Site visit: Cayan Cantara, Dubai

Big Project ME tours the Cayan Cantara construction site in Dubai, as the Saudi developer looks to enter the hospitality sector for the first time

Last November, Saudi Arabia’s Cayan Group announced that it had appointed Shapoorji Pallonji as the main contractor for a two-tower hotel apartment and residential project in Dubai, marking its first foray into the hospitality and tourism sector.

Known as the Cayan Cantara, the project is set to be a distinctive addition to the developer’s portfolio, with the structure set to feature two bridges spanning the distance between the towers. The residential tower will be the taller of the two at 42 storeys, while the hotel apartment will have 33 storeys. The total built up area will be 153,290sqm.

Designed by renowned Japanese architectural firm Nikken Sekkei, the project will provide investors with more than 700 units in the form of studios, one-bedroom to three-bedroom apartments, and penthouses. It will also offer amenities such as retail spaces, restaurants, meeting rooms and a gym, spa and lounge.

Strategically located on Umm Sequiem Road in Dubai, Cayan Cantara is positioned on a route that is fast becoming a major connection to roads, malls, residential areas and commercial hubs across the city. According to the developer, the project is just two minutes from both Mohammed Bin Zayed Road and Al Khail Road, and six minutes from Emirates Road.

The Mall of the Emirates is five minutes away, while Dubai Mall and Downtown Dubai are just 20 minutes from the project, Cayan adds. Furthermore, the project’s connectivity means Al Maktoum International Airport is about 20 minutes away as well.

With construction now in full swing, Big Project Middle East was invited by Cayan to tour the site and find out how work is progressing on the group’s latest flagship project.

“We looked at the location as a very strategic location,” says Ashraf Qudsiyeh, senior project manager – Engineering and Development, Cayan Development, after a tour of the project construction site. “Because it’s located on Umm Sequiem Road, it has easy access to Sheikh Zayed Road, Emirates Road, Mohammed Bin Zayed Road and all the important points of interest in the city.”

“The idea [behind developing the project on this site] came from having the opportunity available to develop a project on it. We looked at the land use and did our own feasibility study. We did market research on what the market needs, and from that, this idea of having a residential tower and a serviced apartment tower came about. This area needs hospitality, and it also needs some residential supply.”

The hospitality sector in the GCC continues to be a strong performer, especially in the UAE, where occupancy has averaged at around 85% over the last five years, Cayan says. To that end, the developer has teamed up with Rotana’s Arjaan brand to manage the hotel apartment tower, while the residential tower will be managed by Rotana’s Residences brand.

Although managed by Rotana, tenants in the residential tower will be allowed to personalise their living spaces, Cayan says. It forecasts an occupancy rate of 90% for the hotel apartment tower.

“The market demand encouraged us to proceed. The towers will be connected by two bridges, with a gym on one of the bridges, along with meeting rooms. We’ve also got a swimming pool at the top of the serviced apartment tower, which will have a glass projection outside the building. This is a feature that we think will be attractive and will be linked to the reputation of the tower,” Qudsiyeh points out.

“Having a variety of product is very important. We need to have this kind of variety in order to guarantee that we’re targeting more than one segment of the market, and not just focusing on just one segment,” he adds, when asked why Cayan has decided to enter the hospitality sector.

Work in progress

Construction commenced in November 2016 on the main package of the project, with Shapoorji Pallonji International appointed as the main contractor. Prior to that, Qudsiyeh says enabling works were successfully completed, including excavation, piling and shorting works.

The planned completion date for the project is March 2019, and the senior project manager is quick to highlight how satisfied the developer is with progress on the project.

“Shapoorji Pallonji is showing commitment to the project and they’ve allocated all resources required – in terms of logistics, staff required and so on. We have an outstanding team on-site, and we’re happy with the progress being made. It’s as per the schedule.

“Also, we have cooperation with the local authorities. They are showing flexibility and they come and do their inspections on time. They look at Cayan as partners,” he asserts.

At present, work is ongoing at the basement level with the raft foundation completed, along with all the immediate services that come along with it, Qudsiyeh says. The retaining wall is also completed, while work on the level two basement slab was underway, with casting scheduled for the week after Big Project ME’s visit to the site.

Qudsiyeh points out that the biggest engineering challenges on the project will be the connecting bridges and the glass-bottomed swimming pool, which will extend three metres out from the building’s edge. This will be a first for Dubai, he adds.

