Room with all the views

A solar-powered rotating skyscraper is the latest innovation to hit the Dubai property market.
Room with all the views
By Tamara Walid
Sun 25 Mar 2007 12:00 AM

"It's a marvel and people are asking ‘How does she move? How fast does she move? Why does she move?!," exclaims Tav Singh, director of Dubai Property Ring, describing the stir caused by the latest contribution to Dubai's skyline.

And it's not as if Dubai's skyline isn't already peppered with an abundance of mind-blowing, unprecedented buildings. Singh, however, believes this project will have a lot more to offer to Dubai's eager property buyers.

"We didn't want to build the tallest building; Burj Dubai is leading that race. We didn't want to build something too bold. We wanted to commit to the market with the most expensive timepiece in the world," he says, referring to the first rotating skyscraper in the world, Time Residences. (Residence time is a term that refers to how fast something moves through a system in equilibrium.)

The tower truly resembles a timepiece with a signature line that runs parallel to the building's height as well as indicating the time throughout the day. Time Residences will be the first of 24 rotating towers built in different cities around the world - one for every time zone. The first of the chain of rotating buildings will be built in City of Arabia, the amusement park in Dubailand. Dubai Property Ring, the Dubai arm of the UK Property Group, is behind the project. "Our vision is to build 24 of these buildings, each one moving in a one hour time shift creating a property ring," says Singh.

The US$192m rotating tower in the City of Arabia will weigh around 80,000 tonnes and stand at 175 metres in height (30 storeys). The 200 apartment building will rest on a series of more or less friction-free polymer bearings, while 20 small electric motors will enable it to turn at a pace of one centimetre a minute resulting in a 360 degree rotation over the course of a week.

The most fascinating aspect of the project, or its ‘greater wonder' as Singh puts it, however, is not the rotating motion of the building but that its rotation is predominantly driven by solar energy.

"Solar panels at the top of the building absorb the sunlight and convert it into electrical energy that is then effectively stored as battery power at the base of the building. These batteries then power the hydraulic systems to make the building turn," says Singh.

According to Nick Cooper, the British engineer who will build the mechanism, the power required to allow the tower to rotate should be no more than is needed to boil 21 electric kettles.

Solar energy will not only be harnessed to rotate the building but also to provide electricity to the communal areas as well as to power water flow to its basins. The latter will also go through a recycling process conducted at the base so that it can be used for landscape irrigation.

‘Why go solar?' is a question with an obvious answer, believes Singh.

"Looking at where the world stands today with global warming, we decided to build something that was not just for today, but for future generations," he says, before adding: "If we are going to build a building, why not make her eco-friendly?"

People buying into this property, assures Singh, can sleep in comfort knowing they are not "draining the planet" for the sake of getting spectacular views.

After all, this rotating building is "all about views" explains Singh. He promises the tower, unlike many other residential blocks, will deliver unparalleled views to all its residents.

"When you stand at your balcony you've got sweeping, unobstructed views of the city around you. A standard apartment, (between 800 to 900 sq ft), provides clear views as far as 40 metres," asserts Singh.

Perhaps, what holds up this argument even further is the promising skyline of the City of Arabia development with its lakes, wadi and different water features.

"Normally, in real estate, if you have an apartment facing a building it is cheaper and the one which faces the water is more expensive. Here, we've broken that rule because everybody gets the same view so everyone gets an equal price across the platform," says Singh.

He adds there are two reasons that made the developer settle on the City of Arabia as its first choice of venue for the rotating tower. "City of Arabia is beautifully landscaped and it's not cluttered. If you go to the Jumeirah Lakes or The Marina, they are all standing side-by-side. It's only when you're at a distance you see the great view of the skyline, but when you're near by those buildings you really can't look around."

By contrast, says Singh, the master plan of City of Arabia is well spread out with plots of about 70,000 sq ft where the Time Residences dominates an area of 40,000 sq ft aptly named Time Square.

"It is 175 metres high and we want people to enjoy this building so the best way of doing that is by creating a balance," he says. This, as he continues to elaborate, manifested itself in the building's conceptual structure that starts with earth at the very bottom levels, followed by water where the pool area is located, the air where all forms of life take place and finally the entertainment zone located at the rooftop.

The roof will be capped with a crescent-shaped Moon Lounge, which will feature a theatre and an observatory. The Moon lounge will comprise two entertainment zones: a rooftop theatre and an observatory.

