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Site visit: Alef Residences, Dubai

Al Sharq Investment’s first high-end luxury residential project

PHOTO: The Alef Residences will be surrounded by landscaped gardens and the largest private residential beachfront in Dubai. Credit:

Dubai has always been a city enamoured with the concept of exclusive luxury. Having styled itself as one of the most high-end travel destinations in the world, the city has consistently pushed forward the idea that it offers residents and visitors the best of everything – hotels, nightlife, experiences or even just lifestyles.

The extravagant projects that have sprung up over the last decade or so pay testament to that desire to be known as one of the most exclusive destinations on the planet, with several high-end, luxury hotels leading the way, while real estate developers have launched residential projects promising spectacularly exclusive living along private golf courses, beaches and lakes.

However, while these residential projects offer luxurious surroundings, they tend to be self-contained, independent units – villas, mansions or bungalows – that don’t really cater to the needs of people who, while desiring the same levels of luxury, prefer the apartment style of living.

Of course, a number of residential towers in Dubai offer high-end living, with penthouses that provide gorgeous views and total privacy, but to get to them residents have to use the same facilities as the rest of the building, which is hardly ideal for them.

This is why Al Sharq Investment, a joint venture between Qatar’s Al Mana Global and Saudi Arabia’s Al Sharq Group, has launched the Alef Residences, a project they bill as a response to a “distinct gap in the Dubai residential market”.

“[There is] a need for quality on another level, leading to residences made from only the finest materials, delivering spacious and comfortable apartment living beyond the current industry expectations,” the company says in a statement to Big Project ME before an exclusive tour of the project site on the Palm Jumeirah in late 2015.

Taking its inspiration from traditional Arabian elements such as the wadi and the bastakiya, the development is the first under the Alef brand, which Al Sharq Investment hopes will spread from Dubai into the wider Middle East, and then globally.

Currently under construction on a 46,840sqm plot of land on the Crescent of the Palm Jumeirah, the project is being built adjacent to the also-under-construction W Dubai Hotel, which will service the Alef Residences once both are complete.

Scheduled for handover in the second quarter of 2017, the developer of the $544.5 million Alef Residences hopes to target high-net-worth individuals with a choice of two-, three- and four-bedroom luxury homes, ranging from 446sqm to 1,393.5sqm. In total, there will be 104 homes, all with distinct floor plans, across eight mansions featuring their own dedicated lobbies and private elevators. There will be two apartments per floor, with a total of seven floors per building.

In addition, there will be two single penthouses and three duplex penthouses on the top floors, with the top two floors of the building designed with just shell and core so that owners can customise their apartments as they see fit, using the developer’s interior design partners or their own.

“A lot of the vision for the project came from the shareholders, to be honest with you,” says Matthew Wade, an executive director at Al Sharq Investment, who accompanied Big Project ME on the tour. “It started with their vision, and we obviously had to have the substance behind it. We knew that there was a demand, but there was no supply as well. It started from there, and we’ve been very involved in communicating the shareholder’s vision to the contractor.”

The architect and consultant tasked with bringing the shareholder’s vision to life is RMJM, an architecture and master planning firm. It has been appointed lead consultant for the project, while Mace will handle project management. The main contractor for the project will be Al Futtaim Carillion, and while Wade is more than confident in their ability to carry out the job and bring the project to a successful conclusion, he insists that as the developer, Al Sharq Investment will continue to be involved on a day-to-day basis.

“We’re not a developer that’s going to be walking away. We want to stay involved,” he says. “But from a construction point of view, from a building point of view, the buildings are coming together. From a procurement point of view, they’re packaged separately, but it all comes under Al Futtaim Carillion, which was the strategy, to have one main contractor. You’re dealing with AFC, one of the most reputable contractors in the region, so you know you’re really getting a good project.”

Once on-site, we are joined by Jean Paul Zoghbi, COO of Al Sharq Investment, who reveals that about 30% of the project has been completed, with a large portion of the concrete structures done.

