Moveable Feat

There are some projects that require real ingenuity to overcome technical challenges, and then there are others where issues crop up that require some pretty amazing feats of power to get the job done

Nesma & Partners CEO Imad Gholmieh (seventh from right) with the project team.
Nesma & Partners CEO Imad Gholmieh (seventh from right) with the project team.

There are some projects that require real ingenuity to overcome technical challenges, and then there are others where issues crop up that require some pretty amazing feats of power to get the job done.

Here is something that has needed both. Saudi Arabian contractor Nesma & Partners has been employed by the Saudi Arabian National Guard’s Ministry of Health Affairs to deliver a contract containing five hospitals on four sites.

The project, worth around $2.2bn, includes a new 300-bed maternity hospital to be built on a National Guard campus in Riyadh, a 300-bed hospital in the city of Taif with accompanying housing, and a 300-bed hospital in Qassim that also includes a housing element.

Perhaps the biggest element of the project is in Jeddah, though, where a pair of hospitals are being built.
The first is a specialist children’s hospital at King Abdulaziz Medical City that will contain 350 beds on a campus site. The other is a 176-bed Neuroscience and Trauma Care Centre.

Work has already started on four of the projects, with the site in Qassim being the only exception as the contractor waits for land to be released. On all of the other sites, a total of 5,000 workers are busy moving things forwards.

One of the toughest challenges has come at the site of the Neuroscience and Trauma Care centre, though, as sat on the proposed site was a mosque.

The mosque, Al Fadl Ibn Abbas, was erected in 1979 and had been built to last. It had been made from steel-reinforced concrete, with heavy-duty marble flooring.

Inside, the walls were made from glass, the mosaic tiles are also glass and gold in colour, and its minbar was made from the same marble as the mosque’s external dome, with wooden decorations, mosaic tiles and a copper crescent.

Indeed, the mosque’s design was considered to be so good that the National Guard’s Ministry of Health Affairs had instructed that before work could start on the Neuroscience and Trauma Care Centre, the contractor would have to build an identically-designed structure on a nearby site before demolishing the existing one so that prayers could be continued.

Nesma & Partners began inspecting the mosque and found that its structural qualities were good, which meant that it began looking into carefully digging out its foundations and moving the entire building instead.

This was considered to be a much better solution for a number of reasons, but the biggest was time. Building a new mosque before it could demolish the old one would have taken at least nine months and would have eaten into its delivery schedule for the Neurosciences hospital. A move was initially thought to take just one-third (three months) of that time.

A move was also thought to be a cleaner and less disruptive method of working on a site surrounded by other hospital buildings.

However, the process would not be easy, and was untested not just in the Kingdom but in the wider region. The mosque also weighed around 2,400 tons. Discussions began in February 2014, with work beginning in September 2014.

Nesma & Partners’ CEO, Imad Gholmieh, said that a lot of preparatory work needed to be done not only to ensure the building stayed intact during the process, but also to protect the workers involved.

It signed a contract with Nesma Trading, which brought in Dutch specialist Mammoet to help carry out the work. It is a specialist in lifting and transporting heavy objects, with a range of specialist equipment suited to the task.

The partners came up with civil engineering plans including drawings, method statements and risk analyses that were eventually approved by the project management office.

Mammoet also brought in a subcontractor, Techniek en Methode (part of the German Bresser Group) to guarantee safety and the integrity of the building.

Work started with the removal of the mosque’s minarets using a hydraulic crane. Then, the ground underneath the building was dug out and replaced with a new, thick concrete base that would be capable of supporting the entire structure.

Once this was in place, four concrete lanes were built underneath it which would allow for the building to be moved using skid shoes and tracks to its new location just over 120m away. A new concrete base was also completed for the mosque to sit on at the other side.

Although the entire operation took three months, the actual move, which took place in mid-November 2014, was due to take 12 hours (at a speed of 10m/hr). However, unseasonably heavy rains caused delays and slowed the speed that was achieved.

Still, it was completed in less than 48 hours and the whole process finished within the three-month schedule.
Once complete, work could then begin on the Neuroscience and Trauma Care Centre, which is on a busy site in the Umm Al Salam District, alongside the expressway to Makkah. It is being built on a 60,000m2 site close to the main hospital building and the campus’s loop road.

The project is expected to hit peak activity during the first quarter of 2016, when Nesma & Partners and its subcontractors will have a total workforce of around 12,500 on all five sites.

It is expected that around 550,000m3 of concrete, 65,000 tons of steel, 60,000m2 of glass and cladding and 180,000m2 of precast concrete elevations are set to be used. Around 650,000m2 of various finishes, including marble, ceramics, paint, linoleum and rubber are also being used.

Each hospital will also be fitted with MEP systems providing medical gas supplies, a pneumatic tube system and
up to 27 different electrical and low-current systems.

The contractor has had the help of design consultant Dar Al Handasah and of programme manager Jacobs Engineering, which was taken on in May last year for a period of up to three years to help deliver work at the sites.
Nesma & Partners’ CEO, Imad Gholmieh, said that his firm’s passion for innovation and a “sense of challenge were the driving force behind such an innovative step”.

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