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Tower projects point to Gulf developers' optimism in 2018

Numerous skyscrapers have been announced for construction or reported progress in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait this year

Skyscraper development is on the up in the Gulf [representational image].
Skyscraper development is on the up in the Gulf [representational image].

The number of tower cranes in a city is often considered an indication of the local contracting sector’s health. If the number of tower projects is similarly adopted as a guide to developer sentiment in the UAE – and indeed, the Gulf – then regional real estate developers appear to be in an extremely optimistic state of mind. 

Around the GCC, numerous high-profile tower projects have been launched, or have reported progress, since the beginning of this year, signalling an upward swing in the region’s construction and real estate development sectors. 

One of the most notable of these has been Emaar Properties’ and Dubai Holding’s Dubai Creek Tower, situated within the 6km2 Dubai Creek Harbour master development. As of January, the core of the project’s pile cap had reached its highest point and was more than 50% complete, with total completion scheduled for mid-2018.

Following a progress review at the construction site, conducted by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, it was reported that up to 25,000m3 of concrete had already been poured for the pile cap, with 12,000 tonnes of steel reinforcement also placed.

READ: Horizon Towers on Abu Dhabi’s Reem Island ready for handover

Another Dubai tower that has gained traction in the last few months is Azizi Developments’ 570m-tall skyscraper, which might be the world’s fifth-tallest upon completion. In an exclusive interview with Construction Week in February, Azizi said the structure, located on Sheikh Zayed Road, was due to be completed in 2021–22.

The skyscraper is expected to cost $816m (AED3bn), which includes the cost of buying the land. In March, Azizi revealed that the firm was consulting with Atkins to finalise the project’s design, with work due to commence in Q3 2018.

And Dubai is not the only tower project hot-spot to have been in the news this year. In March, a smart city consulting agreement was signed between Orange Business Services and Jeddah Economic Company (JEC), the master developer of the next world’s tallest skyscraper, Jeddah Tower.

Under the agreement, Orange will create a blueprint for the information and communications infrastructure of the 1km-tall tower. Its scope will extend from the planning and design phases to construction and operations. 

Commenting on the agreement, JEC’s chief executive officer, Mounib Hammoud, said: “The implementation of the smart city components is considered an essential step [towards the delivery of] an environmentally friendly [and] self-sustainable project. The construction of the infrastructure is going according to the set time frame, along with the supply of utilities.

"Next year, land for development will be ready for investors to start construction."

READ: Kuwait bank provides $40m for Omniyat's Dubai twin towers

The tower development sector is also active in Kuwait, where property giant United Real Estate Company (URC) unveiled the Hessah Towers project in March.

The twin-tower project was conceptualised and designed by Dar SSH and Nabil Gholam Architects. URC will develop 40% of the project through its affiliate company, Mena Homes. 

Located in the Hessah Al Mubarak district and along the Arabian Gulf Road, the towers comprise a total of 212 units. The project spans a total built-up area of 6.3ha, and each 40-storey tower features three-bedroom apartments and duplexes. Townhouses will also be developed, adjacent to the towers. 

The Middle East is already home to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and with work steadily continuing on the Jeddah Tower and the Dubai Creek Tower projects, the region looks likely to remain a top destination for supertalls for the foreseeable future.

For regional developers, designers, and contractors alike, the question is not whether to build more tall buildings. In fact, the Middle East’s construction community would do well to focus on how much taller it can build, and how the globally popular concept of ‘vertical cities’ might fare in the region.

Regardless, there is no doubt that the Middle East’s lofty development ambitions will continue to soar in the years to come.  

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Construction Week - Issue 738
Apr 21, 2019