Reaching for the sky

Drywalling products are as much in demand across the region as any other building material.

ANALYSIS, Materials

Abu Dhabi's desire to be one of the Middle East's main attractions in the coming years, was clearly illustrated earlier this year, when it announced a number of high-profile developments, which not only were broad in scale, but stood out against the frenzy of Dubai for their affiliations with international names such as the Louvre and Guggeinheim.

With an emphasis on culture and steady progression, as opposed to frantic expansion risking a straining infrastructure and loss of identity, Abu Dhabi, well placed through its position atop 1/10th of the world's oil reserves (and consequently afforded the precious commodity of time), is positioning itself squarely as the cultural hub of the Middle East.

Most of the concrete pours are carried out at night. So that we start when the heat is dissipating as the sun is coming down, and this way, it will be ready by morning.

With an estimated $150 billion (AED 550 billion) of projects planned, including major developments on Saadiyat Island, Al LuLu Island, Al Raha Beach and Formula 1 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi is undoubtedly laying the foundations for an assault on the world stage in the next few years.

One of the capital's signature developments that will be key to securing this vision is Al Reem Island. Located to the east of the city's corniche, this will be a stand-alone urban community of 6.5 million m2 featuring business, commercial and residential districts and will be the largest in the region to be completed on a natural island, and just 20 minutes from Abu Dhabi airport.

It is being developed by three companies; Al Reem Investments is developing about 20% of the island, as is Sorouh, with Tamouh developing the remaining 60% who have invested $15 billion into the island. Shams Abu Dhabi, Sorouh's flagship project is a $7 billion landmark development on Reem island. A completely new city of 75,000, Shams Abu Dhabi is designed as a self sustaining city of canals and parks which integrate master planning practices.

Located at the entrance to Shams Abu Dhabi will be the Gate District, a cluster of eight towers. The $3 billion residential, office and retail development is designed as a gateway to the peninsula from Reem Island. The project will occupy approximately 25% of the island, 1.32 million m2, 90% of which will be dedicated to residential buildings, with the potential to develop 22,000 units that can house 100,000 people.

This area will be instantly recognisable as it will be crowned by the 73-storey Sky Tower, a mixed-use building of residential and commercial property. Original plans were for it to be the tallest building in Abu Dhabi when completed, but this accolade will now belong to Aldar's tower in the Central Market complex. In fact, due to the height ceiling stipulated by the airport, the height of the tower was reduced from the original height of 84 storeys. The final height of the tower is now expected to be 300 metres, from the original proposed 380m.

Mohammed Faten, senior construction manager and project manager, ACC explains the difference between the two structures. "Basically, we have two towers, Sky Tower and Sun Tower; the first is 73 storeys, while the second is 63 sitting on podium measuring 41,500m2, featuring three basements and five floors above ground."

The construction period is due to be 38 months for the project, with a completion date of 13th March 2010, although Tower 1 has been earmarked for completion by the end of 2009.

Faten explains that the podium is a vast area that requires the application of pouring in a calculated manner. "The podium is a massive area, so the pours are being broken up into multiple zones. There isn't anything technically complicated but it is just the sheer volume of work," says Ozdes Soyer, senior project manager, ACC. These vary from 900m2 to 3,000m2 for the largest - which due to the complexity of the area couldn't be broken up.

We have to jump the core ahead of the slab, with a minimum of three floors needed between them, so that the steel structure can progress without any obstruction.

Sky Tower features steel structure columns integrated with hollow core slabs. The extra height afforded by utilising steel columns eliminates the need for sheer walls and vertical members, meaning more office and floor space. Up to the 39th floor, it is a steel structure, when from 41 it is using conventional cast in-situ beams. Sun Tower meanwhile is employing conventional post tensioned slabs.

"Most of the concrete pours are carried out at night," says Faten, "So that we start when the heat is dissipating as the sun is coming down, and this way, it will be ready by morning."

Faten adds there will be 53 lifts throughout the project; 34 in the Sky Tower, and 11 in the Sun Tower, with nine in the podium. "The Sky Tower has more because it is split up into office and residential elevators, so different shafts are required," explains Faten. "There is a low zone, middle zone and high zone, so some lifts terminate at level 12, some at level 19, so that people will not be held up by waiting for their lift."

ACC are using a jumping system for the core construction, with the system moving every seven days. "We have to jump the core ahead of the slab, with a minimum of three floors needed between them, so that the steel structure can progress without any obstruction. The steel is faster than conventional, but is a little more expensive."

With 13 cranes already on site, work is continuing at the typically swift pace for the region. Work is still ongoing on the raft, with 8,000m3 of the Sky Tower complete and 6,000m3 of the Sun Tower. As things stand, 45% of the raft and podium is complete. Faten estimates by February, the raft will be complete. ACC currently has 3,000 labourers onsite, which rises to 4,500 if you add the sub-contractors.

And somewhat typically for the region, space is a challenge for the contracting team as the buildings work area come right up to the project's alloted boundary. Neither Faten nor Soyer are sure who will be the contractor for the remaining towers in the Gate District.

With a panoply of island and residential projects currently underway or due to start, the construction focus, which for the last few years has been permanently fixed on its flashier cousin up the coast, is clearly going to broaden to encompass the burgeoning capital and its measured approach to development.

Capital adventure - projects putting Abu Dhabi on the map

Saadiyat Island - translated as ‘Island of Happiness' in Arabic, is a $27 billion mixed commercial, residential and leisure project currently under construction, with an expected completion date of 2018. With key names such as the Guggenheim and Louvre already signed up to be part of, Saadiyat, with its emphasis on heritage and museums is being designed as the cultural hub of the Middle East.

Yas Island - is one of the largest natural islands in Abu Dhabi, and is the site of Aldar's $40 billion development, which will be focused around the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which will commence in 2009. The 2,500 ha island will also feature the Ferrari theme park and will be constructed in two phases.

Al Raha Beach - Another Aldar project, Al Raha is a 10km-long, linear development occupying 70% reclaimed land. The development will comprise 47km of beachfront, three parks, five beaches and four marinas. It will have a total of 130 towers and a peak population of 120,000. Construction began in 2005 and is expected to be completed in 2019.

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