Site visit: QIMC Tower, Doha Corniche
Come 2019, Doha’s prominent Corniche will be home to the country’s first-ever sea frontage residential tower, contributing to a re-energised inner-city lifestyle
Due for launch in May 2019, a tri-tower, mixed-use development by Qatar Industrial Manufacturing Company (QIMC) will stand tall on Doha’s Corniche, representing a desert flower.
Aside from its unusual configuration, what will set this structure apart from the multitude of towers along Doha’s business section of the Corniche will be that one of the towers is exclusively for residential purposes; the first-of-its-kind with seaside views in this section of the promenade.
Ramy Derar, senior engineer and project manager for QIMC real estate projects, is enthusiastic about this complex, believing that it will breathe life into what is presently seen as a rather dull part of West Bay. He explains: “After 5pm, this area is a ghost city; there is nothing to see and you may be asked by security what your intentions are in this part of West Bay. Hence, we are trying to add life to this area.”
The project is in keeping with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment’s (MME) efforts to re-energise this section of the Corniche, by urging developers to introduce residential developments and not only office blocks. Derar says: “This area was originally designated for office spaces, but the MME has been encouraging developers to bring the area to life by injecting a feeling of community and lifestyle.”
Designed in the form of a desert rose, the three towers will create a striking addition to the distinctive Doha skyline. Standing on a plot of 11,000m2, the project’s structures are joined at the base by a three-storey podium. The development has been designated for hospitality, commercial, and residential use.
With a double-skin façade – unitised glass panels designed by Koltay Facades and, aluminium honeycomb mesh with special façade lighting designed by Visual Energy – its appearance is elegant. The honeycomb façade has been designed by AEB. While the main contractor has not yet been appointed, it will be its task to determine where the aluminium sections will be manufactured.
Derar explains that the mashrabiya-like feel to the honeycomb façade is designed slab-to-slab, so that nothing obstructs the view from the inside. “We only have an enabling contractor at present,” he adds.
The smallest tower, in terms of height, has been ring-fenced for office space; the medium for residential, replete with an open-air swimming pool on top; and the third tower will comprise 360 hotel apartments. Unlike other mixed-use projects, this development’s facilities are separate, including entrances, parking, and utilities. The engineer says: “We maintain the privacy of the residents; their spa, gym, swimming pool, parking, entrance, and lobby will all be separate. Office spaces come with balconies and terraces. [These] offer the employee areas a stunning view of the outdoors. The hotel apartment tower has two restaurants – one for all day dining and the other for speciality dining – as well as a cigar bar, coffee shop, and other amenities.”
The development was in the design stage for two years, and has 23 consultants on call. Derar says: “Construction is at the enabling stage currently, with the diaphragm wall underway. In our enabling package, the diaphragm wall is made from 62cm-wide reinforced concrete for the shoring system, with two rows of anchoring all around the building. In total, we have 420 working piles.
“The excavation works will entail around 23,000 trips to remove the earth from the site. While around 350 workers are on site presently, over 1,000 workers are expected to be present [for] the super-structure.”
The size and location of the plot poses the biggest challenge, according to Derar. “It’s a massive development – comprising a built-up area of 120,000m2 – requiring significant project management. The access to the project site has to take the environment into consideration as well.
“Even the traffic in the region is a challenge, as we are bordered by three streets and, we have made a promise to all our neighbours in the area that, we will not become a nuisance for them,” emphasises Derar.
Material deliveries are undertaken during the hours of less traffic, whether pedestrian or road, to ensure that no one is inconvenienced. Derar proudly explains: “Even as we speak, we are moving thousands of tonnes of backfill material, but no-one would know as we do it during the out-of-office hours. So, by 5am, there is not a trace of it having even taken place.”
Another challenge is timing, as the development is anticipated to coincide with the 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament, and must be up and ready for business, with all teething problems ironed out, by then.
Derar elaborates: “From our feasibility study, we should deliver before the end of 2019 in time for the [2022 FIFA World Cup] . We need a couple of years to iron out any problems that may arise, so by the time the FIFA tourism arrives, we are ready to offer the highest-quality service; we must be fully functional.
“To achieve this, we are putting significant effort and time into expediting the process of approval for the design and enabling works.
“We have compressed our enabling works process by running two 12-hour shifts, ensuring that the operations run 24 hours. Through this, we anticipate cutting the schedule down from 16 months to 10 months. For example, if we need one drilling machine for a job, we deploy three; similarly, if we need 100 labourers, we bring in 300 – all to speed up the construction process which, in turn, requires gigantic logistical management.”
Having a double-skin façade is also a challenge, the engineer says: “There are challenges around the logistics part, including fixing the tower crane to the structure for three different functions. We have no area for loading and unloading trucks on our zero-level excavation,” he trails off. “Nevertheless, we have a mandate to deliver a unique, high-quality tower, on time and within budget.”
Amid the current construction lull, the industry is experiencing a shortage of materials, Derar explains. “We have a shortage of everything, starting from MEP material to water proofing and glass materials as well,” he reveals. “We don’t have raw materials like sand, gypsum, and steel.
“You have to queue for everything; we generally require two to four months for delivery of some items, while others can take as long as six to eight months.”
He adds that the Qatar market is small and availability is scarce, as items are not stocked in any large quantities. “They are not on the shelf, so there is no possibility of purchasing materials without placing an order,” Derar laments. “Even basic items like air-conditioning units are in short supply.
“For this development, if we didn’t place an order way in advance, we would possibly be waiting another three to four years to fill the order for air conditioners. Demand fluctuates depending on [the season]. Maybe materials are available for three months, and the next three months would witness an acute shortage of washed or dune sand.”
QIMC has managed to address the shortage through pre-procurement, months in advance, and by implementing an early-procurement strategy. Derar explains: “For the long-lead items, we itemise it as a separate package in our tender. We tender it early to help the contractor, sometimes with a year’s lead time, as the approval process is normally lengthy. This includes shop drawings and factory visits.
“And after all this, you need to take the delivery process into account, which is generally between three to four days by road with trailers waiting at the border, and up to four months to get items into Doha via the sea.”
QIMC, however, has all this in hand to ensure that the project succeeds. As the enabling works prepare for the super-structure, West Bay waits while new life is breathed into the Corniche.