Site visit: Dubai Science Park headquarters
Construction Week visits the 3.31ha Dubai Science Park HQ in Al Barsha South, where authorities are building a conduit for the advancement of science and technology in the Middle East
Last month, it was reported that Dubai’s free zones together represent more than $136bn (AED500bn) of trade in the Emirate. Araf Amiri, CEO of Dubai International Financial Centre, said the city’s free zones – such as Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai Media City, and Dubai Internet City – have boosted direct foreign investment in Dubai.
The benefits of establishing free zones are acknowledged around the world. In contemporary times, Palo Alto, a 66.79km² charter city in California, has gained acclaim for having propelled the American technology sector onto the world map. Today, major corporations such as Tesla Motors and Hewlett-Packard are marking their presence in the global retail industry from their Californian home base.
In that context, it isn’t altogether surprising that Dubai’s leaders are adopting a similar free-zone model to harvest a localised and home-grown science and technology sector. One of the Emirate’s many initiatives to boost its technology savviness is the establishment of Dubai Science Park (DSP), a free-zone authority based in Al Barsha South.
The free zone’s new headquarters are currently under construction near its existing facility in the neighbourhood. The project features two towers, named North and South, and a retail component, called The Jewel. Both towers comprise two basements, a ground floor, 20 storeys, and a roof, and the total site spans 3.31ha (357,098 sqf). The Jewel’s roof and base are covered with metal cladding, whereas its sides feature glass façades. North Tower is 93.8m tall, and South Tower stands 94.3m high. The Jewel’s height is 29.8m, and it is 69.92m long and 35m wide.
In October 2015, Dubai developer Tecom formed DSP, an entity combining Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech) and the Energy and Environment Park (EnPark). DSP’s under-construction headquarters form part of a broader development plan for the free zone, which also features a laboratory complex and warehouses.
Belhasa Engineering and Contracting is the headquarters’ main contractor, and Kling is the lead consultant for the project. HDR has worked with Kling on the upcoming headquarters’ design. Piling works, under the scope of the main contractor, were carried out by Delta Foundation, and construction commenced in August 2014.
Marwan Abdulaziz, executive director at DSP, says the project’s phased handover will begin in the second half of 2016.
“North Tower is due for completion in September,” he tells Construction Week. “South Tower and The Jewel will be handed over between October and December.”
All construction works on the project have been synchronised to achieve concurrent structural completion. “We also had to incorporate some new regulations issued by [Dubai] Civil Defence,” Abdulaziz continues.
“Some slabs required more insulation, and certain aspects of the parking areas needed to be upgraded.”
However, these prescribed updates only had a brief impact on the project’s schedule, and the team is “on track to get all work done by the deadline”, Abdulaziz confidently adds.
The project is being developed through a traditional contract model, wherein DSP appointed an architect, HDR, which worked with local consultant Kling on the design approval process. Kling, according to Abdulaziz, serves as the project’s “co-architect and project manager”.
Following the appointments of Kling and Belhasa, almost 20 sub-contractors and suppliers were picked for the project.
These included Plafond Fit-Out as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) contractor, Al Fayha Aluminium Factory for aluminium works, and Kone for elevator supply and installation.
Gulf Steel Industries, a part of the UAE’s Arabtec Holding, carried out steel works for the project, with special emphasis on The Jewel.
The project “has a lot of what LEED needs”, Abdulaziz says. DSP officials are aiming for at least LEED Silver credentials, “or better”, in keeping with the existing lab building’s rating.
Sustainability plays a key role in the headquarters’ plans, he adds.
Natural Stone has been appointed to provide sandstone, which is to be applied on the towers’ facades, and Abdulaziz says this material has been imported from India.
Sandstone was picked, he explains, due to its “earthy” tones, as well as DSP’s decision to use the ‘desert’ concept as the development’s theme.
“Sandstone is a colour that’s very close to the desert, and the [colour of the] material blends very well with the surroundings,” Abdulaziz adds.
Another significant focus for the DSP team has been the twin towers’ lighting.
“There’s full glass where the shadows fall, but cladding has been used where direct light hits the surface,” he explains.
The headquarters’ design is similar to the lab building’s in terms of natural lighting. “There’s a balance we’re trying to achieve by using just enough sunlight.”
Both towers differ only in terms of their shading, glass, and cladding features, Abdulaziz says. The Jewel extends from the towers’ third floors onto their fifth storeys, and due to its positioning, will be shaded by both towers. Consequently, any harsh impacts of direct sunlight on its glass elements are expected to be mitigated.
Whilst the team has faced no challenges with onsite works, Abdulaziz admits logistics have been a concern on some occasions.
“It might take some time to find the site’s location if you’re not familiar with this side of the city, but material procurement has been fine so far,” he adds.