The latter is perhaps one of the most bizarre ideas you could ever imagine being implemented at the top of a tower in Dubai, nevertheless, Singh seems very proud as he explains: "People can sit at the edge and right behind they've got high-powered lens cameras. So you sit at the back, click the camera and type in your zodiac sign and the lens at the back zooms into the galaxy of your sign. It will also give you a horoscope of what you've got coming in the future and what you should be looking out for."

The theatre will be accessible to all residents of the tower for entertainment purposes; Singh says local schools can come and perform plays and similar activities. Singh believes that the rooftop entertainment zone will become a favourite to its residents as well as visitors, to whom the area will also be open.

What makes it so special, he says, is that every night at 12 o'clock there's a "magic moment" where people will be able to enjoy karaoke, song, dance, shisha or a celebration of occasions like Christmas or Eid.

In addition, plans to dedicate the three lower floors of the building to 24-hour serviced apartments are on the drawing-board.

It is yet to be seen, however, whether people will actually buy into this unconventional piece of property, especially since the price of the apartments has yet to be disclosed.

"We are taking reservations and we are in the process of inviting people from around the world, signatory people and celebrities, saying: ‘would you like to buy an apartment in the most expensive timepiece in the world, something that you will hand over to your children and your children's children?," says Singh. Buying an apartment is, however, open to everyone and the rates are cheaper than those of Burj Dubai apartments, which do not give you "much of a view", according to Singh. The Time Residences tower will include one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as duplexes and penthouses.

"You only get a maximum four metre view and it doesn't rotate," says Singh, comparing Burj Dubai to the Time Residences.

Another feature in the tower will be a 'history-recording' gallery which will have a dedicated section to the press and accumulate published news stories about the building and its early development.

"This is a building that is making world news now; people think ‘a skyscraper that turns!'" says Singh. He is convinced that those who buy in the rotating tower are buying themselves a "piece of history" unlike any other in the world.

So why did they choose to build ‘this piece of history' in Dubai? Aside from all the obvious reasons that attract many real estate companies to the emirate, Singh observes: "Dubai has become the centre of the earth. There are more people travelling in and out of Dubai than anywhere else in the world. There is no place in the Middle East that has so much activity and such a multi-cosmopolitan mix of people."

Potential buyers are bound to be drawn to the rotating structure, not only by its glittering gold, platinum and illuminated glass exterior, but mainly by its rotating motion.

Singh assures me that the scheme is totally safe and has been thoroughly researched but he is not ready to reveal the mystery surrounding this one-of-its-kind project. "If I told you then you'd have to take a cyanide tablet," jokes Singh.

He adds: "It's a bit like magic, if the magician tells the secrets people don't come back to see the show." This, he adds, is to protect "the interests of everybody investing in this building so that lots of people will come and gaze at it and exclaim ‘Wow! How does she move like that?'"

If that answer was given away, Singh believes that the real value of the apartments would not be retained.

Some of the most pressing inquiries surrounding the rotating structure include how the electricity is fed into the apartments while the building turns, how it is ventilated, where does all the sewage and water go and how it is fed with water?

These questions are what make it even more interesting, says Singh, adding that the interest is what has actually attracted the attention of groups including Dubai Tourism and many others across the world.

Singh only slightly lifts the veil off this mystery, saying: "There are friction plates in this building. An analogy: if you put on your car brakes and you try to push it, it won't move because the friction between the tyres and the ground is too great. If I took your car though and put it on ice it would move, but it's the same car so what's the difference? It's the friction." He continues, "We have created a technology and we patented it, it will work.

"Now we own that worldwide patent, and we are looking for 24 partners around the world who want to help us build towers that can rotate either by the power of the sun or water."

So far, the company has received interest from all over the world including locations including Istanbul, Australia, London, New York and Hong Kong.

Seeing as the project is the company's first foray into property development, Singh candidly admits that the business wanted to take on the services of established names in their respective fields. Hence the architects handling the project in Dubai are none other than the international entity Palmer and Turner while Colliers International is acting as real estate consultants for the huge project.

Construction of the tower is due to commence sometime in July or August this year and set to be completed by mid-2009.

Alongside marketing its unique idea of creating a property ring of 24 similar buildings, Dubai Property Ring will also launch what it calls a "time capsule".

"We are looking to do a world tour so we'll be going to Rome, Paris and other international destinations and with the help of Colliers we are looking to be introduced to larger developers who might show interest in the franchise," says Singh.

The director remains extremely optimistic about what many would consider a very unrealistic, if not bizarre, idea. Let's hope it works.

Singh believes Time Residences will be a historical icon. As the main investor in the project, perhaps his best bet at present is to retain a certain amount of optimism.

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