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Site visit: Dubai Trade Centre district

Dubai Trade Centre District looks set to become a commercial success with its first phase due for completion in November 2015

Site Visits, Dubai, Dubai Trade Centre District, United Arab Emirates

Construction sites that combine futuristic progress and legacy enhancement are rare in most parts of the world, not just in Dubai. Striking a balance between the two is a laudable task. Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has successfully merged both during its ongoing development in the Emirate’s Zabeel area.

Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC) is currently flanked on its west by the Dubai Trade Centre District (DTCD) phase one. DTCD’s development was commissioned – and held back – by DWTC in as early as 2010.

Approval for the recommencement of construction and master-planning work was granted by HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, UAE Minister of Finance and chairman of the board of DWTC, during its annual board meeting  in March 2013.

At the time, Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and CEO of DWTC, said: “In the late 1970s, the [construction] of Sheikh Rashid Tower [Trade Centre Building] was the catalyst for the development of the Commercial Business District. There is now demand for prime office space in the area, and occupancy rates in business hotels are similarly high, demonstrating a requirement for more supply. This first phase of DTCD will cater to this dual demand.”

Construction work being carried out on site today pertains to the terms of that approval, and Ibis Hotel (H2) – the second Ibis in DWTC’s vicinity – and a commercial tower, called C1, are being built as a part of DTCD.

Amer Alfarsi, projects director for real estate at DWTC, updates Construction Week about project progress, and the rationale behind the project’s development: “As a hub for the MICE [meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions] industry, and as the commercial centre of the Emirate, coupled with [DWTC’s] recently conferred free zone status, there is a demand for prime office space in the area, particularly from multinational corporations looking to consolidate and companies who are outgrowing their existing offices.

“Work is underway on phase one of DTCD, a 136,000-sqm site between DICEC and Emirates Towers. This first phase includes a 588-key Ibis Hotel and a LEED Gold status A-grade office space, which also incorporates retail and F&B outlets,” Alfarsi adds.

Al Futtaim Carillion is the main contractor for the project after it was awarded the deal in March 2014, which was reportedly worth $102.1m (AED375m). According to The National, “[Parent group] Carillion said that the loan, which was arranged by Deutsche Bank, was backed by UK Export Finance.”

The contractor is supported by over 50 sub-contractors on the project (see table). Voltas Limited is the MEP contractor, Reem Emirates is in charge of façade contracting, and vertical transportation for the development is being carried out by Kone Elevators.

Anil Kumar Madathil, construction director at Al Futtaim Carillion, tells Construction Week: “The Ibis hotel façade and fit-out works are substantially completed, and MEP final fix, testing, and commissioning are progressing according to the schedule.”

DWTC’s Alfarsi elaborates: “Progress to date includes the completion of the sub- and superstructure, external façades and main infrastructure, and access to four levels of basement at the Ibis Hotel.

“Fit out and finishes to the hotel include completion of guest rooms, common areas, and basements, which are all well-advanced and progressing towards the target date.

“The office building’s top shell and core are being completed as well, with high specifications applied to common core areas such as lift lobbies and reception lobbies,” Alfarsi continues.

Fit-out works for the restaurants at DTCD will be carried out by Interior International, and by Leader for the hotel.

“The office’s sub- and superstructure are completed, and its external façade and atrium space closed,” Alfarsi adds.

“The common core areas are also well-advanced, and continue to be fitted out to high specifications. Finishes and services infrastructure works to four levels of basements, including car parking and access routes, are also well-advanced and will be ongoing until completion. The main public realm and landscaped areas in and around the buildings are almost complete, while soft planting and completion of some paved areas and water features are outstanding.

“The consultant and contractor teams are working collaboratively to ensure completion of the building in November 2015,” Alfarsi continues.

Al Futtaim Carillion has had to work on the project through the culturally-relevant summer season in the UAE, which typically requires construction firms to accommodate Ramadan, Eid, and the government’s midday break rule for labourers working outdoors.

Remarking on accommodating these factors through the project’s schedule, Madathil says: “The construction programme was drawn up considering the Ramadan, Eid, and midday break rules.

“Prior to the midday break rule, we conducted training sessions [with] all our operatives on heat stress, regular medical check-ups, and introduced electrolyte distribution stations on site to overcome dehydration. The on site mess and rest areas are connected with air coolers.”

Madathil adds: “Additional cold water stations, humidity monitors, and shaded walkways [have been] established on site.

“Trained safety teams are positioned in all areas for assistance, a trained male nurse is available on site to deal with any heat stress cases, and emergency vehicles have been arranged on site for any further hospital check-ups required.”

Additional health, safety, and environment (HSE) measures implemented include regular safety tours, detailed logistics plans, timely fire-equipment inspections, monthly visits from directors, and weekly visits from consultants.

Al Futtaim Carillion has also set up the ‘Don’t Walk By’ system, which the firm operates across the country. The system encourages employees to report and resolve site-safety issues.

On-site professionals – contractors, consultants, and workers alike – can flag up any housekeeping or material issues found on pedestrian routes at the project’s location.

In the past, officials from Al Futtaim Carillion’s HSE team have referred to the system as “a level below a near miss”, and it is typically used as a dichotomous preventive and reactive tool to promote on site safety practices.

Madathil says Al Futtaim Carillion also engages in “daily briefings and 4C [competence, control, cooperation and communication] card sessions for all groups to understand the risk prior to start of work”.

“Other on-site HSE measures include safety audits, weekly toolbox talk, and separate training for working at height and [other] high-risk activities,” he adds.

The project, set amidst what could well be one of Dubai’s busiest arterial roads, has smoothly trotted along towards completion – something for which the contractor should be credited.

Transporting building materials is a tough task in its own right for projects situated in Dubai’s commercial areas, where traffic runs rife most days of the week, and especially at peak hours.

Zabeel locality, which is home to the Ruler’s Palace and DWTC, where community and industry events are daily occurrences, could have proven a challenging zone in which to operate.

But Madathil says the project’s logistical concerns were, in fact, broadly manageable.

“The delivery restrictions are only in the morning and evening during peak hours. Al Futtaim Carillion is managing the deliveries during other hours without impacting the project’s overall progress,” he says.

“For instance, all noise related activities are restricted to [before] 9pm in order to avoid any [disturbances] at night.”

The developmental progress on show at DTCD’s first phase looks set to metamorphose the once-empty patch of land at Zabeel into a master development, which parent group DWTC intends to harness for growth in one of Dubai’s – and the UAE’s – oldest commercial centres. As Alfarsi explains, for DWTC, C1 office building and Ibis Hotel (H2) are only the first steps towards a much larger goal.

“We are in the process of finalising the DTCD master plan, which will have its own character, thus creating a destination within a destination offering a vibrant mix of new and complementary uses adjacent to DICEC.

“The design will feature a balance of public and private spaces with a unique mixed-use urban quarter of offices, apartments, hotels, and retail use. The site will be surrounded by a series of integrated internal and external public spaces with tree-lined streets, light-filled atria and rooftop gardens providing places for people to live, work, meet, and socialise,” Alfarsi optimisitically concludes.

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