Site visit: Marina Gate, Dubai

Select Group and ALEC explain how work is progressing at Marina Gate, a three-tower ‘lifestyle’ project in Dubai Marina with a gross development value in excess of $1bn

Marina Gate will feature three towers.
Marina Gate will feature three towers.

In terms of both location and product quality, the minds behind Marina Gate have spared no expense. With a gross development value (GDV) in excess of $1bn (AED3.67bn), this high-end ‘lifestyle’ project, currently under construction in Dubai Marina, is one of Select Group’s largest mixed-use ventures to date.

The three-tower development will feature podium-level villas, 1,500 apartments, expansive health and fitness facilities, and approximately 14,000m2 of retail space. In the opinion of Rahail Aslam, Select Group’s chief executive officer, Marina Gate is a project that befits its location.

“I know I’m a little biased in saying this, but you can see for yourself: Marina Gate is being built in the most prime location that Dubai Marina has to offer,” he tells Construction Week.

“This is a super-prime site; it deserves a high-end development. A project aimed at the middle-income market just wouldn’t be complementary to the location.”

After taking a tour of the site, it’s easy to understand why Aslam is so enthusiastic. Marina Gate offers stunning views of Dubai Marina; from the luxury yachts moored in the foreground to the myriad towers that populate the skyline, this is a scene straight out of a travel agent’s brochure.

Of course, when it comes to a project’s long-term success, location is only one factor. If Marina Gate is to live up to its anticipated GDV, it will have to be constructed in a timely manner and to the highest possible standard. Encouragingly for Select Group, work is well underway.

Enabling works for Marina Gate’s first tower (MGI) began in July 2014 and completed in March 2015. Construction commenced later that month. The 206m-tall, G+52 structure is expected to top out in November 2016, with completion scheduled for October 2017.

At 256m in height, Marina Gate’s second tower (MGII) will be the project’s tallest. Enabling works for the G+64 structure were conducted from March 2015 to January 2016, at which point construction began. The tower’s estimated topping-out date is January 2018, and MGII is scheduled to complete by the end of Q2 2018.

Marina Gate’s third tower, known as Jumeirah Living Marina Gate (JLMG), has a slightly different flavour. The 224m-tall, G+56 structure’s 104 hotel apartments and 400 branded residences will be managed by Dubai’s Jumeirah Group. Enabling works began in January 2016, and are expected to complete before the end of the year.

With so much riding on Marina Gate, Select Group hasn’t taken any chances in terms of construction. To ensure that its ambitious vision is realised, the developer has turned to a contractor with a proven track record.

UAE-based construction giant Al Jaber LEGT Engineering & Contracting (ALEC) has been appointed as the main contractor for MGI and MGII. ALEC Fitout and ALEMCO – both subsidiaries of ALEC – were awarded the respective contracts for fit-out and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) works.

Approximately 1,700 ALEC construction workers – including ALEMCO and ALEC Fitout staff – are working at the Marina Gate site at present. The contractor expects this number to increase to 2,400 at the peak of activities across MGI and MGII.

Kez Taylor, chief executive officer of ALEC, tells Construction Week that his team has already hit its stride at Marina Gate. He explains: “We have an effective combination for this job. We’ve got a very good fit-out business, and MEP is normally the key to success on any project. [It’s important] to set up your onsite structure so that you can achieve a good cycle time.

“We are using a jump form for the main lift shaft and staircases, in combination with large aluminium table forms for the upper three floors. This configuration has allowed us to set a [brisk pace]. In terms of the structure of [MGI’s] typical floors, we’re into a four-day cycle time, which is very good.”

ALEC commenced construction works at MGI in March 2015. The contractor has completed approximately 30% of the tower to date, having constructed 33 of its 52 above-ground storeys. In comparison, construction activities at MGII are still in their infancy; ALEC commenced its work as the tower’s main contractor in January 2016. Raft foundation works are ongoing, with around 11.2% of the second tower having been completed as of 30 May, 2016, according to the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA).

The main construction contract for JLMG, meanwhile, hasn’t yet been awarded. As Aslam explains, his team is in talks with ALEC over the development’s final phase, but it is not in Select Group’s nature to appoint main contractors before designs have been finalised.