Upon project completion, companies listed by DSP with offices in other Tecom areas, such as Internet City, will be moved into the new buildings in phases.
After DSP moves into the new headquarters, its existing facility will be used as a specialist lab building. The towers’ units will be leased, with certain floors retained for use as single-tenant spaces.
DSP’s headquarters, Abdulaziz explains, are part of Tecom’s efforts to create specialist communities across the Emirate.
This strategy seems clearer when viewed from one of North Tower’s top floors – DSP’s headquarters site is flanked by popular locations, such as Tecom’s Villa Lantana residences, Foremarke School, and Majid Al Futtaim’s My City Centre Barsha retail outlet.
Warehouses developed as part of DSP’s earliest master plans were launched four years ago, and are currently operating at full capacity, Abdulaziz says.
Villa Lantana’s homes will be delivered in three phases, with the first of these expected to be ready shortly.
“A substation is also located here, so there’s enough power for the entire site,” Abdulaziz adds.
“Foremarke School is operational, and the Sheikh Mohammed housing project is also being developed here,” he adds, referring to one of the residential communities being developed under the directives of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
“We have also dedicated some of the front-side land plots for residential towers, and the back plots for residential villas. With a lab building and warehouses here as well, we’re creating a hub for the entire value chain of the science and technology sector. We’ve seen companies working together here, and by [encouraging the development of] residential towers, villas, and schools, we’re creating a community to support them,” Abdulaziz adds.
“The idea is to be more than just a ‘nine-to-five’ community, and instead be a vibrant place where people live and work.”
Next page: Can you guess how many air handling units have been used for DSP?
Discover DSP: MEP systems
DSP headquarters’ MEP systems were designed by Ian Banham & Associates (IBA), as Dimitri Papakonstantinou, managing director of Plafond Fit-Out, tells Construction Week.
“Plafond is employed on the project by the main contractor, Belhasa; however, we are a nominated contractor,” he continues.
“The project is designed with a central air-conditioning system, based on ASHRAE specifications and guidelines.
“It comprises six air handling units (AHU) serving The Jewel, and 10 fresh AHUs providing treated air for the North and South towers.
“Fan-coil units maintain the required temperatures in the offices, and chilled water is provided by Empower’s district cooling plant in the area,” Papakonstantinou adds.
The headquarters’ MEP design was upgraded to match DSP’s energy-efficiency targets, and the development team is collaborating with Plafond to boost the project’s building management system (BMS).
“The client has been working with Plafond and the BMS specialist, Siemens, in order to streamline the BMS system and make it more efficient,” Papakonstantinou explains.
“This [activity is being carried out] to maximise the efficiency of the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system and minimise the energy consumption of the buildings.”
Next page: How many tonnes of steel have been used for DSP's Jewel?
Discover DSP: Steel works
Gulf Steel Industries is the sub-contractor appointed to carry out steel works for DSP’s headquarters.
Waleed Halasa, general manager at the firm, explains the operations his team was tasked with onsite.
“We’re steel sub-contractors for the project, and mainly The Jewel structure, which is a monumental part of this project,” he tells Construction Week.
“The Jewel’s steel works were designed, fabricated, and installed by us. That was the major part of our contract, which included some additional structural steel work for the twin towers’ roof.
“Steel shafts have been installed in The Jewel, and they have been installed onsite as well,” he adds.
All steel products deployed for the project are in accordance with LEED standards, as well as Dubai’s building regulations.
“Almost 4,000 tonnes to 4,500 tonnes of steel has been used on the project. All these pieces were fabricated in our facility, and then transported to the site,” Halasa says.
The overall assembly and installation process took around four months to complete, and Halasa says his team worked with main contractor Belhasa on the project.
Next page: How many lifts is Kone providing for the project?
Discover DSP: Elevator systems
Kone is providing lifts and escalators for DSP’s headquarters.
Mahesh Azhaguhupathy, project manager at Kone, tells Construction Week that both towers’ lifts have a maximum of 23 stops, and the maximum travel height is 90m.
“Each tower has seven lifts. There are two escalators in North Tower’s basement – one from basement #2 to basement #1, and the other from basement #1 to the ground floor.
"South Tower doesn’t have any escalators. The Jewel has four escalators – two from the ground floor to the third floor, and two from the third floor to fourth,” Azhaguhupathy adds.
Kone will carry out free maintenance works for a year, and Azhaguhupathy says this contract could be renewed following discussions with DSP.
Installation works are due this summer, and the Kone team is particularly focused on The Jewel’s elements in this regard.
“The Jewel is comprised of steel shafts, so installing its escalators will require some expertise and skill; however, we’re confident about the process,” he says.