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Sat 16 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Pushing the limit

Pioneering seems to be Tom Barry's favourite pastime. Whether it was moving to the UAE on a whim more than 30 years ago, or being the first to push limits to successfully build the tallest tower in the world, he's done it all. Construction Week sat down with him to learn from his experiences.

Pushing the limit
Barry says the biggest challenge in building the Burj Khalifa was the logistics involved in the construction process.

Pioneering seems to be Tom Barry's favourite pastime. Whether it was moving to the UAE on a whim more than 30 years ago, or being the first to push limits to successfully build the tallest tower in the world, he's done it all. Construction Week sat down with him to learn from his experiences.

We all know desperation is the mother of invention. So building the tallest tower in the world, couldn't have passed without a few desperate, sleepless nights either.

The Burj Khalifa is 319m higher than the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, the second tallest tower in the world, so innovative techniques and new technologies that had never been used before were only too common a sight.

"The biggest challenge in building a project of this magnitude was the logistics required in constructing it," stresses Thomas Barry, CEO of Arabtec.

"Mobilising and transporting manpower (which reached 12,000 at peak) and materials to so many floors simultaneously was difficult and demanded a specialist team, meticulous planning, coordination and execution. A dedicated, experienced and enthusiastic team with super organisational abilities, working day and night assisted by the client, management team, the subcontractors and the suppliers was vital to successfully managing this aspect of the project."

Barry also said that "being ready to achieve the impossible [all the time]" was also very challenging and included coping with project changes and additions, maintaining programmes and achieving deadlines, and sourcing and managing subcontractors working on the project.

"The formwork system had to be the most sophisticated, allowing construction of one floor every three days," explains Barry.  "Prefabricated rebar cages supported this requirement.

"Concrete was high strength and had to be pumped up to record heights of more than 600m. Specially designed concrete mixes and concrete pumps ensured the successful completion of this activity.

"The tower's concrete frame verticality had to be super accurate and satellite assisted GPS surveying techniques, developed by the joint venture, managed this successfully. Constructing the 140m spire was very challenging. It was fabricated on the ground in 25 parts, lifted by crane to the 156th floor, assembled and then hydraulically lifted, section by section, into place."

Barry also said that the project has taught him not to underestimate the value of team work on projects, which involved various contractors.

"If the joint venture had not worked closely and patiently as a team with the client, consultant and all the subcontractors and suppliers, the project would not have been such a success. We all shared a common objective and purpose - to successfully complete Burj Khalifa on time and with the highest quality, and teamwork was vital for this to happen," he concluded.

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