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Sat 4 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Emirates steels months off timetable

The rise in the cost of steel has allowed concrete construction to dominate throughout the Gulf. But you can’t beat steel when it comes to delivery, as Zoe Naylor discovers on the new Emirates Crew Training College in Dubai.

|~|111proj200.gif|~|Under construction: The Emirates Crew Training College in Al Garhoud. According to project managers at Emirates, the use of structural steel has shaved four to six months off the construction schedule.|~|While the majority of construction projects in Dubai are using concrete, the Emirates Crew Training College (ECTC) is one of the few bucking the trend by using steel. The primary reason for this, according to Cherian Mathews, Emirates’ project and maintenance manager, is the ease and speed of construction. “By using steel we’ve shaved off between four to six months on the construction of the project,” he says.

The main contractor on the ECTC project is Ascon, with the Fraser Nag Partnership as consultant. Work began on site in June 2005, and according to Ali Mubarak Al Soori, divisional senior vice president chairman’s office, Emirates’ Facilities and Projects Management, construction should be completed by the end of September 2006, with the facility becoming operational by the end of the year.

Located next to the existing Emirates Aviation College in Al Garhoud, the ECTC complex is designed mainly for flight operations i.e. the flight deck crew and cabin crew. The overall footprint of the structure is approximately 10,000 m2 and the value of the project is around US $53 million (AED195 million).

The complex consists of three buildings — training, evacuation and a car park, all joined together to resemble a single structure. The seven-storey, 34 m-high training building will house four full flight simulators, two of which are A-380 simulators. All are complete replicas of a plane’s cockpit, mounted on hydraulics to simulate movement up and down. “Emirates pilots use the simulators to renew their licences every year and also for transitioning from one aircraft type to another,” says Mathews.

Thirteen cabin service trainers, which are replicas of a plane’s fuselage in which the cabin crew undergo their training, are also housed in this building. These training devices are built to resemble the fuselage configuration of an Airbus A380 and A330/A340 aircraft, and of Boeing’s 777 aircraft. The A330/A340 and 777 simulators also feature a motion system for greater realism when simulating emergency conditions. In addition to the simulators, the 3,500 m2 training building will also incorporate 66 classrooms and briefing rooms.

The evacuation building is the second element of the ECTC complex. Standing 20 m high and with a footprint of around 3,500 m2, this building will have three floors of office space and will also house three emergency cabin evacuation training simulators.

These are complete replicas of the aircraft’s fuselage, and
out of the three simulators, two are hydraulic and one is static. TFC Käufer from Germany is supplying the simulators. The simulators are equipped with a full audio and visual system and can recreate a number of emergency scenarios such as fire smoke and power failure.

In addition, two door trainers will simulate the door positioning of the A380 and 777 to train crew in how to operate the aircraft doors safely. The door trainers incorporate the inflatable slides that are used to evacuate passengers and crew, should the aircraft land upon water.

The slides will lead straight into the evacuation pool that is
also being built inside the complex. Measuring 25 m by 20 m, with a depth of 1.8 m, the pool will be raised about 4 m above ground level to accommodate a storage room below it.
The third and final element of the ECTC is the 12-storey car park. With a footprint of around 2,350 m2, it is designed to accommodate around 500 car parking spaces.

In addition, the structure will house the electro-mechanical services i.e. chillers, water tanks, transformers, electrical panels and maintenance for the entire complex. It also has a basement that will be used as uniform stores for the cabin crew.

As soon as the construction of the ECTC complex is finished, the installation of all the hi-tech training equipment will begin. “The structure itself is due for completion in September 2006,” says Mathews, “and by this time there will be power and AC.

“There will then be a two or three-month period during which the operations start — this includes the equipment installation and fit out, and then the complex will be handed over to Emirates towards the end of this year.

“The installation of the simulator and the construction of the buildings were originally intended to run in parallel, but the delivery of the simulators is delayed, so installation will now begin in October,” he explains.

The floors of the training and evacuation buildings are being constructed in heavily reinforced concrete to accommodate the heavy weight of the equipment. In terms of the actual building process, Mathews says that the material for the structure was chosen with speed in mind:

“This particular project is built in steel because we wanted the construction to be very fast. And even though the price of steel has gone up dramatically in the last two years, we have still come out on top by getting the construction completed earlier.”

The structure is a combination of precast concrete slab and steelworks, with the main structure of columns and beams made from steel. “If you use concrete for the columns, you can go up to a maximum of only 3 m at a time,” says Mathews. “Then you need shuttering, rebar, then the concrete, then you have the curing stage. Then you strip it, and only then can you go for the next lift.

“But with fabricated steel you can lift a length of 6 to 12 m into place with a crane, bolt it together and then add the braces and supports.” To meet the design specifications, a special coating is used on the steel for fire protection, and to prevent it from rusting. “This is especially important since the structure faces Dubai’s Creek, so we need to guard against the salt-laden air that blows off the water.”

Two tower cranes are on site to lift the steel sections into place, as well as four or five other cranes, depending on other lifting requirements. The total amount of steel used on the project is around 2000 tonnes, with most of it sourced from Turkey.

The number of Ascon labourers on site is currently 335, having earlier peaked at 450. Counting all the other trades and sub-contractors on site, this figure peaked at around 600 people. In addition to the main contractor Ascon, there are around 10 sub-contractors on site. These include: Transgulf doing the MEP; Thomas Bennett providing aluminium and glazing; Galadari for steelworks; Middle East Foundations doing the piling; and Peri providing the formwork.

One challenge facing the team was the actual location of the site itself: surrounded by the existing Emirates Aviation College and the main Sharjah-bound road, space is at a premium. “It’s a big challenge to design and construct the complex in such a compact area — the footprint is relatively small so we don’t have much space in which to operate,” says Mathews.

“We had to plan the delivery of the steel sections very carefully to get it right because of the restricted area around the project. Movement of materials and equipment to and around the site is a challenge,” he adds.

Emirates is currently forging ahead with its rapid expansion programme — the airline plans to more than double its size by the year 2012, and currently has 127 aircraft on order, worth over $30 billion at list prices. This means more crew, which calls for more training space — and fast. And in a city where speedy construction is the name of the game, steel certainly has a big role to play.||**||

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