High times

As the Damas Towers project on Sheikh Zayed Road nears completion, Hugo Berger visits the site to witness a bridge connecting the two buildings being hoisted up to the forty-fourth floor.

VSL Middle East LLC, ANALYSIS, Business

As the Damas Towers project on Sheikh Zayed Road nears completion, Hugo Berger visits the site to witness a bridge connecting the two buildings being hoisted up to the forty-fourth floor.

Dubai's construction boom is evident to any motorist using the Sheikh Zayed Road.

Until recently the highway was lined with only a scattering of medium-sized tower blocks.

Now, however, the road is surrounded by an ever-increasing number of super-tall structures.

Two of the most recent additions to this collection are the twin Damas Towers.

Anyone driving along the motorway earlier this week would have seen a hive of activity around the buildings.

This was because a new bridge was being slowly raised some 165m to the forty-fourth floor of the building, to connect hotels in the twin towers.

The intricate operation, which is believed to be the highest connecting bridge lift in the Middle East, was a necessity after developer Damas altered plans for the buildings.

Damas Towers, which are being contracted by Bin Zayed Contracting, has been under construction since 2004.

Originally the developer planned Tower One to be residential with a hotel on the upper floors, and Tower Two to be office space.

But due to the lack of hotel space in Dubai, it was decided to change the upper 10 floors of Tower Two into hotel rooms.

However, as there were a number of facilities in Tower One, such as a spa, restaurant and gym, that guests in the other tower would need access to, it was decided to build a bridge between the two structures.

The bridge was designed by Karam Khorram, managing director, Techno Steel, who says there were a number of challenges in the process.

"The important matter is the stability of the movement of these two buildings in case of an earthquake," Khorram says.

"This bridge is designed so that the movement of the buildings will be allowed and it will not fall down."

The bridge has been created in such a way that it allows both towers to move 30cm in any direction in the event of an earthquake.

One of the four supports can rotate 360 degrees and the other three allow for lateral movement of 60cm in both directions without the bridge falling down.

The actual lift of the bridge took place over two days earlier this week.

Khorram says the operation was extremely complex.

"This is the highest bridge that has ever been lifted in this country," he says. "The problem was we could not find any crane which could lift to this height in this country. We needed an 800-tonne crane capacity but the boom would not reach this height.

"We could not put up a crane because there is not one that high available and also it is too close to Sheikh Zayed Road."

The contractors approached engineering firm VSL, which is involved in the Dubai Metro project. They came up with a solution that uses winches to slowly lift the bridge up to its lofty position.

Khorram says: "For this to work, we had to completely change the original design of the bridge."

"Before we found there was not a crane available, the bridge was designed to be built in one piece."

"But the new design is now consisted of three pieces. All these pieces were then welded at the top and the cantilevers removed."

The bridge was supported by four supporting wires, each attached to a winch.

Each winch was operated manually by a labourer, who was instructed to raise the bridge 1mm at a time by a foreman.

Khorram says the strong winds at such heights also needed consideration.

He says: "All the time we have wind. Because it is between two buildings there is different pressure, which means the bridge will sway on its way up."

"Because of this, there will always be wind. To deal with it, we have connected the bridge to concrete blocks below, which will make sure it does not sway too much."

Mohammed Omar Douba, project manager for Bin Zayed Contracting, says the overall construction of the two towers had not been too problematic.

"Overall, we have been very happy with the way these buildings have been built," Douba says. "Before Tower Two was going to be a business building. But in Dubai, there is a shortage of hotels. So the owner decided he wanted a ten-floor hotel which meant many things needed to be changed."

"We had to demolish the interior partitions of ten floors, which was quite a big job."

"It was a challenge and it did lead to a year of delays, but mostly the work was done quickly and smoothly."

He says there were also issues with the rising cost of materials in Dubai.

"There was a good relationship between us and the client so we came to agreements on costs."

"We have managed to find materials but there were huge increases in prices from tender to now."

Douba agrees that the bridge lift is one of the most complex parts of the scheme.

He says: "This was a huge challenge for us, because it is 165m, which is very high."

"This is the first time in the Middle East that a bridge has been lifted so high."

"There have been longer bridges such as the Marriott Hotel bridge in Maktoum, which was 70m long."

"Our bridge is only 15m long, which is only short but it is so high up."

"It has been a very dangerous operation so it was one we took extra care doing."

"But we are near the finishing line, and we are very happy with the way it has gone."

So the raising of the bridge at Damas Towers is a prime example of how the best-laid plans for buildings need to be altered during construction.

Through improvisation, innovation and imagination the city's construction industry is managing to overcome almost all challenges which lie in its way.

FACT FILE: Damas Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai

• The Damas Towers scheme consists of two 46-storey towers.

• The scheme will include residential apartments, hotel suites and office space.

• The hotel, which will be operated by Banyan Tree, will be called Angsana Hotel & Suites.

• The towers have 46 storeys, basement, ground floor plus a mezzanine level.

• Both towers are 250m high.

• During construction, 7,000 tonnes of steel and 30,000m3 of concrete was used.

• Building work started in 2004. The first tower is due for completion by the end of this month and the second in four months' time.

• At its peak, more than 700 labourers were working on the project.

• The developer is Damas and the main contractor is Bin Zayed Contracting.

• The sub-contractors are Aleco for aluminum works; Fawaz for MEP; and Alandalus for electrical installations.

• The main consultant was Rifad al Talib of Adnan Safarine.

• The towers will have two bridges connecting them, one at the third floor and one at the forty-fourth floor.

• Both were designed by Techno Steel.

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