments currently located within the DIFC. Arabtec were appointed as the main contractor for the project, which is punctuated with five natural gardens through its ascending floors. It also features a shopping boulevard, gymnasium, swimming pool and a rooftop garden.

Limestone House - Another Union Properties development, this residential development situated squarely in the centre of DIFC, adjacent to 'The Gate' precinct is being geared towards the top end real estate sector. The project manager is Edara - APP, and the architect is Gensler, London. The $409 million project will be 15-storeys in height and feature a 330-room hotel and 121-room services apartments, to be managed by Ritz Carlton.

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