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Case study: Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi

Readymix Abu Dhabi recalls the challenge and privilege of contributing to the construction of this iconic project

Emirates Palace, with a built-up area of over 270,000m2.
Emirates Palace, with a built-up area of over 270,000m2.

Abu Dhabi has seen many spectacular and iconic projects completed over the years, but none more so than The Emirates Palace Hotel, or Conference Palace Hotel, as it was originally known. The late President, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, commissioned the project in 2001 in order that the GCC Conference could be hosted there in future. It has a built-up area of over 270,000m2, and is undoubtedly one of the most iconic buildings in the world. The project and its construction process were unique in so many ways and certainly, as far as Readymix Abu Dhabi is concerned, it launched us to new heights as a company, the reasons for which will be explained in this article.

From the beginning, the way in which Turner Construction approached the process was different; tender documents were issued for an on-site batching plant intended to be dedicated entirely to the project. This would ensure a guaranteed supply, and allow the client to ensure delivery and quality was not compromised, a move away from the traditional method of allowing the contractor to appoint a concrete supplier, or suppliers.

After a very thorough pre-qualification phase and bid process, Readymix Abu Dhabi was chosen as the exclusive and dedicated supplier, late in 2001. The design consultant ensured that only the minimum amount of concrete mixes were specified, and this forward thinking meant that the piling and main structure were executed with only seven design mixes, something rarely seen for such a challenging and voluminous structure. The palace and hotel were split into packages and the main contractors were Interbeton (BAM)/ACC, Six Construct, and Arabtec, each being given specific sections to build. This was one of the first projects in Abu Dhabi to make extensive use of supplementary cementitious materials in order to guarantee high durability and an extended service life to the structure.

Readymix Abu Dhabi’s owners and management at the time decided that a different approach was required for such an iconic and challenging structure, to ensure that delivery and quality were of the very best. The first new investment for the project was in a Lintec CC3000D twin-mixer, containerised batching plant. Built in Germany to very high standards and capacity, it was the first plant of its kind sold in the Middle East. The two twin-shaft mixers provided an integral ‘back-up’ ensuring uninterrupted supplies and with a rated capacity of 240m3 per hour. Concrete cooling for temperature control of the concrete was provided by KTI ice machines, also manufactured in Germany and with local service support. The plant operating system was another change in direction for the company, with the introduction of the first SIMMA computer system sold in the region. Devised in Austria and used extensively throughout Europe, the system controlled the plant batching to an accuracy of +/-1% with the additional functions of invoicing and dispatch control. The system is still used on all the company’s batching plants today.

Once the project moved into full production with all contractors ordering concrete, the daily off-take accelerated and, at peak, over 25,000m3 per month was being delivered to the different contract packages. This involved many logistical challenges for delivery and pumping, and the company appointed concrete coordinators and pump supervisors, to ensure efficient allocation of equipment whilst guaranteeing on-time deliveries for the customers.

By the time Readymix Abu Dhabi finally demobilised the on-site operations late in 2004, over 400,000m3 of concrete had been delivered. The independent on-site laboratory, installed by the client, recorded no failures in quality from the beginning to the end, a testament to the company’s insistence on the best equipment, staff, materials, and systems. Monthly reports submitted to the client by the third-party laboratory showed extraordinary control over the concrete quality as measured by statistical methods. The standard deviations achieved by Readymix Abu Dhabi were record setting.

Our employees involved on this project still talk of it today as something unique and a major achievement. It certainly helped to raise the company’s profile and reputation, and we received many letters from the project management team and customers, recognising our efforts in assisting them to deliver their packages. Many of the relationships built on the project still exist and we are proud to say that a number of people with whom we worked at ‘The Palace’ are still customers today. When it was opened in March 2005, it was understood that the Emirates Palace Hotel had cost around $3bn. It remains one of Abu Dhabi’s most impressive and iconic tourist attractions, and it gives us a great sense of pride and achievement to have been a part of it; which remains at the heart of Readymix Abu Dhabi’s history.

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