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Site visit: Jafza One

The heart of the Jebel Ali Freezone in Dubai is in line for a major revamp as a long-awaited, multi-million dollar commercial complex moves closer to completion.


Valued at more than AED2bn ($554m), out of which more than AED500m ($136m) worth is MEP works, the Jebel Ali Free Zone’s Jafza One, is considered one of the most prestigious projects under construction in the Dubai-based free zone.

Jafza One masterplan comprises a 34-storey twin office tower, convention centre with associated facilities such as an exhibition centre, a 600-seat auditorium, catering area, food court, retail area, data centre and 322-room four-star hotel supplemented by four levels of parking.

The main contractor on the project is Habtoor Leighton Group (HLG) with ETA Engineering its nominated MEP subcontractor.

At present, phase three has just started and consists of the MEP works of one of the twin office towers and the convention centre. S. Anand Kumar, ETA’s director of Dubai and the Northern Emirates, says: “Early on with the project the critical items were some key deliveries such as the bus bar and flush floor trunking which are long-lead items, the wrap up of the design of the convention centre by Arenco, and there is also an interior design consultant,” before adding that the scheme was phased in order to optimise and control delivery. The four star hotel, however, is not being completed in the current third phase, which is programmed to finish by the fourth quarter of next year, and is likely to be done in what will be a fourth and final stage. A date is still to be confirmed for this.

“All the equipment which was not required and was not commissioned for phase one was wrapped up suitably,” says Kumar. “Once wild air was established, chilled water was circulated periodically to avoid stagnation in the system using temporary power from building generators. So whatever was required to keep the building in its closed form with the wild air, with the provisional fire alarms, firefighting systems – that was taken up and done as part of phase one.”

As the four water cooled chillers were not commissioned for phase one, six air cooled chillers were used instead. These were originally meant for the data centre, but since phase one now encompassed the completion of the office towers with some air conditioning, amendments were made to the plant.

R. Prakash, ETA project director of Jafza One, says that “we even had to swap the piping to make the air cooled chiller fit the air conditioning to the office tower rather than to the data centre alone. So we maximised the usage for the client. This was the kind of value engineering we had to do to deliver the project in phases.”

Kumar adds that phasing an already complex project was a real challenge “because whenever you’re trying to deliver it in phases you need to pick up those associated works that are required to put that particular phase into operation.”
He cites that the refurbishment of old equipment, storage and extending warranties as an additional cost and consequence of the revised timeline.

“That’s why at the end of every phase before we start another phase, it was important to have a healthy relationship with the client,” says Kumar. “Not only technically but also commercially, because once a project extends we also have additional expenses and other costs. The client has been very understanding. We have always presented our case as a united team with main contractor HLG and we were able to reach a commercial and technical settlement.”

Phase one was completed in October 2011, however by then it had already been decided that phase two would start around June 2013 and involve the MEP works of one of the twin office towers and shared food court.

“Whatever was required to put one of the twin tower offices into operation and the associated works, we took it as phase two,” says Kumar.

During the 20-month gap between phase one and phase two, ETA scaled back manpower to just operations and maintenance of essential MEP systems. Discussions amongst the project stakeholders about phase two began in earnest six months prior to its start.

“The only thing we asked extra was for the cost overrun of staff, the additional cost for prelims, as well as the additional cost for the refurbishment of equipment and the extended warranty,” says Kumar. “That transparency with the client helped to progress matters in a timely manner.”

Phase two is now close to completion and tenants are currently fitting out their offices.

“You have to remember that 65 to 75% of the project was completed in what was later to be defined as phase one,” says Kumar. “When it came to phase two the main challenge was to make sure that once the project was handed over it was safe for the user, because you still have construction around the tower.”

Parallel to the close out of phase two is the start of phase three, which comprises the fit out of the other twin office tower and the convention centre. Around 200 ETA personnel are on site but the peak is expected to run from this month through to March 2016, at which point 450 MEP personnel will be involved.

On the technical side of the project, it consists of four water cooler chillers of 2500 TR each with four cooling towers supported by 28 sets of pumps. The data centre has got four dedicated air cooled chillers for uninterrupted cooling requirement and is backed up by dedicated generator power as well as dual redundancy from DEWA transformers. This project has three substations housing 32 1500 KVA transformers feeding 40 MW power to three LV rooms consisting of 32 LV panels. It also receives 11 KV power fed to four water cooled chillers (1700 KW each) through MV panels. The complete project is backed up with eight generator sets, each 2,500 KVA, feeding to essential loads.

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