How the Arab World's largest library in Dubai will be cooled

Construction Week gets an inside look at the MEP infrastructure of Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Library

Al Shafar United is working on the MEP aspects of Dubai's MBR Library.
© ITP Media Group / Grace Guino
Al Shafar United is working on the MEP aspects of Dubai's MBR Library.

The Mohammed bin Rashid (MBR) Library is slated to be the largest library in the Arab World and when completed will house more than 4.5 million printed, audio, and e-books. The library is located next to Dubai Creek in Al Jaddaf area.

The book-shaped building will be a significant addition to Dubai’s list of iconic structures. The library boasts eight specialised areas for its children’s, youth, family, multimedia, business, Arabic, international, and popular collections. There will also be conference and study rooms, exhibition areas, a 544-seat auditorium, a café, and parking spaces. The main structure will consist of a basement, ground floor, and seven storeys, including a central warehouse for books.

The night view of the library will be quite spectacular when seen from Festival City.

Most of the physical books in the library’s collection will be converted to electronic versions. The library will also be digitally linked with libraries worldwide to share and retrieve information.

The shape of the building is inspired by the rehl, a traditional lectern for books, and specifically the Holy Koran. “The structure has been built in such a way that there is a concrete structure from the basement to the third floor level,” says director of projects and switch gear division at Al Shafar United (ASU), Joseph Lobo.

As of October 2018, about 60% of the MEP work on the library had been completed.

“An external elevation was done from the fourth to the seventh floor using steel to provide the book shape, which was very challenging [but was] successfully executed. Every floor is a different project.

“The night view of the library will be quite spectacular when seen from Festival City,” he continues.

In an interview in late 2017, project director at ASGC, Sameh Samy, told Construction Week that the steel structure, which is approximately 5,700 tonnes, is prefabricated. Lobo adds: “We have many mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems in this project, including extra-low voltage (ELV), security, audio-visual, and video-conferencing systems.”

The theme for each storey is different, and the audio-visual sound system is different from one library to the next, Lobo explains. “This project is distributed into several parts. In addition, there is more focus on the digital library system. We have mainly worked on all the ELV systems and digital library systems. Under ELV systems, we have a building management system, CCTV, access control, and audio-visual systems.”

Once the library is operational, subscribers will be able to access the MBR Library’s collections online and reserve books. “By the time the subscriber reaches the library, the book will be ready on their desk,” Lobo says.

The MBR Library project is expected to attain Leed Platinum certification.

The $272.3m (AED1bn) MBR Library project was unveiled in February 2017 by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in support of President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s declaration of 2016 as the Year of Reading. The construction of the library commenced in October 2016, with the parent company of ASU, ASGC, being awarded the main contract. Lobo says that as of October 2018, about 60% of the MEP work had been completed.

As the building is aiming to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) Platinum certification, Lobo says the project’s use of air-conditioning chillers has had to be redesigned.

“In order to attain Leed Platinum, the project has been redesigned from air-cooled chillers to water-cooled chillers,” he says, explaining that water-cooled chiller systems have a cooling tower, and so deliver greater efficiency compared with air-cooled chillers.

“At the same time, the lighting design – particularly the external lighting and landscape lights – have to be in compliance with the green building standards,” he adds.

The total Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) power that is connected to the library totals 10MW, and there will also be a solar energy generating system within the building, Lobo says.

“As part of the Leed building criteria, 10% of the total electricity has to be locally generated and consumed, which is equivalent to 1MW. So, the solar panels are placed on the roof of the library, as well as above the parking lot.”

Approximately 300 employees were on site to complete the project’s MEP works.

A larger area would be needed in order to generate enough energy to run the building on solar power alone, Lobo adds.

“The total connected load is 10MW. If you want to generate that, then 10 times the solar panel area is required. And solar cells cannot be stacked one above the other –they have to be distributed evenly.”

When it comes to plumbing, the MBR Library project incorporates a reverse osmosis system that recycles and treats wastewater for irrigation purposes.

The total MEP workforce that was deployed on site as of October 2018 totalled approximately 300 employees. This number included heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning specialists; electrical and plumbing engineers, fire fighters; and various sub-contractors.

In order to attain Leed Platinum, the project has been redesigned from air-cooled chillers to water-cooled chillers.

Lobo says that there are several advantages for ASU when working under its parent company, ASGC. “Many things are mutually understood, rather than [having to be spelled out] contractually,” he explains.

He continues: “Financially, we are secure because we are working directly with the parent company. They take care of all the MEP-related financial issues.”

Joseph Lobo, Al Shafar United.

However, ASU is also independent and undertakes work with other outside entities, he adds. “When you work with other contractors, there are challenges. More documentation is needed and you have to prove that you can manage all the technical and financial resources. However, you learn a lot working with outside companies.”

Lobo says that competition is rife in the MEP sector. “Everyone is trying to run behind projects, thereby killing the prices. At the same time, to have a good name in the market, you have to preserve your resources.”

ASU manages to stay competitive thanks to its corporate philosophy, Lobo concludes: “ASU has a very open culture. If you are talented and show good potential, you are rewarded.”

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