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Sat 31 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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The tall order of building the Burj

Alastair Mitchell, senior mechanical engineer, Hyder Consulting Middle East Ltd, gives his perspective on the Burj Dubai.

As the pinnacle is raised on the Burj Dubai, Alastair Mitchell, senior mechanical engineer, Hyder Consulting Middle East Ltd, gives his perspective on the challenges involved with installing the MEP systems in the building.

What is your company's role in the Burj Dubai project?

Hyder Consulting Middle East Ltd is the architect of record (AOR) and construction supervision consultant for Burj Dubai project.

The primary challenges involved with MEP system installation works in Burj Dubai are the high pressures - which is what differentiates this project from other projects.

It means we have to look outside the construction industry for some of the materials and skills required to construct these services. We have to be much more careful with quality control and pay attention to procedures that are typical in other industries, but not standard within the construction industry.

There is also an element of education and training involved with this. There is also a large amount of supervision, in this case to make sure that the contractors take adequate responsibility, and implement the QAQC procedures that are necessary to ensure equipment is installed correctly.

The MEP contractors on the project employed a third-party consultant to do a very extensive stress analysis, expansion and contraction and anchor load analysis for all the main piped systems within the project. The analysis of the reports generated by these studies was then incorporated into the contractors shop drawings. Hyder Consulting site team had to make sure that the contractor re-visited everything on site before making the services live.

How is this project different?

Burj Dubai is a special project as we are creating the tallest building in the world. Due to the scale of the project the main contractor and the MEP contractors for the project have had to form joint ventures. Joint ventures have in my experience led to problems in the past but we are pleased to say that in this case at a site level the contractors have worked well together to construct what is a complex and technically challenging project.

Was it an issue to co-ordinate between so many contractors for a large project such as Burj Dubai?

It is a complex building. Because it is so big, the work packages have to be split up into different sub-packages. We have one MEP contractor that does the whole project. But we have four fit-out contractors doing different zones of the building, so one has to deal with different people.

We co-ordinate something to fit into one zone of the building, then we have to do it all over again and fit it into the next zone of the building with a new set of people. This process is time consuming, but it is something that cannot be avoided.

What was unique about this project?

Burj Dubai is what brought me to Dubai. It was an opportunity to work on what is arguably the most amazing construction project in the world at this point in time. With this economic downturn the chances are it will remain the tallest building in the world for quite a few years to come. Some taller buildings have been announced, but I am not sure how many of them will continue or how soon they will they begin to be built - if ever.

It has been great to work in a project where you don't have to keep justifying yourself. The developer has been extremely understanding to our need to use the specified high-quality products and materials.

There has been little interference and the best designers, consultants and contractors have been employed on the project.

If we were halfway into the contract in these difficult times the  possibility is that the client would come have come to us to ask how we could do it quicker and cheaper. But this has not happened and high standards are being maintained throughout the project.

Have you used a different approach to the MEP works in Burj Dubai?

The technologies we have used are quite traditional. We are just stretching the way they are applied. The pressures, the height and size of the main piped system risers are the difference. There is probably no other building in the world that has 300m long vertical service risers. There are other industries which do it frequently, but in the construction industry it is unusual.

We thought about many things even down to the method of welding riser pipes together to ensure better quality welds, these things are not always thought about in other construction projects. We also have very extensive control systems installed to optimise the energy efficient operation of the extensive and complex MEP systems within the building.

Again we are not using new technology it is the sheer scale of the monitoring and control facilities that differentiates Burj Dubai from other projects and the procedures Hyder Consulting and the contractors are implementing to ensure that the control systems are installed and commissioned correctly on site is also what we believe makes Burj Dubai different.

The fact that we are building the tallest building in the world, something that is significantly taller than anything that has gone before, means it is prudent to use tried and tested equipment and construction methods. It is the attention to detail, system analysis and site inspection, testing and commissioning procedures that make the difference.

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