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Sat 26 Jun 2010 04:00 AM

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Beach build up

Aldar's Al Muneera, part of Al Raha Beach, is a bustling project site, as it heads toward handover next year.

Beach build up
Big site: Thousands of men are working over 16 residential towers, plus office space, villas and townhouses.
Beach build up
Multiple measures: With more than one building to worry about, careful planning has been essential to keep the project moving smoothly.

Aldar's Al Muneera, part of Al Raha Beach, is a bustling project site, as it heads toward handover next year.

Al Muneera is a busy site. People and equipment are everywhere, and it is all on the move, these people have a deadline to meet. Heading toward a handover in the first half of next year, the project has been dubbed the ‘great Arabian water city of the twenty-first century'.

Al Futtaim Carillion is the main contractor for Al Muneera, which is part of Khor Al Raha, one of 11 precincts within the larger Al Raha Beach development. The mixed-use development is expected to accommodate up to 120,000 residents and is right next to 5.2 million m2 of natural beach, just off the main highway leading into Abu Dhabi.

The Abu Dhabi arm of Drake & Scull (DSI) is contracted for the MEP works and the company's area general manager, Ahmad Al Naser, is acutely aware of the project's importance. "It is a high-profile Aldar development that will constitute a new gateway to the Emirate and form a new regional hub," he said.

The project is made up of two distinct areas, island and mainland, divided by a canal. The two sections have an approximate 50/50 split with respect to built area/cost, though the island is marginally larger in size. The site area is 146,000 m2, with a total built-up area of 594,000 m2. This is divided into 254,500 m2 of residential space, plus a 106 000 m2 of basement car parking - the island's podium level will be entirely pedestrian.

The bulk of the residential space is comprised of 1286 apartments spread over 16 residential towers. Right down on the beach are 11 sea-facing villas, each with five bedrooms. The development also includes 148 canal-facing, four-bedroom townhouses, and an office tower.

DSI Abu Dhabi's contract is valued at AED420 million, and includes the full scope of MEP services, including firefighting and access control.

Labour force

DSI's construction programme is 21 months long, and kicked off in August 2009. There will be 3,500 workers on-site at the project's peak. Given the sheer scale of the project, this poses immense challenges in terms of logistics. "Meal breaks have to be co-ordinated and appropriate facilities made available so that productivity is not unduly hampered. With a project of this size, the devil is definitely in the details," said Martin Lewis, a senior project manager with DSI's Abu Dhabi operation.

Lewis explained that DSI Abu Dhabi fine-tuned a single residential tower to use as a working template for the large number of buildings required. This sped up the work schedule, as well as improving the overall build quality. The office tower, in particular, posed a specific challenge as it has a circular shape, which the MEP design and installation had to take into account.
120 km chilled water pipes

In terms of the cooling component of the project, the total cooling load is 3650 TR and 3350 TR for the island and mainland respectively. Lewis says the total project has 120 km of chilled water piping. There are 12 chilled water pumps, 76 air-handling units (AHUs) and 5547 fan-coil units of varying sizes. The project also required 352 sets of hydraulic pumps for domestic water transfer, for example.

Such large quantities of equipment required careful co-ordination and planning. A lot of the equipment has been imported - the AHUs were sourced from Italy, for example - so varying lead times also had to be factored in. Limited storage space on-site meant material-supply scheduling had to be monitored closely, in order to allow the MEP contractor to adhere to the extremely tight schedule.

"The bulk of our effort lies in the careful planning and scheduling. The actual work itself is relatively straightforward," said Lewis. The contract type employed at Al Muneera is NEC3, which means close co-operation with Al Futtaim Carillion.

"While controlling such a large labour force obviously entails its own unique challenges, another aspect is the availability of skilled labour as and when needed, especially as the project progresses. This means that we, as the main MEP contractor, have to be flexible enough to be able to cater to the specific needs of our entire scope of works," said Lewis.

Infrastructure on track

Aldar Properties has achieved significant progress in terms of key infrastructure at its the development. Interchanges 4, 4A and 5 on the main Abu Dhabi-Dubai Highway will soon open to traffic in-bound to Al Raha Beach and Al Raha Gardens. The interchanges, which were completed structurally ahead of the Grand Prix last November, are now being readied for final delivery. Pending final testing, the interchanges will be opened up to traffic in phases to allow access to areas of Al Raha Beach as they are completed.

Utilities installation is progressing well in the Eastern Precinct of Al Raha Beach, which covers the area from the Yas Island tunnel to the iconic HQ building. The utilities have been planned to allow the current developments to be connected to the Abu Dhabi main networks, before their committed occupation dates.

The utilities at Al Raha Beach include automated vacuum waste collection systems and a district cooling network. "We are delighted at the significant construction progress at Al Raha Beach, which will benefit both future residents and those already living and working in the area," said planning and infrastructure director Talal Al Dhiyebi. "Aldar is committed to providing world-class infrastructure for all of its developments from the outset, playing a central role in the development of the Emirate in line with Plan Abu Dhabi 2030."

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A R S Wilkinson 10 years ago

So it looks like Al Raha Beach is finally making some progress and Aldar have now seen the light and finally reviewed their own staff on the Project. Let's hope that the new Project Director can deliver the goods.