Site Vist: Nilona Tower

MEP Middle East pays a visit to Dubai's Nilona Tower

Nilona Tower
Nilona Tower

MEP Middle East pays a visit to Nilona Tower, the ongoing Marriott hotel project in Phase Two of Dubai Healthcare City, to see how the MEP works are satisfying the operator’s demand for the highest possible standards of guest luxury

With some striking architecture and a spectacular view of the Downtown Dubai skyline, Nilona Tower is set to provide some stiff competition to the city’s flourishing hotel sector.

The project, which is estimated will cost in the region of $190m, is being developed by Nilona Holding (a sister company of the Onyx Group of companies) for Marriott International.

As main contractor, Al Rostamani has set a completion date by the end of May this year. Charged with delivering the hotel’s MEP project is consultant CKR and contractor Trans Gulf and, as MEP Middle East found out, it is not just the service that needs to be of the highest standard in this five star project.

Explaining the composition of the project, Trans Gulf’s project manager M.K. Samy says it is a mix of guest rooms and apartments of different shapes and sizes.

“The building has 352 guest rooms of various types such as presidential suites, executive suites, king rooms, double rooms and disabled rooms, located from the second to eighth floor.

It also has 128 apartments ranging from single to three bedrooms from the ninth floor to the 25th. On the seventh and eight floors we have a health club with swimming pools on the eighth floor deck level.

The seventh floor caters to the hotel while the eighth caters to the apartments. There are six restaurants on the ground and first floor as well as a grand ballroom and various meeting facilities.”

The MEP project currently stands at 90% completion, according to Samy, with work now focused on the mechanical rooms and roof area.

The final fixes have begun on the ground floor, second floor and ninth floor, while Trans Gulf is awaiting access in other parts of the building as interior design and civil contractors complete their work.

To satisfy the quality and standards required by Marriott Hotels and its five star rating, the MEP project in the building has had to be of the very highest order.

Wasantha Samarasekera, the client’s representative from Nilona Holdings (and coincidentally a qualified electro-mechanical engineer), has been overseeing the construction of the project since it began in March 2010.

Knowing a thing or two about MEP and the stringent requirements placed upon the project by Marriott Hotels, he says that the MEP project is central to the hotel achieving its top level status.

“With my experience of hotel projects, MEP services are the heart of the hotel. Guest complaints will often centre around AC not providing enough cooling, water not being hot enough or not having enough pressure etc.

It’s very rare you get complaints for poor service or a lack of cleanliness. It’s always about the MEP installation so, in my opinion, it’s very important to have a trouble-free MEP installation in a hotel,” Samarasekera adds.

A major challenge posed to the MEP project was the satisfying of both Marriott Hotels’ rigorous life and safety standards with those of Dubai Civil Defence. “Marriott has very stringent life and safety requirements and these had to comply with the Dubai Civil Defense requirements,” says Samarasekera.

“Some things that Marriott wanted, Dubai Civil Defence did not, and vice versa.

“For example, Marriott wanted sprinklers in every room, including electrical rooms with LV panels. Civil Defence does not allow sprinklers in the LV rooms and it required a process of compromise to get to a point where the requirements of both could be met.

Marriott is very proud of its life and safety record as it has over 3,000 hotels worldwide with no fire and safety-related deaths recorded to date.”

Debate between Marriott Hotels and Civil Defence was also required on the issue of evacuation in the event of a fire, particularly surrounding local authorities demand that a building be evacuated in three minutes after the detection of a fire.

CKR’s design met this requirement but dividing the building into zones which can deal with localised fires separately, thus minimising disturbance to guests in unaffected areas of the building.

“The speciality of this building is localised evacuation,” explains John Kurian, senior manager with CKR.

“The building corridor in each level is divided into eight virtual zones and if a fire incident happens in a corridor, that particular zone will be in negative pressure while adjacent zones in the same floor, and zone above and below, will remain in positive pressure. The smoke will be extracted from that particular area only”

Beyond the life and safety design, Kurian says that in his experience of working on hotel projects, energy-efficiency is also a major priority, and Nilona Tower is no exception.

“We have used LED lights on this project, a district cooling system for HVAC services, energy recovery wheels, VFD (variable frequency drives), and pressure independent modulating valves which control the flow of chilled water based on the temperature requirements in each area. By using these we have managed to install an energy-saving design here which cuts down on the cost for the client as well as the operator.”

Added to these green features is the high-performance glass used on the project, which Samarasekera says has cut down the AC load considerably.

While he and the MEP team acknowledge that there have been many challenges along the way, they are confident the final result will be one for which it was worth waiting.


  • 60,000 Capacity of firefighting water in gallons
  • 120,000 Capacity of domestic water in gallons from ground level
  • 2,450 Cooling load in tonnes


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