Gateway to the Capital

Big Project ME gets an exclusive first look at the Midfield Terminal Building at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Gavin Davids reports

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Abu Dhabi has long been considered a sleeping giant in the GCC region due to its relative lack of infrastructure development as compared to Dubai. Backed by vast reserves of oil, the UAE capital had never really grabbed the headlines like its noisy neighbour. However, the last five years or so have seen Abu Dhabi shake off its lethargy and step up a development drive that has firmly established it as one of the hotspots for the construction industry in the Middle East, which of course means globally. This surge in growth has seen more and more visitors and workers descend upon the emirate, which in turn has put tremendous strain upon its existing infrastructure. Within the next few years, an estimated 20 million people are expected to use Abu Dhabi International Airport as their origin, destination or transit point for international and domestic travel, stats released by Abu Dhabi Airports Company have found. As such, the Company has backed the massive $3 billion Midfield Terminal Building project that is set to change the face of aviation travel in Abu Dhabi. The contract was signed last year, and by August 2012, work had started on the project. To realise the project, a joint venture consisting of TAV Construction, CCC and Arabtec, was appointed as the main contractors by ADAC. Set to be a benchmark in airport construction worldwide, the terminal building will feature an undulating roof, and inclined façade, a 52 metre tall processor ceiling and the use of advanced technology, with a total built up area of 702,000m2. “The total duration of the project is 49 months,” says Ali Haydar Ozak, the project director for the MTB project. “It means that by September 2016, we have to have substantial completion. The airport building will then go through an operational readiness and testing period to be fully commissioned in 2017.” “There are other packages around our building, but we’re responsible for the construction of the MTB – the Midfield Terminal Building. There are also other packages, big packages around us, the airfield contract and the landside contract. So we’re just in the middle of the two runways. That’s why this is called the Midfield Terminal Complex. More than 13 months of the project have passed, and we’re almost 25% of time elapsed,” Ozak adds. “If you look at the design of the building, this is one of the most, let’s say, most sophisticated, challenging, but also, for me, one of the best designs for an airport that you can see. It’s not straightforward, it’s all complicated, but it’s with challenges. Only the façade, the processor façade, when you enter the building, the height of the glass is more than 50 metres. This is just the glass, then think about the support system behind it and the roof shaping is coming from the sand dunes. All these waves, in the main processing area and the piers. So the designer and the client, who made the decision on the design, decided to have the best terminal building in the region, for me, maybe in the world,” he explains to Big Project ME. Approximately 84,000 tons of steel will be used for the construction, while the terminal building will have a roof area of 225,000m2. The total façade area will be 200,000m2, TAV Construction says. “Mainly now, we’re in the concrete structure stage, till date we have casted over 180,000m3 of concrete and in terms of progress wise, we started with the concrete work, and now the other trades come in. For example, we’re planning to start MEP activities very soon, MEP, façade, roofing and some other internal architectural issues, so all this progress will jump significantly,” Ozak points out. With more than 500,000m3 of concrete needed for the project, Ozak says that TAV cannot afford to rely on outside resources to supply the construction site. As a result, the Turkish contractor has tied up a deal with two suppliers, Al Farrah and Synaxis, to work on site and supply only the MTB building. Furthermore, with a completion date set for September 2016, work on the project has to progress as smoothly as possible to avoid any delays and unnecessary complications. Therefore what received considerable attention from Ozak and his team was the organising of the project’s labour force. With more than 10,000 workers on site and project staff of around 856, this was no easy task to accomplish. “This is (complex),” he tells Big Project ME. “Now that the summer season is just over, we have diverted our main shift to the day, 80% to 85% of our labourers are working during the daytime, so the numbers are quite obvious. We’re talking about 8,000 to 9000 labourers, logistically, coming from the camps to the site, so each bus can accommodate 50 to 60 labourers, so think about the number of buses. And that’s only for labour.” “And then there’s the materials, the trucks. There’s a huge amount of logistical delivery for the concrete, rebar and most importantly structural steel. (The start of) MEP and other trades will definitely increase the number of logistic activities to and within the site. So starting from this simple point, for fielding the joint venture staff only, then going to the subcontractors, it’s a very challenging logistical management,” he adds. An additional logistical complication is that the site is in the middle of two runways, which have been constructed by two different contractors, who have their own workforce and materials being brought onto those