On the Waterfront

Construction Week visits the construction site of Nakheel's epic Waterfront project, which will be twice the size of Hong Kong when completed.

Waterfront managing director Matt Joyce.
Waterfront managing director Matt Joyce.

Construction Week visits the construction site of Nakheel's epic Waterfront project, which will be twice the size of Hong Kong when completed.

What is it about waterside developments and Dubai? From Dubailand's Wadi Walk to the Palm, developers are desperately vying for a lucrative slice of the Gulf coast. Nakheel has gone a step further.

When completed, its epic Waterfront project will be twice the size of Hong Kong Island and will provide more than 70km of coastline to Dubai.

Unsurprisingly given these statistics, the project is expected to become the world's largest waterfront and its largest man-made development. Planners are reinventing the landscape; aiming to create an entirely new city with a new way of living.


Nakheel operates under the motto; ‘Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.

A conglomeration of canals and artificial islands, the project will consist of a series of zones with mixed use including commercial, residential, resort and amenity areas.

Positioned between the leading hubs of the UAE, with Abu Dhabi to the west and Dubai to the east, Waterfront is located close to prime international commerce and industry hubs Jebel Ali Port, Dubai World Central Airport and the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

With 100 different waterfront developments and more than 150 master-planned communities, Waterfront will create "a world-class destination for residents, visitors and businesses in the world's fastest growing city," according to Nakheel.

Flooding in Dubai's Palm Cove Canal, the first of four waterways at Waterfront, began last week. Described by developers as a "monumental" occasion, the water was the first to be introduced into project's waterway system and demonstrated the progress that has been made since work began on the canal in February 2007.

Flooding in section one of this canal will take about two weeks to complete and will hold 4.2 million cubic metres of water.

"The flooding of the canal marks the first step in bringing this waterfront community to life.

The waterway system will also form an important arterial link for Waterfront in line with a study that has been commissioned to achieve Nakheel's vision of delivering sustainable communities; focusing on integrating water transport with land-based transport to form comprehensive networks," said the managing director of the Waterfront project, Matt Joyce.

Joyce said that "close to 80% of work has been completed on the Palm Cove Canal and we will be finished in December of this year." Asked if he anticipated any problems in meeting this deadline, he said "we have been very lucky in terms of labour and products. We have had no delays."

"A project of this scale will always present challenges," he said, "but we forward program, forward purchase, and get to grips with the logistics early."

More than 3,000 construction vehicles are currently on-site, manned by around 1,000 professional staff and 20,000 workers.
A quarter of the total groundwork is also finished.

Confident that the Palm Cove Canal will meet its December deadline, Joyce said that the entire project would take "20-odd years to finish."

Waterfront will consist of 10 key areas including Madinat Al Arab, which is expected to become the new downtown and central business district of Dubai.

It will feature resorts, retail, commercial and public spaces, a broad mix of residences and an integrated transport system including light rail and a road network.

Major civil and infrastructural works have begun on the first phase of Madinat Al Arab, which was unveiled in July 2005. Within five days, it had completely sold out for over 13 billion AED.

Other key zones are Al Ras, Corniche, The Riviera, The Palm Boulevard, The Peninsula, Uptown, Downtown, Boulevard and The Exchange.

Districts will include Veneto, which aims to become the Sloane Square of the Middle East, and Omran, a range of affordable housing for Dubai's working community.

This district will offer a variety of subsidised accommodation, complete with a range of services, amenities and recreational facilities. Developers claim that Omran will eventually provide housing for 60,000 workers on the Waterfront site.


The canals will be fantastic for the environment ... This encourages coral and where coral grows, marine life prospers.

This workforce accommodation solution has been developed to improve the quality of life of both construction workers and hospitality staff in Dubai.

The Omran project is part of Waterfront's pledge to become an "exemplar sustainable city founded on resource efficiency, social equity and economic prosperity.

According to Joyce, the benefits of this staff housing are obvious. "A happier workforce is more productive. This model is now being replicated elsewhere."

Nakheel is also keen to brand the project as "a 21st Century Ecopolis." Operating under the motto "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time," Waterfront developers are striving for environmental sustainability.

In line with the Kyoto Protocol, measures to reduce environmental waste and pollution include a comprehensive pedestrian network, which will be combined with a public transport strategy to reduce the length of car trips and to lessen vehicle exhaust emissions.

Water management will rely on recycled water for irrigation and district cooling.

Dedicated utility centres will transform waste into energy to power the city. Simulation will be used to orient the city, optimising shade and sea breezes and using ‘built form' as a shield against the hot desert wind.

It is hoped that designing with climatic comfort in mind will encourage pedestrian activity, leading to a healthier and more active community.

Speaking about the role that the Palm Cove Canal will play in supporting ecology, Joyce told Construction Week that "The canals will be fantastic for the environment. Along the ocean in this part of the coast there is very little bedrock, so there is very little for molluscs to fasten onto.

"By creating these berms, we are creating something for them to cling to. This encourages coral and when coral grows, marine life prospers.

Countering environmentalists who claim that the project could damage localised flora and fauna, Joyce said: "We couldn't have started this project without undertaking a thorough study into the environment.

Studies have been conducted by marine specialists so that the breakwaters do not disturb the natural offshore reef system.

"This whole project is based around water and bringing amenities through water," he said. "Water allows us to create a full transport network. When finished, the Palm Cove Canal and the Waterfront project as a whole will be giving something back and creating something new.

With news like that, he's unlikely to be in deep water with investors.

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