Higher purpose

A short distance from the Burj Dubai there is a new sky scraper that stands out from the crowd and promises to offer more than just a scenic view.
Higher purpose
(Khaled Termanini/ITP)
By Fida Slayman
Sat 04 Apr 2009 04:00 AM

A short distance from the Burj Dubai there is a new sky scraper that stands out from the crowd and promises to offer more than just a scenic view.

A typical day for a future resident of the Index building, its developers Union Properties hope, will go a little something like this:

7.55 – go to work8.00 – arrive at work12.55 – go to lunch1.00 – arrive at restaurant5.00 – leave work5.05 – arrive at gym6.05 – leave gym6.10 – arrive home

Index is the first of a new era of ‘intelligent buildings’ that are destined to be the skyscrapers of the future,” boasts a circular from Union Properties. The concept behind a multi-purpose tower such as Index, it continues, “ensures that the building is utilised 24/7; that it is never vacant, increasing security and energy efficiency.”

Designed by Foster & Partners, the mixed-use building comprises 65,000 square metres of residential space, 50,000 square metres for offices, and a transfer floor on the 30th storey.

 

We didn’t want to restrict the tenants by having columns and walls all over the place. I think it’s a pretty unique thing; you don’t find many office buildings with column-free spaces.

When completed, it will tower at 326 metres above sea level, “give or take a few centimetres,” jokes Irenaeus Vincent, senior project manager at Confluence, the project management company in charge of Index.

Started in December 2006, work is on track to meet the completion deadline of mid 2009. “There was a problem with materials and labour supply the year before last,” says Vincent, “but those constraints haven’t delayed the job very seriously, or had any negative impact.” He admits the project has had issues, but “that’s always going to be there on a project of this size,” he adds. “A lot of them have gone away on their own, and last year we didn’t have any problems.”

Part of Dubai International Financial Centre, Index stands on a plot of 20,000 m², and will have a total built up area of 335,000 m², including retail space and underground parking for 2500 cars.

Built on an east-west orientation to reduce solar gain, the building’s core mass absorbs the heat of the sun, thereby decreasing loads on mechanical ventilation.

External shading on the south side of the building offers extra protection to offices, which feature floor-to-floor windows of nearly 5m in height. Balcony spaces in the residential section serve to shield apartments from the full effect of the sun.

The 40 storeys of residential apartments are supported by 25 floors of unique column-free office space, an engineering feat which presented some challenges, says Vincent. “The apartments are traditional, with columns and walls all over the place, so to transfer the load was quite a task.” Two walls which cut across the building on a north-south elevation carry the structural load of the residential section. “When we got to the transfer floor,” explains Vincent, “we jacked up six huge structural trusses as temporary formwork to cast the beams.”

The 110-tonne trusses, each taking an average of nine hours to be jacked up, transfer the load to the sides of the building, allowing work to progress on the apartments above. “We did it this way to give the tenants the best option for their office,” says Vincent. “We didn’t want to restrict the tenants by having columns and walls all over the place. I think it’s a pretty unique thing; you don’t find many office buildings with column-free spaces.”This type of design should happen more in the future, Vincent continues. “This building was designed by Foster and Partners, and being the renowned architects they are, they’re always looking to do something different from run of the mill buildings,” he says. “Historically, architecture is in the utilisation of space, and this is one of the things that’s very unique about Index.”

The top three floors of Index are given over to penthouse apartments, commanding the best views the building has to offer. Accessible only from the 77th floor, the three storeys feature internal staircases and private swimming pools.

 

I’ve not seen in any reports that any other buildings have this volume of concrete. In terms of volume this is probably second only to Burj Dubai, which gives you an idea of size.

Though many of the lower floors are nearing completion, the majority of work is yet to be done in the penthouses. “We are working our way upwards, so we are getting there,” says Vincent. “There’s a staged handover system - when they’re ready, we’ll give them in bulk.”

At a height of 15m, the lobby will feature 16 lifts dedicated exclusively to the office floors, and will be covered with large canopies. “Each bay has a canopy that sticks out by 12m,” adds Vincent, “which will span across the whole length. Altogether, there will be six canopies, wrapping around on three sides.”

Lifts with a ceiling height of 2.7m in the residential wing of the lobby will shuttle residents to the 30th storey, the transfer floor. “This is one of the first buildings to do this,” says Vincent. “Because most other buildings are typical towers, they don’t have transfer floors.” Owing to Index’s multi-purpose use, the transfer floor serves to distinguish the residential and commercial areas, as well as provide additional security for residents.

“Nobody has unauthorised access from the parking or the mid lobbies to go up to the apartments,” explains Vincent. “The apartments have all got smart card features, controls and phone systems.”

Once completed, Index will feature three floors of retail space, accessible from the lobby and connected to other DIFC buildings through an underground ‘retail spine.’ Modelled closely on London’s Canary Wharf, the retail area will be surrounded by buildings on each side.

“This is part of the master plan,” adds Vincent. “You don’t actually see the retail space until you are one floor below. At the top of it is landscape, exactly like Canary Wharf.”

Among all other buildings in DIFC, Index stands out for the amount of concrete used in its construction. A typical 50 storey structure, says Vincent, will likely use between 30,000-50,000m³ of concrete.

Index, however, has more than 220,000m³, making it one of the biggest concrete structures in the region. “I’ve not seen in any reports any other buildings that have this volume of concrete,” Vincent boasts. “In terms of volume, this is probably second only to Burj Dubai, which gives you an idea of its size.”

Adding to Index’s unique characteristics will be a distinctive water feature. Flanking the structure on three sides, it will give the illusion of the building sitting in water.

Three bridges will link the drop off area with the lobby, offices and retail floors. With a base of 120m, the main water feature will measure 140m from end to end, bringing its total length to 240m. From the podium, it will cascade down to the lobby.

Though scheduled for completion by Q2 2009, no moving in date has yet been set for commercial and residential tenants. “They were saying July or August,” said a Union Properties representative, “but no date has been specified.”

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