“ALEC won the contracts for MGI and MGII, and we are talking to them about Jumeirah Living Marina Gate,” Select Group’s CEO explains. “However, we’re still concluding the detailed design for the third tower. When it comes to delivering projects on time, to a high quality, and within budget, we believe that it is important to have a fully resolved design in place.”

Taylor confirms that ALEC is in the process of bidding for JLMG. Select Group aims to award the main contract for the third tower in October 2016, with an expected topping-out date of August 2018. Aslam estimates that overall completion of Marina Gate will take place in November 2019.

“We’re confident that things are on track,” he says. “We can only go off our experience and the progress we’ve made so far, but MGI is a great indicator. When you visit the project, you can see that it’s a hive of activity. We’re making great progress across all three towers, and we’re confident that we’ll deliver on our completion dates.”

One factor facilitating swift progress at Marina Gate is the ‘resolution matrix’ that has been jointly implemented by ALEC and Select Group. The system is designed to ensure that onsite problems are resolved in as short a timeframe as possible, thus preventing small issues from snowballing.

ALEC’s Taylor explains: “If the guys can’t resolve an issue on site, it will get passed up to Rahail and me. You’ve got to figure out how to unblock things quickly. You can’t allow challenges or differences in opinion to delay work. ALEC tries to employ this matrix on all of its jobs; we look to establish the system in tandem with our clients up front. I think that if you can get consultants and clients to buy into this way of thinking, you can unblock things quickly, which in turn allows the project to run smoothly.”

Select Group’s Aslam is equally enthusiastic about the resolution matrix. “If a problem isn’t resolved within two days, it’s escalated to management level,” he notes. “If management can’t resolve it within five days, it goes up to senior management so that it can become quickly unblocked. Problems aren’t allowed to hamper site activity.

“[Neither ALEC nor Select Group] likes to have issues hanging around. On jobs of this size, you come across instances on a daily basis that require you to make decisions and move on. When problems have arisen that could not be solved by [junior] management, I’ve gone to the site with Kez. We’ve succeeded in resolving some large issues. Progress just continues.”

The close working relationship between developer and main contractor bodes well for Marina Gate’s ultimate success. As ALEC’s Taylor points out, effective work sites tend to be those wherein all stakeholders are aware of – and committed to – their specific responsibilities.

“Everyone has a role to play,” he explains. “The client has got to pay. He needs to know exactly what he wants, set out the brief and, hopefully, not change his mind too much. In turn, the consultant needs to provide a workable design, and the contractor has to put it all together to ensure that the end product is delivered to a high standard.

“When you get all of these things right, you end up with a quality job. But if the specifications or the design aren’t right, with the best will in the world, you’re not going to achieve a quality job.”

Taylor says that all of the aforementioned prerequisites are in place at Marina Gate.

“This job is running relatively smoothly,” he continues. “We have a workable design and the specifications are clear.”

Select Group’s Aslam adds: “Marina Gate is a mega project, both in terms of size and build. Since its establishment, ALEC has focused on, and specialised in, large-scale projects, and it has successfully delivered. The company has a fantastic track record of delivering megaprojects broadly on time.”

Prior to the Marina Gate development, Select Group and ALEC had not worked together. However, evidence would suggest that this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Today, in addition to MGI and MGII, ALEC is working on Select Group’s No.9 – a 34-storey, 223-unit tower project that is also under construction in Dubai Marina.

“Marina Gate represents the first time that our companies have worked together,” says Aslam. “However, Select Group has been talking to ALEC about [potential] jobs for a number of years, and they’ve finally won some work of us. A lot of work, actually.

“We try to start and end relationships so that the model can be repeated. The point of appointing a contractor – or any other supplier – for a large-scale project like this is to be able to utilise that supply chain again in the future. It’s like a marriage; it’s not going to be perfect every day but, ultimately, you should be able to repeat the model. This only happens when you have a willing employer and a willing contractor, and we seem to have both across all our jobs at the moment.”

ALEC’s Taylor concludes: “We work well together. From our side, [Marina Gate] is a very important relationship tester. ALEC wants the project to be a success; we’re [committed] to delivering a great outcome for everyone.”

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