Site visit: Banader Rotana Hotel, Bahrain

The central Manama project has had to overcome a number of hurdles as it closes in on completion

ANALYSIS, Site Visits, Business, Banader Rotana Hotel, V Bahrain

Banader Rotana Hotel in Manama marks the second Rotana-branded hotel in Bahrain’s capital city and the third in the country overall.

Owned by the publicly-listed Banader Hotels Company (BHC), it was among a number of real estate projects in the Kingdom that were adversely affected by the 2008/09 global financial crisis.

In its original guise back in 2007, the scheme was envisaged as a 32-storey, 300-plus-room hotel and serviced apartments close to Bab Al Bahrain and Bahrain Financial Harbour. The ensuing downturn caused a rethink by BHC, and it was eventually scaled back a year later to a single, five-star hotel containing 251 keys.

“We undertook a feasibility study. There wasn’t much demand for serviced apartments in this area so it was preferably changed to a five-star hotel, said Rani El Khatib, BHC’s project manager.

The revised hotel consists of one basement level, a nine-level podium, typical floors from level 10 to 26, mechanical floors from 27 to 28, and 212 parking spaces from levels 2 to 7. It is 104m tall and has a built-up area of 45,163m².

G.P. Zachariades was appointed as main contractor in December 2009 with a target completion date of May 2012. However, the project would later run into financial difficulties, causing it to be rescheduled to its current delivery date – just over three years later than originally planned.

Construction was halted in the third quarter of 2012 as funds dried up, plunging the project into an uncertain future.

El Khatib admitted that the prevailing political climate in Bahrain at the time made it harder to secure favourable terms from lenders, but he insisted that BHC’s major shareholders were determined to keep the project alive.

“We had a letter of intent from several banks that they were interested [in providing finance] but after the 2011 events in Bahrain they were reluctant. Their terms changed,” he said.

A $47m finance deal was eventually struck with Kuwait Finance House (KFH) in July 2013, which has allowed the project to proceed to completion. At the deal signing, BHC chairman Abdulla Buhindi acknowledged that the financial crisis had affected the project as he thanked KFH for its backing.

El Khatib said that following the deal, negotiations were immediately restarted with G.P. Zachariades.

“It took two months to finalise the new agreement with the main contractor,” he said. “This was the period of contacting the bank and the contractor, and even the main consultant, to find the formula.”

Furthermore, he said that a marked improvement in Bahrain’s hospitality industry provided another spur to management to get the project back on track.

According to STR Global data, the market has been picking up, with occupancy rates in Manama during 2014 averaging 56%, versus 48% during 2013.

“Banader has another hotel, Majestic Arjaan by Rotana, near King Hamad University Hospital, and that is doing more than 65%,” said El Khatib. “We have that exposure to the Bahrain market.”

Under the terms of the renegotiated BD29.5m ($78m) contract with G.P. Zachariades, work was restarted in August 2013. The scope consisted of completion of the balance of MEP and drainage system works, a HVAC system, electrical and communication systems, and finishes.

Around half of the MEP work and 90% of the concrete, screed, blockwork and glazing had been finished prior to the project’s suspension.

Xavier Rex, project manager for the Architect of Record, Mohamed Salahuddin Consulting and Engineering Bureau (MSCEB), said that on the critical path is the interior design work, installation of the main firefighting systems and their subsequent civil defence approval. Around 760 people are currently on site.

“We expect to have the central firefighting system completed by middle of March, and the entrance cladding and all these works to be completed by the first week of April,” said Rex.

“So we are planning for the civil defence (approval) by end of April and then subsequently there will be a power connection end of April, first week of May. We are expecting everything will happen with the testing and commissioning by the end of June, as per the revised schedule.”

The curtain wall for the entrance lobby measures 26m high by 16m wide.

“It’s a big curtain wall. That has to be closed,” said Rex. “For all the spandrels on the curtain wall we have used honeycomb panels to give it that pleasing look.”

He noted that one of the main challenges of the project, aside from when work was indefinitely stopped, was access to site. The hotel is located in Manama’s busy central business district, with Government Avenue to its north and Al Khalifa Avenue to its south.

“We had to get permissions from the police to use the roads because Government Avenue is one of the main streets in Bahrain,” said Rex. “So we managed to get permission from the police to take half of the road during certain periods of day.”

There was also the issue of Bahrain’s high water table, given that the country is surrounded on all sides by the Arabian Gulf. A raft foundation was chosen as the preferred way to stabilise the building, with piles around the side bored some 25-30 metres into the ground.

“You know Bahrain, if you dig one metre the water table is very high, so the main contractor had to dewater all the area for more than one year until we reached level four and five,” said Rex. “If we had had more basement levels then it would have taken more time to dewater and we would have had to design a special structure to stabilise the building.”

To quicken construction process, post-tensioned slabs were preferred to conventional slabs meaning that none of the typical floor levels have any beams.

“The contractor was finishing a tower level every 7-8 days because of this,” said Rex. “We ended up topping out in December 2011.”

A decision was also forced upon management in January 2010 to find an alternative to district cooling for the hotel after being told by supplier Tabreed that it would not be in a position to provide a service in time for the original May 2012 completion date.

“We bought five chillers and we put them at the rooftop and now we have our own district cooling,” said El Khatib.
“Initially, you have to pay for the equipment and the piping, but in the long-term it’s your district cooling so no fee is applied – so it was a saving for us. We had no other option so it helped us in a way,” The project is due to complete in June with a soft opening pencilled in for July.

Project partners
Client: Banader Hotels Company
Architect/Engineer: MSCEB
Quantity surveyors: Aecom
Contractor: G.P. Zachariades

Banader Hotels Company
Banader Hotels is a public company which has been listed on Bahrain Stock Exchange since February 2006. It operates within the consumer services sector focusing on hotels, resorts & cruise lines. Banader Hotels is based in Manama and was established in October 2005. Its main shareholders are: Bahrain Maritime and Mercantile International (30.47%), Suleiman Al Hoqani (9.96 %) and Nasser Al Nuwais (7.50 %).

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