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How CSCEC ME is using tech to build Damac's Aykon City in Dubai

EXCLUSIVE: CW explores how tech has contributed to the Sheikh Zayed Road megaproject staying ahead of schedule

CSCEC ME is building Damac’s megaproject.
ITP Media Group
CSCEC ME is building Damac’s megaproject.

Located along Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road in Business Bay, overlooking Dubai Creek, is Damac’s four-tower Aykon City megaproject. Government-backed contractor China State Construction Engineering Corporation Middle East (CSCEC ME) is building the mixed-use development under a series of packages already worth more than $270m (AED1bn).

The state-owned contractor has deployed biometric scanners on site for employee safety and security, and it is using a laser level to eradicate blockwork mistakes. Damac’s project manager for Aykon City, Naved Agha, tells Construction Week he is impressed that the slab cycle has been reduced from 10 days to six, helping to ensure the first two towers will be completed in 2021.

Tech is a key feature of CSCEC ME’s work [© ITP].

He explains that in this market, the standard slab cycle rate – the time it takes to move from one slab to another – is seven to 10 days, “if you have the right materials and a good contractor”.

But while CSCEC ME initially put forward a 10-day cycle for slab completion, Agha says he immediately challenged this, because he felt the contractor had the capability to build more quickly.

After the contractor came back with a seven-day proposal, Damac and CSCEC ME worked together to challenge the formwork system and looked at how to reduce the amount of plywood and cup-lock scaffolding that was used.

Initially, we had a few challenges when we were doing piling and shoring works, because it was very close to the Dubai Metro line. Getting all the necessary approvals was a bit of a challenge.

An agreement was made to use table forms, which Agha says has been particularly beneficial: “[CSCEC ME] came back with a proposal, asking if they could use table forms, which is half the quantity of a cup-lock system, and it is 10 times faster than a cup-lock system to erect and dismantle. That is how we have been able to reduce the slab time from 10 days to six,” he explains.

In terms of progress, Damac is already two months ahead of schedule on the engineering work for Aykon City, according to Agha. Construction work is currently under way on two of the four towers, dubbed Tower B and Tower C. These comprise Phase 1 of Aykon City and are expected to be completed by the end of 2021.


Damac’s project manager for Aykon City, Naved Agha [© ITP].

A timeline for the completion of Phase 2 – Towers A and D – is still to be announced, as building work has not yet begun. Architecture firm Killa Design, the company behind Dubai’s Museum of the Future, has been involved in the early design stage for the second pair of towers.

Phase 1 construction started in May 2018 with work on Tower B, which will be a 246m-high hotel. Civil works for Tower C kicked off a month later, in August. 

Tower B will feature 1,210 hotel residences, with lifestyle and wellness amenities including a gym and spa, an outdoor pool, and landscaping areas offering views of the city and Dubai Creek. Covering a total built-up area of more than 167,000m², the as-yet-unnamed hotel will have two basements, 10 podium levels, and 53 floors.

We have made a rule here that every sub-contractor who comes on site must have a qualified safety officer who will liaise with the main contractor’s safety team, and they will work together to ensure the site is safe,

Tower C, meanwhile, will be 232m tall and comprise 968 residential units, also covering a total built-up area of more than 167,000m², with three basement levels, 49 floors, and 10 podiums.

Agha says the team on the ground – which includes Lacasca as the consultant – expects to top-out Towers B and C in 2020, leaving “plenty of time” to get inside and complete the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) installations, fishing works, and interior fit-outs.

Damac’s in-house interior design team is already working alongside the construction teams on site to deliver what Agha says will be “stylish” homes and hotel residences. 

Aykon City features multiple towers [supplied].

“In terms of the speed and construction quality, we are steaming ahead,” Agha says, noting that overall construction on Phase 1 is more than 20% complete.

While construction work is progressing quickly, Agha says the most important consideration is to ensure the safety and security of the more than 1,000 construction workers employed at Aykon City – a development that will eventually cover more than 28ha.

“We have made a rule here that every sub-contractor who comes on site must have a qualified safety officer who will liaise with the main contractor’s safety team, and they will work together to ensure the site is safe,” he says.

To minimise the risk of accidents on the site, CSCEC ME has placed metal mesh over all the buildings’ shafts to prevent anybody from falling.

While there is plenty of light on the project, Agha explains, with workers mobilised day and night, this is a small but vital step that helps to prevent injuries, with falls from height being one of the leading types of workplace accidents to occur on construction sites worldwide.

It took us some time before we could get on with work, but now that we have started the main works there are no issues.

Biometric scanners and turnstiles are also in place, in order to prevent any unauthorised access, and so that senior managers are able to keep an accurate record of staff and visitors at the site.

“In situations when you may have to evacuate the labourers, we know how many came out and how many were inside. If there was to be an emergency, we would know how many people got out of the site safely, and whether any workers were trapped inside,” he says.

With construction work progressing apace, Agha says the team on site has not encountered any major challenges on the project so far.


Concrete work is in full swing [© ITP].

Damac did face some issues before the main works began, however.

“Initially, we had a few challenges when we were doing piling and shoring works, because it was very close to the Dubai Metro line,” Agha explains. “Getting all the necessary approvals was a bit of a challenge.”

As the metro line is in close proximity to the perimeter of the construction site, Damac had to go through several administrative bodies in order to get approval for the project and agree the piling and foundational works needed to build towers that are set to be hundreds of metres tall.

“It took us some time before we could get on with work, but now that we have started the main works there are no issues,” he adds.

At the time of Construction Week’s site visit, concrete works were in full swing at the site, and with CSCEC ME completing one slab every six days, Agha explains that Damac’s commercial team is in the process of scoping out new tenders and plans to update the industry about the range of works for Aykon City in due course. 

In terms of the speed and construction quality, we are steaming ahead.

Façade installation for the development’s first two towers is scheduled to get under way in July or August of this year, and the site will continue to be a busy place for many years to come, notes Agha.

With a project of this scale and complexity, it is not possible to accurately gauge the full development value at this stage, according to Damac. This is because the four-tower, mixed-used project is still in the early stages, despite the fact that engineering work is two months ahead of schedule as a result of the close collaboration between the developer and the contractor.

The Aykon City megaproject highlights “what is possible when the various parties successfully work together as one team to achieve a single goal: the timely completion of the project”, concludes Agha.

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