Although work is currently ongoing below ground level, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t much happening, with the consultant, Dewan Architecture and Engineering, working closely with the team from Shapoorji Pallonji International to minimise the risk of clashes on the project.

“The consultant and engineer (Dewan) has done a good job by having all of the drawings up to standard. That makes the contractor’s job easier. However, Shapoorji is also giving their input, holding discussions with the consultant to come out with the best practices,” he explains. “So that means that when the drawings go for construction, they are well studied and well planned, and as such go on smoothly.”

Cayan’s project management team is also heavily involved in the weekly meetings held by the project team, with Qudsiyeh explaining that they step in whenever they are required to.

“Any technical requirements needed for better coordination between the contractor, the consultant and the authorities, [we assist]. Whenever we’re required to get involved, we do. It’s not even to solve any problem, but also help plan ahead and make sure that no other activities get disturbed on-site.”

Managing Logistics On-site

At present, there are 724 workers engaged on the project, but Qudsiyeh says that when construction hits its peak, that number will swell to more than 3,000. The labour force is currently on a two-shift schedule, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, while the project can be built with just two tower cranes, Shapoorji Pallonji has decided to go with four tower cranes on-site, with speed being paramount as the contractor targets a six-day cycle between slabs.

One benefit of the site’s location is great connectivity for the contractor to obtain building materials and supplies from its partners and suppliers. The contractor has selected a batching plant that is only 15 minutes away from the site, while its labour camps in Jebel Ali and Al Quos ensure there are no delays or obstructions when it comes to moving workers back and forth from the site.

“I think the main thing that makes this location great for people wanting to invest in it also makes it great for construction logistics,” Qudsiyeh says. “It’s located at very short distances from main access highways around us. Also, the contractor has rented out all the area around the site for logistics yards, so as to ensure smooth operations during construction.”

Health and safety also form a key part of operations on-site, with workers provided with a rest area that is air conditioned and shaded throughout the year and duration of the project, Shapoorji Pallonji says. Furthermore, the contractor has safety staff carry out stringent checks on the site, with even the toilets subject to municipality-level inspections every two hours.

Qudsiyeh adds that the consultant has provided a full-time safety engineer on the site, whose job is to work with the safety officers from the contractor to guarantee that all policies are strictly followed.

“We looked for somebody who has a strong track record of delivering similar projects successfully, both in terms of quality and time,” he says, adding that this was the main criteria for selecting both the main contractor and the lead consultant.

“Our shortlist was very short, actually! We were very sophisticated with our selection. We dealt with Nikken Sekkei for the concept design, and they are one of the top architects in the world, while we awarded the design work – in terms of structure and MEP – to Dewan Architects. They are also one of the most recognised offices in the UAE and they have a good record of similar projects.

“The selection of the contractor was actually one of the most lengthy and difficult processes, because there was no small room for mistake. The criteria was very strict, and we wanted a contractor that has a history in the country and the region, having worked on similar projects.

“So selection was something that saw a lot of care taken. We wanted the best of the best, and there wasn’t much tolerance on that. This is part of our commitment to deliver the product that we promised our customers,” he asserts.

Working together

Finally, Qudsiyeh says that although Cayan isn’t targeting any particular green ratings, as part of its commitment to customers it has requested that the consultant add extra features that promote energy savings and increased efficiency. “We’re trying to follow the best practices within the design parameters that we have.”

While Shapoorji Pallonji is not using Building Information Modelling (BIM), it is pushing collaboration and transparency on the project. Using its large local design studio, the contractor ensures that whenever shop drawings are prepared, they go to the main office first for a complete and through reviewal process. Only once the shop drawings have been reviewed by the design team are they considered ready to be used for construction.

These endeavours to promote transparency and collaboration are backed up by Dewan, which is always available to the contractor, no matter the time or date.

“Cayan is well known in the market for developing iconic towers,” says Qudsiyeh as he wraps up the interview. “This has always been our target from day one, when we decided to start this project here. We are proud of our previous portfolio of projects and we want to add another iconic tower.”

“We don’t want to build just another building. We want to guarantee that our towers are recognised for their architecture.”

Project Name: Cayan Cantara
Developer: Cayan Group
Main Contractor: Shapoorji Pallonji International
Main Consultant: Dewan Architecture and Engineering
Architect: Nikken Sekkei
Hotel Apartment Tower: 33-storeys high
Residences Tower: 42-storeys high
Total built up area: 153,290sqm


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