“We’re looking at being on target to complete by March 2017. This is what we’re pushing for. The announced date is Q2 2017, but internally we think we can do it by March, we think that’s very much achievable. We have the main fit-out contractor on board, the MEP contractor is already on board, all the main subcontractors are already on board,” Zoghbi asserts.

“A lot of the first fix, second fix and MEP in the basements and first floor [is done]. If you walk along the corridors, you’ll see a lot of ducting and piping, a lot of the MEP work is ongoing. In addition, a lot of off-site work is being done in terms of procurement. Almost 80% of the materials needed for the MEP has been approved.”

Of course, to achieve the stated target date, the contractor will need the resources to complete the job. To that end, there are currently 2,800 labourers on-site and there will be nearly 4,000 at peak construction, Zoghbi says.

“It’s a 24-hour construction cycle, and there are two shifts. The contractor deals with the logistics, with the subcontractors. He coordinates with them the areas that they have to put down materials, and all the movement of the materials, as well as the usage of the cranes.

“That’s all the responsibility of the contractor, and Mace will work closely with them to make sure that the subcontractors are getting what they need, in terms of access and materials,” he explains further.

Wade chimes in to add that the strategy agreed with AFC will be that the project will be treated as a whole, rather than two separate buildings, and the delivery date agreed upon is for both. “It’s going to be an integrated development, and the strategy with AFC is that we don’t see it as two separate buildings, we see it as one completion date and one contractor, and that they will come up together.”

Given the number of people on-site and the long hours they’ll be working, health and safety will be crucial. Zoghbi says that AFC will not tolerate anything less than the best on the project, and this has been clearly communicated to all stakeholders.

“AFC are a grade A contractor and when it comes to safety, they’re excellent. They really put a high emphasis on safety, and so far we’ve not had any major injuries or fatalities. The consultant also has a health and safety manager and staff on-site. They work with the contractor to make sure [that HSE is followed]. We also have people on-site [representing the developer]. as for us, HSE is a top priority.”

Returning to the design of the buildings and the apartments themselves, Wade tells Big Project ME that a lot of effort has gone into ensuring that residents feel a sense of privacy and exclusivity, right from the time they enter the development.

“We’ve really tailored it to the expectations of the clientele. We’ve done a lot of research into what these high-net worth individuals are looking for from these types of residences. You can actually come through the building, through the basement level, and the beginning of the wadi is actually on basement, but it’s designed in such a way that you don’t realise that. You’ve got the very grand front door entrance, and then you’ve got the more discreet private entrance at the back, where you can come through and come up to your apartment.”

As the apartments are quite large, the designers have allowed for them to be customised according to the needs of the owners, as mentioned previously. While this poses certain challenges for the core services of the buildings, the project team has come up with some interesting solutions, Wade says.

“Because the space is so large, and we’re taking a significant amount of area, we’ve actually left it quite open. What we’ve done is zone MEP, zone HVAC, lighting and all these kinds of things. We’ve absolutely thought about that, because the clientele will be different nationalities and they’ll have different needs and wants. We’ve in-built these concertina type doors that can actually barrier off [sections of the apartment]. And if you want to do that permanently, you can, as all of the areas are very open-plan.”

Finally, the Alef Residences will be surrounded by a tropical landscaped garden and a 475m beach, the largest private residential beachfront location in Dubai. The developers aim for the beachfront promenade to become a recreational area, and have designed cabanas and water sport facilities to be installed there. In addition, a private members club – Club 104 – will be available only to residents and their guests.

Stats
Cost of project: $544 million
Total plot area: 46,840sqm
Number of apartments: 104
Number of workers on-site (current): 2,800 (4,000 at peak)
Scheduled delivery date: Q2 2017

List of contractors:
1. Al Futtaim Carillion: Main Contractor
2. Drake & Skull: MEP Contractor
3. DEPA Interiors: Fit-Out Contractor
4. Terra Verde: Landscaping Contractor
5. Reem Emirates Aluminum: Façade Contractor – Hotel
6. Technical Glass & Aluminum Co: Façade Contractor – Residences
7. Emirates Watertec Co: Pools & Water Features
8. Elenco: Kitchens & Laundry

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