A tour of the construction site as work on the core of the first tower begins
In the 12 years since Dubai Marina was established, the district has become synonymous with towering, futuristic skyscrapers. Reminiscent of classic science-fiction movies, the artificial canal city is spread over three kilometres and home to 120,000 people in residential towers and villas, making it one of the most sought-after areas in the Dubai real estate market.
As impressive as the overall district is, the most eye-catching section is what is referred to as the Tallest Block in the World – the western side of Dubai Marina, home to some of the tallest buildings on the planet, including the famous 414m Princess Tower, the second-highest residential tower in the world. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Princess Tower are some of Dubai’s best-known architectural landmarks, including 23 Marina, Elite Residences and The Marina Torch.
There will soon be a new addition to this distinguished list, with the first tower of high-end mixed-use project The Residences at Marina Gate set to be delivered in 2017. Developed by The Select Group, a Dubai developer, the $1.08 billion project consists of three towers situated at the northern entrance of the Marina and is one of the most intriguing properties being developed in the area.
Envisioned as a missing retail link, the Marina Gate project has a total built-up area of 371,612sqm and will provide close to 1,300 apartments and 4,645sqm of retail space to the Dubai Marina community. Designed with the high-end market in mind, the developer says that the end user experience was paramount during the planning and conceptualising of the project. Therefore, rather than going for an extravagant design, The Select Group says that attention to detail and “building from the inside out” was the core focus during the planning stage.
“Aside from the obvious details like functional floor plans for smarter interior décor, intelligent storage solutions and allowance for maximum daylight, we also paid attention to efficient energy systems that would reduce noise levels and energy consumption,” the developer explains. “Careful attention was also paid to the access points and traffic flow to ensure that the development will add value and convenience for residents and neighbours of Marina Gate alike.”
Work started in April, and the last five months have seen considerable progress. With a 28-month construction schedule leaving little leeway, speed and maintaining high quality throughout the project will be key to its success.
This was a large factor in the selection of ALEC as a main contractor, according to Select Group, with the renowned Dubai contractor taking on the challenging task of delivering three massive buildings in a congested, busy and highly visible area of Dubai Marina.
Work on the project is in full swing and as construction of the building core begins, Big Project ME was invited by the contractor and developer to tour the construction site and get a sense of the immense challenges facing the project team as they strive to bring the project to fruition.
“As ALEC, this is our first project with Select Group, and it is the start of our partnership with them. We have an agreement on this project to deliver a first-class, grade-A project that will be the best residential project in the UAE. We’re heading in this direction, and it’s going very well,” says Tony Hanna, senior contracts manager at ALEC and leader of the Marina Gate construction team.
“One of the mandates or agreements [with Select Group] is to deliver this project with top quality and right on time. It’s a nice design, but the way we look at it is how we can deliver it efficiently and on time, and how to do clever things on this job. When you talk about the tower, there’s a lot of repetition. So we’re just looking at the ways and means of doing the job without wasting time and materials.”
A spokesperson from Select Group, also present during the site tour, tells Big Project ME that the developer wanted an “exceptional building” that would become the flagship development of the group. “The idea was to basically design the building from the inside out. Basically, it was about providing good efficiency of the layouts and maximising the view. I think that has been delivered by the consultant, and we’re very happy that the construction is going to go ahead with ALEC, who will ensure that the building will be delivered as planned and to a high-quality standard.”
“Most of the buildings in the region are designed to be iconic. We were more interested in a development that focused on the end user experience. In this case, the Marina Gate towers are basically rectangles, they’re super simple. But the plans inside are really well thought out. The idea is to offer maximised views of the Marina. Therefore, it’s almost fully glazed, with the glazing 2.7 metres high. It’s in the bedrooms, the living rooms, everywhere.”
With the construction process clicking into gear, Tony Hanna and his team have a few logistical challenges to sort out. Although foundation works on Marina Gate 1 have been completed, the construction schedule for the whole project means the other two towers will be picking up the pace of their own progress.
“The project is going to be delivered in three phases. The first tower will be ready for handover by the end of Q3 or the beginning of Q4 of 2017. The second tower will be handed over in 2018, and the third tower is tentatively scheduled for handover in 2019. However, this has not been launched as yet, so the final delivery date will be announced at the time of launch,” the Select Group spokesperson explains.
ALEC has been appointed to build all three towers, with the first priority being Marina Gate 1. The job consists of two basement levels, a ground floor, an eight-level podium and 45 storeys above. Marina Gate 2 will be 11 storeys higher, and unlike the first tower, ALEC has been appointed as a design and build contractor. Piling work on Marina Gate 2 is nearly complete, Select Group says, adding that construction is pencilled in to start early next year.
The third and final tower is still under design, so details have yet to be released, but Select Group says more will be revealed within the next few months.
Speaking about the foundation works, Hanna explains that a raft that sits on piling is being used for the project. The piling work was done by Swiss Boring, the enabling works contractor, prior to ALEC being awarded the contract and starting work on the foundation, he says.
“We’re talking about 500kg per cubic metre that goes into that raft foundation. That’s because it’s a tower, it goes up to 56 levels in total, including the basement and the podium. But as you go up, it’s a core that’s done with reinforced concrete. The two basements are conventional and reinforced concrete slabs, while the ground floor and the podium have post-tensioned slabs.
“The 45 storeys are going to be post-tensioned slabs, which normally has a lighter ratio of steel. You’re talking about maybe 50kg per cubic metre, when you start talking about the post-tensioning.”
