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Site visit: Landmark Group HQ

Shapoorji Pallonji is completing a Landmark building on a prominent Dubai Marina site

The four-level roof structure takes shape on top of the building. It will contain a glass boardroom.
The four-level roof structure takes shape on top of the building. It will contain a glass boardroom.

Landmark Group, the huge retail business with over 1,900 stores across the Middle East, Africa and the Indian Subc, has chosen an appropriate base for its new headquarters.

Occupying an entrance to Dubai Marina on a site fronting Sheikh Zayed Road, the building will eventually have one of the city’s most noticeable boardrooms once work completes next year.

Sitting at the top of the 20-floor structure will be an impressive glass boardroom where meetings will be held overlooking one of Dubai’s busiest strips of tarmac.

The high-profile nature of the site is befitting of a company that has become one of the biggest retail groups in the region, creating homegrown brands such as Centrepoint, Babyshop, Shoe Mart, Home Centre and Emax. The business was founded by India-born entrepreneur Micky Jagtiani from a single store in Bahrain 40 years ago.

It now employs more than 50,000 staff and Forbes recently ranked Jagtiani as the richest Indian in the Gulf with a fortune of $5.1bn.

Until 2005, the company’s headquarters were based in Dubai’s Oasis Centre, but a fire in that building forced it to look for alternatives. Landmark Group managed to complete a 1.8mn m2 warehouse building in Jebel Ali Industrial Area 1 within 12 months and took 220,000ft2 of this for its own office space.

However, Landmark Group CEO Vipen Sethi explains: “Since then we have grown exponentially, launching several new concepts in the retail and hospitality sector, while expanding on our current brand profile.

“This growth has made it important for us to look for a new corporate HQ large enough to house all our brand strategic think-tanks under one roof.”

The company looked at several locations including Business Bay, but settled on the Marina plot because, as Sethi says, it “proved to be the best fit for our new headquarters. We received tremendous support from TECOM management. They have really aided us in all the processes related to the building.”

Once the plot was acquired Landmark Group began negotiations with the string of consultants who are working on the project – more than 14 in total, ranging from firms advising on its design and structural engineering, to companies advising on MEP design, security, lighting, and other aspects. Two interior design consultants – Dubai-based SMD and India-headquartered KGD – have been used, with many floors serving as dedicated spaces for individual brands.

Archgroup was appointed as lead consultant in April 2012 to handle the design and engineering. Its project manager, Girish Borkar, said that design work for the building was completed in 3-4 months, which was followed by a period of quickly gaining approvals from the necessary authorities including TECOM, Dubai Electricity & Water, Etisalat and the Roads and Transport Authority.

Enabling works then got underway and were carried out by National Group subsidiaries National Piling and National Dewatering, which included foundation works for four basement levels – the bottom of which will contain water tanks and mechanical rooms, with the remainder being used for parking.

Shapoorji Pallonji International was appointed as main contractor for the project in May 2013. The company is headquartered in India, but runs its international operations from Dubai. It is forecasting a revenue target of $1bn for 2014-15 - around half of which is expected to be generated in the UAE.

Project manager Ranbir Singh Padam explains that completing the basement was one of the most challenging aspects of the work. Given that it started in summer, one of the earliest parts of the project was waterproofing the 15 metre-deep basement areas as membranes had to be applied with blowtorches at the hottest time of the year.

Casting concrete was also an issue as although supplies are temperature-controlled it has to be poured continuously so works generally started after summer’s peak hours working ban and ran into the evening. Shapoorji Pallonji and its waterproofing subcontractor Al Shirawi were set a date of 12 November, 2013 for finishing the basement and casting the slab, which they managed to achieve.

“It became more challenging as we were behind schedule during the first week of October, but we recovered all of those lost days. Everybody on the site thought that if we could do the basement on time, we can do the building on time. The basement is the most tricky part.”

The first seven of the building’s 28 floors contain podium parking . In total, the 132m-high tower is spread across a 1.2mn ft2 site and has office space of 453,000m2, which will house 4,000 staff. A four-level structure sits on top of the roof.

The floors with podium parking have an area of 5,600m2 and have been cast in three sections, whereas typical floors above this are 2,600m2 and are cast in two sections using three placing booms.

Two are typically in action simultaneously and can pump at a rate of 80-90m3 per hour, but given the fact that the site is in a busy area, concrete supplies can be erratic. When this happens, pumping rates are slowed to around 50-55m3 per hour. All of the slabs are post-tensioned using pre-stressed steel, with steel preparation taking place on an on-site yard. An automatic climbing system used for lift cores and formwork for the slabs has been provided by Peri.

In total, 60,000m3 of concrete and about 8,500 metric tons of steel have been used in the building, which has now topped out. Podium floors took 10 days to cast, while regular floors completed in seven.

Padam says there are currently around 650 workers on site (up from 300 at inception) working on all areas.
“We give utmost importance to safety which ensured an accident-free working,” Padam added.

MEP works are being carried out by Trans Gulf and the glazing works are being done by Alico. GRC elements used to clad the podium will be installed by Terrazzo and the building’s 13 lifts have been provided by Schindler.

Shapoorji Pallonji’s AED350mn ($95mn) contract is for the entire building works. The first part involves completing the building to shell and core by March. Following on from that, there is a fit-out period that is expected to take around eight months, with the building set for handover in November 2015.

The building has a number of hi-tech features such as a destination-controlled lift system with added security measures and an ability to turn the glass boardroom opaque at the flick of a switch to allow for privacy during meetings.

There’s also a dining floor with 700 covers for staff, a gym, yoga space and relaxation areas equipped with iPads for staff to peruse. Then there is also an executive floor on the 19th level with private dining facilities, and a garden area on the 20th floor that will be open space but can also be used for staff meetings and press conferences.

The company is also in talks with the RTA about the potential to use huge, transparent, LED media screens at the top of the building. LED lights can also be programmed to light the building in different colours, such as green, white and red on National Day.

Yet even with the potential for grand lighting displays, the project has been designed to achieve a LEED Silver rating. Borkar says care has been taken with materials selection, to make sure as much as possible is local, energy-efficient and sustainable. All wood used, for instance, is Forestry Stewardship Council-approved.

He said that achieving sustainability targets is “not a matter of submitting documents. It’s a process. We have to maintain certain goals during construction, like keeping the site dust-free. We have to maintain records of the site’s waste”.

Construction waste is also separated into paper, concrete, plastic and wood streams which are then taken away for recycling by Dulsco. Detailed records and photographic evidence is taken.

Padam says that the project has been an enjoyable one to work on as despite the exacting standards that are expected by the client and consultant, they are “extremely nice people”.

“They are positive people and they know how to push the project ahead.”

Borkar, meanwhile, praised Padam’s team for meeting “tough milestones”.

“They have really put in an effort and we really appreciate what the contractor has done so far.”

Sethi was also complimentary about the contractor’s efforts.

“They are a very process-oriented company and have managed to deliver the project as per the timeline agreed with them,” he said.

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