Ivory boast

The two Ivory Towers are among 230 major projects under way in Dubai's Business Bay development.


Dubai's race to become a world-renowned city is creating a real estate boom of unprecedented proportions.

But building huge business parks, residential developments and retail areas from land that was until recently a sparse desert is creating a series of unique challenges.


There is a lot of building going on here. We are not building something which is extraordinary, but because of the area we are having to be extraordinary.

And this is none more evident than in the Business Bay development, which is currently being built behind the Burj Dubai.


When finished, Business Bay will be a freezone area, with a mix of commercial and residential properties covering 5.95 million m2.

It will be built on an extension of the Dubai Creek, just behind the Burj Dubai tower off Sheikh Zayed Road.

Its aim is to be the Middle East's business capital, competing on the international stage with Downtown Manhattan in New York or Tokyo's Ginza business centre.

In total, there will be 230 towers.

Yet with all major projects, there are teething problems, and Business Bay is no exception.

At present, there is a sense of chaos on the site. There are no proper roads, meaning heavy delivery trucks and workers' buses have to take a meandering journey from Sheikh Zayed Road, through the desert to each building site.

The master developer, Dubai Properties, is putting in infrastructure - roads, electricity and water mains - at the same time.

One of the projects being built as part of the development is the twin Ivory Towers, which is being developed and constructed by Sobha.

The India-based group has gained a reputation for high-quality projects on time and on budget.

But Premachandran, assistant vice-president of the company, believes the infrastructure problems in the Business Bay area are creating difficulties.

"The infrastructure is being put in simultaneously. There is a lot of digging going on for the roads and the lake," he says. "The main lake is done, but there will be a smaller lake too.

"We have to coordinate with the master developer, and are all working together to overcome these challenges.

The Ivory Towers project began in May last year and is due to finish in October.

At present, the three basement levels have been constructed, and work is beginning on the tower. As the building will sit on one of the bay's small lakes, extra care has had to be taken to waterproof the basements.

When finished, a road will run in between the two towers, although Premechandran says they are still waiting for this to be built.

"The RTA has started work on the roads, but we do not know when they'll be completed," he says. "But hopefully the work on the roads will progress faster than our work, and will be completed by the time we have finished; but we have to make plans just in case that doesn't happen.

But Premachandran was confident that the master developer would finish the infrastructure on time.

"I am sure the master developer will cooordinate everything," he says. "The worst- case scenario is that the power and roads infrastructure is not finished on time, but hopefully this will not happen.

"Otherwise it will be a little difficult. We will manage the air-conditioning and power, we can put in a generator and we can put in tanks for the water system.

"But we hope this will not be a problem. We have planned for challenges.

Being both the developer and contractor on the project presents a series of other challenges for Sobha, adds Premachandran.

"There is a lot of building going on here. We are not building something which is extraordinary, but because of the area we are having to be extraordinary," he says.

"As we are the contractor as well we have to provide our own labour force.

"It is difficult to find the manpower to get the job finished on time. Having to coordinate with sub-contractors is very challenging.

"There are so many projects going on in Dubai that sometimes we have had shortages.

At present there are 1,000 workers on site, with about 140 on the MEP element of the project.

The numbers should rise to around 1,500 this year as the work on the towers commences.

"As we are in the initial stages, finding labour has not been as hard as it might have been, but when we need more workers it could become a problem," says Premachandran.

Jayesh Sachde, project manager, Sobha, believes the difficulty in finding workers was due to the bad publicity the plight of workers had attracted internationally.

"When they come from outsourced places, normally the agent promises so much to them in terms of work and salary," he says.

"But when they arrive, the reality is something different.

"That is the reason some of them are going on strike and sometimes they are not paid on time.

"But we make sure we provide the best labour accommodation in Dubai. Our people are very happy. In fact, our managing director comes along and eats in the labour accommodation to show the food there is good.

Despite the ultra-competitive nature of Dubai's construction industry, Premachandran believes it is possible to maintain standards and the welfare of workers without having to cut costs.

"We are building near the world's tallest building so everything has to be of the highest quality. There is a lake and a highway nearby and there will be a highway and an interchange next to our building," he says.

"It is a very prominent location, so there is a lot of pressure for those who are investing in the project.

"Being near the Burj Dubai obviously increases our reputation and that is why we have to maintain such a high quality.

Sobha was founded in the late 1970s by PNC Menon in Oman, where it specialised in the interior decoration of palaces.

It moved into the Indian real estate market in the 1990s, where it gained a reputation for an excellent standard of building work.

It is a relative newcomer to the Dubai market, but Pramachandran says it would not be put off by the cut-throat nature of the construction sector.

"The projects we are working on at the moment are not huge, but they are a start for us. There are about 5,000 companies in the construction industry in Dubai, and although we are not near the top, we aim to be in the top five one day soon.

"To do that, we have to show that we are constructing buildings of a high quality.

"In every department, all the quality is checked. Sobha has a very good reputation in India and Oman, and we will not let thisfall in Dubai.

So despite the difficulties associated with the Business Bay development, Premachandran said overcoming these could help cement the company's reputation in Dubai.

"When it is finished Business Bay will be a world-class business park," he says.

"Within five years it will be numbering one of the best in the whole world.

"We have to accept that a development of this size will have slight issues, but as long as the infrastructure arrives we can cope.

It is probable that Downtown Manhattan and Tokyo's Ginza districts had similar problems when they were under construction.

However, neither of these saw 230 towers all being constructed at once.

So the developers and construction firms behind Business Bay are having to grit their teeth and accept the chaos is just one of the pitfalls of being part of such an exciting project.

Most popular


CW Oman Awards 2020: Meet the winners
A round of the thirteen winning names at the Construction Week Oman Awards 2020 that


Leaders UAE 2020: Building a sustainable, 'resilient' infra
AESG’s Phillipa Grant, Burohappold’s Farah Naz, and Samana's Imran Farooq on a sustainable built environment
CW In Focus | Inside the Leaders in KSA Awards 2019 in Riyadh
Meet the winners in all 10 categories and learn more about Vision 2030 in this

Latest Issue

Construction Week - Issue 767
Sep 01, 2020