sites. “The runways are completed, so if you see the two runways, the south and north runways, they’re already under operation. So there’s only some air site works around our building, the apron and the connecting taxiways, and the utilities for all the fuel hydrant systems and so on,” Ozak says. “These are all packages done by different contractors. We’ve got the air site contractor next to us, they’re working just as a neighbour to us. On the landside, we’ve got the car park, and the interchange. We’re using the most crowded and busy highway, so there’s going to be an increased number of movements to the project. So very soon, we believe by the end of the year, or the first quarter of 2014, the trucks and the containers coming to the site, not only for us, but for all the other contractors, will be tremendous,” he warns. So then the challenge of organising the site is considerable, to say the least. In order to cope with the sheer workload, the contractor decided to embrace BIM technology and use it to completely plan out the entire project. Heading this massive task is Dr Ozan Koseoglu, the BIM leader for TAV Construction. His role is not only to oversee the implementation of BIM in the design and modelling phase, but to push its collaboration throughout the project. A former professor at Herriot-Watt University, Dubai Campus, Koseoglu taught Construction Management and Surveying at the School of the Built Environment. He was brought on board to work on the MTB joint venture project in April of this year. “First of all, we have a massive scope for the BIM implementation (in this project), he tells Big Project ME. “So the whole building will be modelled in a BIM environment, and we’re going to be delivering this with cost control, commercial control aspects. That’s been a huge amount of modelling in the past, but currently, there’s a challenge to apply BIM & Collaborative working into the project, and that’s what we’re trying to ensure here, and that’s why I joined TAV, to work on this project. We’re establishing a team to join into the project. So that will support us in many ways,” he adds. “As you can imagine, it’s a massive project, so the specifications had quite a lot of detail. In the detailed design phase, we’re looking for the construction phase, the fabrication phase and then delivery to the client. The facilities management phase. So there’s a full life cycle approach to BIM, from the start. So that’s the most challenging part for the project as well.” “How have we approached this? By splitting it into disciplines, so we had steel structure, concrete, architecture, all of this, and MEP. So that was quite challenging, to bring all these parties together. In order to continue the progress that has been made on this project, Koseoglu says that he and TAV are currently working to put together a ‘BIM and Engineering Excellence’ team, which will join the project and bring in added expertise. Furthermore, the knowledge gained from this project will be applied to other projects that TAV works on. “We’re operating in the Middle East and North Africa, on airports and other projects, but in order to raise the bar, we need to have good, qualified engineering skills. So that’s what we’re looking to achieve in the first case. We target good engineering graduates, or good engineering skills people, educate and train them and then when they’ve delivered some tasks, they’ll be ready to join the project. But what we want to explore in this project (MTB) with them, is what they can achieve and if they can take this further. So we’re trying to increase the level of engineering,” he explains. “From a BIM point of view, bringing these guys into the project and into the process, is not easy, it’s quite challenging. But now, we can transfer this knowledge into various projects. Currently we have many projects in the region, mostly airports, as we’re airport contractors, so that brings a lot of knowledge to diffuse into our projects, with our engineering skillset and BIM maturity levels.” Clearly then this project is unique in more ways than just its design, and its builders are well aware of this, and it’s not a responsibility they wear lightly. “This building will be a landmark for Abu Dhabi,” says Ali Haydar Ozak. “When you talk about France, you talk about the Eiffel tower, when you talk about London, you think about Big Ben, and I think and I believe, that this building will be a similar iconic building for Abu Dhabi. When they talk about Abu Dhabi, they’ll be talking about Abu Dhabi airport, the terminal building,” he reiterates passionately, bringing to a close a tour of what is sure to be one of the most exciting projects undertaken in the Middle East in a long time.  


MTB Facts and Figures: Terminal design capacity: 27,000,000 passengers per year Terminal building area: 702,000 m2 Passenger boarding bridges: 106 units Structural steel works: 84,000 tons Roof cladding: 225,000 m2 Façade cladding: 200,000 m2 Suspended ceiling: 300,000 m2 Natural stone flooring: 325,000 m2 Baggage handling system conveyor length: over 22 km Baggage handling system capacity: 19,200 baggages / hour Total construction period: 49 months (estimated)   Operational highlights: 65 – Number of aircraft that will be accommodated at the piers, including the Airbus A380 8,500 – Number of passengers that can be serviced per hour by the check-in counters 165 – Number of conventional check-in counters 48 – Number of self-service check-in kiosks 136 – Number of security screening lanes for passengers 25 – Number of security screening lanes for staff


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