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Sat 13 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

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A ‘neo-expressionist’ look at construction

Architectural innovation comes in many forms in this part of the world, and The Prism is no exception. Christopher Sell goes on site during the early stages of construction to see how Credo Investments’ latest offering will change the skyline of Dubai’s new financial district – Business Bay.

A ‘neo-expressionist’ look at construction
Shoring work has been ongoing since June 2006, with Dutch Foundation Company carrying out the piling work, which started this week. The main contractor is expected to be in place by the middle of March, according to the developer.
A ‘neo-expressionist’ look at construction
A ‘neo-expressionist’ look at construction
"It’s a very sculptural, geometrical building, which we consider to be the most attractive and architecturally appealing building in Dubai." Ferid Abbasher, project director, Hamilton Project Management.

Work continues apace within Business Bay to create the Middle East’s major financial hub. Emerging from the shadow of the Burj Dubai, Business Bay is dedicating 19 million m2 and US $32 billion (AED117.5 billion) of freehold projects incorporating offices and residences, to generate a unique area within the city that replicates international financial centres such as the City of London and Wall Street.

And while high-rise developers have become aware of the benefits of the unique or contemporary design, those within Business Bay are also showing particular design savvy when it comes to the latest construction projects. Iris Bay, already mentioned in these pages, is one such building that is sure to stand out, while this week, piling work will begin on a plot that is to house another that bares an original aesthetic – The Prism.

This $136 million, 35-floor tower, situated at the entrance to Business Bay with direct access to the Sheikh Zayed Road, is scheduled to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2008. This, conveniently, is when Dubai Properties claims all infrastructure facilities including roads and bridges for the business capital will be completed, while dredging of the extended Dubai Creek should be completed by mid-2007.

Dutch Foundation Company is currently undertaking the shoring work for The Prism, with the main contract due to be awarded in March. “It is very important that the contractor is in place by 15-21 March so construction can begin on time,” says Yousef Madi, technical vice president, Credo Investments, which is developing the project.

Overseeing the build is Hamilton Project Management, with Dewan Architects and Engineers as structural consultant.

Launched in June last year, shoring work on the 21,000m2 site began at the close of 2006, with piling work getting underway this week. Credo has settled on a design that it hopes will ensure it stands out among a plethora of towers all aiming for a certain distinctness within the Bay – consequently, The Prism employs a geometric design rarely seen in Dubai.

“It’s a building for 21st century Dubai, which also iconises the booming business hub that Dubai is becoming in the region, much like Singapore,” says Ferid Abbasher, project director, Hamilton Project Management.

“It’s a very sculptural, geometrical building, which we consider to be the most attractive and architecturally appealing building in Dubai,” adds Abbasher. “Its very neo-expressionist.” He says that the Prism has been designed to cater for future IT requirements, and future sustainability demands such as solar panelling can all be added should requirements necessitate it.

The construction will be a shallow-core building; a simple reinforced concrete structure with curtain walling. Understandably there is special emphasis on aluminium and glazing design. Madi adds that the company has employed a lighting designer to accentuate the building’s geometry.

Its location, however, while ostensibly advantageous, delivers a significant challenge due to its proximity to the lake, which will be created by the Dubai Creek extension, which will be present at the very foot of the building.

As a consequence, this will result in the already high water table rising by up to a further 5m, challenging the contractors to deal with the subsequent uplifting pressure. And this, according to Ali Isaac, resident engineer for Dewan Architects and Engineers, is something that has been factored in.

“It’s as simple as increasing the steel piles to take more tension – here the tension will be 60% of the compression, which is much higher than normal builds. But this was considered in our design calculations. It will require more steel to cope with the uplift pressure. We don’t know exactly how high the table will rise, but [it will] be between 2 and 5m high,” he says. Furthermore. Isaac says that de-watering of the site cannot stop until the structure has reached the fifth floor.

“With regards to the actual build, the procedure will take longer because it is stylised; there is more precision,” explains Isaac. “The main challenge is to meet the demands of a safe structure, but it is a safe structure with slabs – you need to take more care of the geometry – the other aspects of the building are quite easy. The real emphasis is on the shell, and the design challenges of that.”

Ensuring that the building’s contemporary design will withstand environmental stresses, Credo Investments employed service company Bureau Veritas. Established in the Middle East in the 1980’s, the international assessment firm undertook all the appropriate testing, including wind loading to ensure conformity. “The structure has been studied by Bureau Veritas to assess the structural integrity,” says Abbasher.

Pertinently, Dubai’s construction boom has led to a small crisis in the availability of contractors; with a dearth of the suitably experienced ones willing to take on projects, says Madi. “Being in Dubai, we are facing a lack of contractors,” he says. “That is why we are not inviting tenders, we have a shortlist of contractors who will be able to do it [The Prism] justice. We have called them in person and told them to bid. There is no open tender because contractors are simply not responding – we send an invitation and hear nothing.”

Madi adds that Credo Investment has just acquired a further plot within Business Bay, but there are no further details to be disclosed at this stage.

The Prism features a host of other technologically advanced features, including artificial intelligence building management systems, biometric fingerprint verification for security, WiFi hotspots and smart lighting conforming to green environmental standards. Special ‘mood lighting’ has also been fitted in the lobby.

Credo’s first foray into development has seen the company commence work on the Solarium, in the newly launched free zone - Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO). Designed by National Engineering Bureau, the building is a 22,000m2 commercial site targeting key businesses in the economic and business hub with a customised IT infrastructure.

At over 7 million m2, DSO is designed to be the world’s most comprehensive, integrated micro-electronics based technology park. It has attracted $1.6 billion of investment this year, while the DSO Authority has invested about $326 million in infrastructure development at its urban master-planned community at the Dubai Airport Free Zone. Late in December last year, DSO announced that Solar Technologies Group will invest $30 million in R&D, including the manufacture of next generation optical media products such as solar cells, solar panels and tempered glass.

As work progresses on Business Bay, it will be interesting to see whether projects such as the Prism and Iris Bay are unique within the next generation of buildings in Dubai, or represent a growing trend to dispel the old generic office block and embrace new ideas and contemporary design.

The Prism – Site Team

Piling contractor

Dutch Foundation Company

Project Manager

Hamilton Project Management

Structural consultant

Dewan Architects and Engineers

Client

Credo Investments

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