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Wed 12 Nov 2014 10:23 AM

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Inside Yas Mall: Building of the UAE's latest retail attraction

Construction Week revisits Yas Mall as the huge shopping centre prepares to open its doors

Inside Yas Mall: Building of the UAE's latest retail attraction

Described as the ‘missing piece of the Yas Island jigsaw puzzle’, stakeholders hope the now-complete Yas Mall will join the island’s theme park, beach and golf course to make it Abu Dhabi’s go-to entertainment destination.

Yas Mall is opening on 19 November, nine months later than planned. The impressive 2.5 million square foot complex, which is directly linked to Ferrari World, is the work of Abu Dhabi-based Aldar Properties and was built by contractor Six Construct, with Aecom the design consultant.

The project was initially due for completion in March, but Aldar Properties’ executive director of asset management, Talal Al Dhiyebi, told CW earlier this year that a decision was taken to hold its opening until the weekend the Formula One Grand Prix rolls into town for the season finale at the Yas Marina circuit.

“It is the ideal time – when 500m viewers will have their eyes on Abu Dhabi,” he said.

One of the project’s main aims was gaining a Two Pearl score from energy rating system, Estidama (‘sustainability’ in Arabic), Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s (UPC) answer to the USA’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) sustainability ratings.

The score is mandated by the UPC and to obtain this, sustainability had to be a focus of every step of the construction process, including management of its waste.

When CW first visited the site in February 2013 it was 50 percent complete, and was going above and beyond its 70 percent waste diversion target, channelling 97 percent of its waste volume back into the project.

Steel, concrete, wood, cardboard, plastic, plasterboard, glass and concrete were all diverted in some capacity and just food and general rubbish were not.

Excess concrete accounted for almost 90 percent of the site’s overall waste due to a scale-back during the financial crisis when building had already begun, but concrete which would otherwise have gone to landfill was broken up with a mobile crusher and reused in the construction.

Overall, the project managed to divert 75 percent of all waste.

“Yas Mall is a Two Pearl Estidama building and is the first mall in the region to achieve this level of sustainability which we are very proud of,” said Al Dhiyebi.

The green theme continues in the décor and design, with wide avenues, woodwork, glass ceilings, nature-inspired sculptures, real plants and trees, and a huge indoor waterfall giving a nod to nature.

“There is a lot of natural light in the mall but at the same time it doesn’t feel warm. The whole idea is it’s an outdoor mall in an indoor setting,” explained Al Dhiyebi.

During a site visit on 22 October, he confirmed all construction works were complete and the building has been handed over to tenants for fit-out. It contains 370 stores , 60 food and drink outlets, a 20-screen cinema, and a Geant hypermarket on the lower ground floor. It also has four multi-storey car parks.

The manpower and materials behind the project were mammoth. The overall cost has not yet been revealed, but it took 36 tower cranes, 50 mobile cranes and 10,000 workers to piece together the 340,000m cubed of concrete, 33,000km of steel reinforcement bars, 1,200km of electrical cables, 600 tonnes of ductwork, 100,000 square metres of natural limestone, 160,000 square metres of blockwork and 45,000 square metres of natural stone flooring that together make up the mall.

Al Dhiyebi argues that Yas Island is slowly cementing itself as a weekend destination for people living in Abu Dhabi and surrounding emirates, and is confident a plethora of large shopping centres nearby will not impact on the mall’s success.

“Competition is healthy,” he said. “As per the latest statistics done by JLL, the UAE has established itself as this retail hub, and we’ve seen year-on-year increases of 15-20 percent in terms of sales across the UAE.

“Abu Dhabi has had a gap in terms of a mall of this size, so Yas Mall will fit that gap perfectly and complete that Yas destination. The evolution of the island will continue as we build this great destination, but the mall is the missing part of the puzzle within this destination.”

He estimates there will be 20 million visitors in the first year. With more than 80 percent of the shopping units made up of international retailers, his confidence will be comforting.

“Retailers are very cautious when they go out and invest in space.

“[But] all of them have come in, done their research and discussed this with brands, and they’ve made the investment,” he explained.

“We’ve had more demand than we could accommodate. So definitely, the retailers will make a return on their investment. We’re very confident of that.”

Facts:

- 108: Number of lifts
- 10,000: Number of car park spaces
- 10,000: Number of workers on site at its peak
- 2.5 million square metres: Total size of the mall
- 20 million: Number of visitors expected in first year

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