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MEP at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium

ETA M&E has managed to deliver a man of the match performance

The sprinkler system comes into action at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.
The sprinkler system comes into action at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.

In pictures: MEP at Hazza Bin Zayed StadiumSite visit: Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium

With a strong construction team supporting it, ETA M&E has managed to deliver a man of the match performance on the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al AIn, capped off with a spectacular façade that is sure to have fans talking for years to come.

Even in the bright midday sunshine of a UAE winter’s day, the façade of the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain is a sight to behold.

The exterior of this almost-complete 25,000 seater soccer stadium in the southern UAE city of Al Ain beautifully evokes the texture of a date-palm’s trunk, but it is not until darkness falls and the lights come on that this remarkable creation truly bears fruit.

Illuminating the desert night, the façade becomes a technicoloured wonder full of tricks, each as spectacular as any of those to be seen out on the stadium’s pitch.

In its first full debut, the lighting system was put to work celebrating UAE National Day by shining the nation’s flag on the 609 panels that make up the stadium’s “palm-bowl”. So stunning was the illumination’s effect, traffic around the stadium was said to grind to a halt.

The MEP contractor taking the credit for installing the complex lighting system is ETA M&E, which also carried out the majority of the MEP works around the stadium.

Led by project director Udhuman Ali and project manager Nizar Ahamed, ETA M&E assigned Paul Kumar the special task of taking care of the façade lighting (as well as the stadium roof’s MEP services). Project manager Kumar says that a lot of complex work and equipment was required to deliver the desired effect.

“The façade is the unique part of this project. It is covered with LEDs [light emitting dyodes]; there are 435 light fittings with an RGB combination [red, green and blue light added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colours],” says Kumar.

“These are all controlled through a common DMX [a standard for digital communication networks that are commonly used to control stage lighting and effects], with each light fitting being individually addressable, so whatever content you want to load in terms of colour or movement can be done.”

While the façade is sure to dazzle the most despondent of fans as they approach the stadium, once inside the ground the more observant spectators will also notice the unusual setup of the arena’s floodlights.

Due to its architectural design, Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium has employed a “ring of fire” floodlight design which sees the lighting fitted in a line around the stadium’s roof, allowing it to avoid the aesthetically unsettling use of tall floodlight foremasts which many stadiums use.

The installation of these lights and the construction of the roof in general was perhaps the greatest challenge, according to the stadium’s project team. It required a huge coordination effort between all parties and no little courage from some of the workers charged with fitting out the roof’s services.

Due to the height of the roof, scaffolding was not a viable option and so specialised rope access sub-contractor Megarme was brought in to help with the floodlighting and public address speaker system’s installation into the roof.

“We had to do a lot of coordination for the roof,” says Michael Verseput, M&E manager for main contractor Bam International, who was brought in to work on the project due to his experience on two 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium projects in South Africa.

“The work on the roof of a stadium is often underestimated and people think it is easy to do. But, with this roof, there are a lot of speaker clusters and around 200 floodlights, which all have to be placed in a certain position. They must be really coordinated,” Verseput says, adding that any minor error on their positioning can have a major effect on the quality of the lighting system.

Powered by 2000 watts, the “ring of fire” can produce 1,700 lux and promises to make the action for evening crowds at the stadium as clear as day.

“Now that the installation is done and the lights have been tested, the output and uniformity of light on the field is amazing,” adds Kumar.

Another interesting aspect of the stadium’s MEP project is the location of the stadium’s four chillers, which are hidden from the outside of the stadium by the building’s “palm-bowl” façade and positioned high up on a balcony area just beneath the stadium’s roof.

However, the architectural design of the stadium initially dictated that there was only enough room for two of the chillers, so an innovative approach had to be taken to accommodate the necessary plant. A steel cantilever was designed and erected to hold the other two chillers, allowing the aesthetics of the building to remain unspoiled while also supplying the stadium with the required cooling.

“The logistics of getting the chillers up there was difficult,” says Eoghan O’Neill, Bam’s construction manager on the project. “It’s quite a constrained area where they are placed. We had to design and build scaffolds, get specialised cranes and liaise with the outside grounds worker to get access in there.”

With all these peculiar difficulties faced by the MEP project, it is surprising to learn of the timeframe in which this considerable achievements has been delivered. Having won the MEP contract for the stadium on 15 July 2012, ETA was given an initial deadline of 16 October 2013 to hand over the project.

Due to some additional scope of works this deadline was revised to 28 December but, as ETA’s project director Udhuman Ali explains, there is little doubt this deadline will be met.

“The MEP project is almost 100% complete,” he says. “We are in the process of finishing the small works which are pending on the upper level area. We had a discussion about attacking those elements within this particular period.

We are reinforcing the [Commtech] team who are doing the testing and commissioning activities, which is more critical in terms of Civil Defence and authority inspections. All the action-plans are in place to achieve the deadline target.”

The project’s fast-track delivery has been a feat of intense planning and dogged persistence considering the materials which had to be sourced to build the stadium. ETA’s project manager Nizar Ahamed says that 95% of the materials on the MEP project had to be air-freighted into the UAE, which he says “very few projects in the country have done”.

Senior construction manager for project manager EC Harris, Mark Streifler, adds that ETA deserves all the credit it gets for ensuring the prompt delivery of the project.

“The programme was an extreme challenge,” he says. “Some of the components [required for the project] are very specialist and they were on a six-month lead time. ETA managed to convince the suppliers to improve upon that. I don’t know how they did it, but they did it. The two lead guys [Ali and Ahamed] worked extremely hard, their chin never went down, and they always had a can-do attitude.”

While the construction team around ETA is full of praise for the sub-contractor, the ETA team are equally laudatory of the approach taken to the MEP by Bam International, project manager EC Harris, client AAFAQ Holding and the rest of the construction team.

“Bam International worked hand-in-hand with us on the MEP,” says ETA’s Ahamed. “This project saw the MEP fully integrated with the civil business. Any MEP activities were put on a top priority by Bam’s project director Maged Fares Zaki, and he supported us. The client has also supported us extraordinarily in this project, along with EC Harris. They stepped down to contractor level and we had frequent meetings to ensure the progress of the delivery.”

Such mutual appreciation from the whole construction crew leaves the impression that, for all the dazzling features of Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, the victory of this project was inspired less by individual moments of magic and more by good old teamwork and hard graft.

“On this project we didn’t take a break for a second,” says Ahamed. “From day one we have been working 24/7 – not only day and night shifts, but shifts overlapping each other by a couple of hours, and we have achieved it.”

With such a sustained effort and commendable work ethic, all involved in the project can proudly walk away winners.

- 2,609 Total KW cooling load of stadium
- 57,000 Capacity of irrigation tanks in litres

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