The core of the building will be built using jumping formwork installed in mid-August, just a few days after BPME visited the site. “We are using jumping formwork for the core. We’re aiming to have a four- or five-day cycle for the jump. For sure, as we progress and go higher, we’ll be aiming to reduce the time taken. Initially, it will be seven days when we start with the basement and the ground floors. Once we hit the higher floors, our aim is to have four-day cycles, which is quite quick,” Hanna says.
He adds that the façade of the building will be built using a combination of unitised systems and a stick system. The balconies will be built using stick systems, while the cladding will be unitised.
ALEC will be providing an all-service package for the Marina Gate project, with MEP delivered in-house through its subsidiary ALEMCO. The contractor’s fit-out arm, ALEC Fit-Out, will work on the interiors.
“It’s like a joint venture partnership on this project,” says Hanna. “It’ll be executed by ALEC, ALEMCO and ALEC Fit-Out. Some subcontracts will have to be let out, for example, the facades contractor is on board now. Waterproofing and conveyance systems are subcontracted. Most of the packages have been procured. We may have around 20 subcontractors on the project, between finishes, MEP and so on, [but] we are doing a lot of in-house work as well.”
Given the tight schedule of the project, a key factor in success will be organisation and planning. With ALEC’s extensive experience in working on high-profile demand projects, it’s no surprise that Tony Hanna and his team are already thinking well ahead about the various challenges that will crop up over the coming months.
“One of the challenges on this job is its location. This job is located in the Marina, and all around us are residential buildings. It’s not like a construction area, by which I mean that the whole area is developed, with only a few construction projects going on.
“That poses some logistical challenges. We’ve got to plan a lot of deliveries ahead of time as there is no lay-down area outside. The piling is progressing on plot numbers 2 and 3 as well, so this poses more and more challenges for us, in terms of the restricted areas,” he says.
To counter this, there is a dedicated logistics team on-site that works with project and planning managers to ensure that everything works according to plan. “We try to get just-in-time deliveries. For our material, this is very important, as we plan to work 24/7,” Hanna adds.
As the site is in a heavily populated residential area, extra care is being taken to ensure minimal disruption to the surrounding neighbourhood. Dust control measures have been put in place, while the construction team ensures that waste is segregated and ready to be recycled.
“The main issue is with the noise. What we’ve tried to do is work during the day as it’s not that bad because the whole area is busy, and if there is noise, we’re within the acceptable noise range. But during the night, it’s a bit of a challenge.
“What we’ve tried to do is limit it only to night activities that are not noise-generating. We’ve involved the stakeholders and we’ve tried to talk to people – the residents around us. We’ve also involved the police and Dubai Municipality, and we’ve explained our point of view.
“At the end of the day, this is a flagship development that’s being done on the Marina and we’re trying to finish it on time, while also not disturbing other people. So yes, it has been a challenge, but we are overcoming it and gaining the trust of Dubai Municipality and the residents,” Hanna stresses.
Select Group certainly doesn’t seem to have many concerns about this, as the spokesperson says they’re content to leave ALEC to carry on with what they’re doing in this regard. “ALEC has been doing a good job in terms of satisfying the authorities and the residents. I wouldn’t say that we’re keeping an eye on things, but we’re present. So far, we haven’t needed to get involved.”
In order to complete the job on Marina Gate 1, ALEC will be bringing on board up to 1,400 workers as work hits its peak. Once again, this will pose some major questions, and once again, Hanna says the contractor has been laying the groundwork for this well ahead of time.
“ALEC is known for its safety reputation in the market. And for every job, you will have some specific measures that you have to implement. In general, we have high standards for all our projects. But, for example, for this project, because it’s a high-rise project, we’re going to have to look at it differently.
“This is in terms of conveying people to the top and making sure that we have all the safeguards on all floors. As soon as a slab is finished, the safety systems should all be in place. Because it’s a high-rise tower, there are specifics associated with it. The safety systems are different to other jobs that we’ve done. [But] we’ve got the safety measures and plans already in place. We just need to make sure that they’re implemented.”
Yet another crucial aspect of the project will be its integration with the surrounding infrastructure. As a residential project with retail elements on the podium level, it’s fair to expect some significant traffic – both pedestrian and vehicular – in and around the development once it’s complete.
“I think in terms of the product, Marina Gate is the best example of urban development. We have the Dubai Tram just five minutes away and we have direct access from the highway. In terms of access and position to the city’s transport network, it is optimum.
“For the development itself, we’ll be providing a lot of parking. We’ve enhanced the requirement from Dubai Municipality to offer some parking, which will hopefully benefit the development of the Marina, so people will have a bit more access,” the Select Group representative says.
“In Marina Gate 1, we have 600 parking spaces. The requirement from Dubai Municipality was around 540. We wanted to be able to offer an additional level of paid parking for shoppers and visitors. The project has been designed with a focus on ample parking and easy access,” he adds, pointing out that the developer also conducted a Traffic Impact Study to make sure the neighbourhood would be able to sustain the rise in traffic.
Once all work is completed, the Marina Gate project buildings will be connected through a raised promenade with stairways at both ends to give pedestrians access to retail outlets in the development.
As work looks set to continue at a rapid pace, Hanna says that ALEC has been mindful of its responsibility to comply with Dubai Municipality green building codes. Not only is the construction waste collected, segregated and recycled, but the contractor’s MEP subsidiary, ALEMCO, is putting together an MEP system that will require less energy, thereby making the development more sustainable and in line with the green building requirements.
“We have to obey the green building regulations,” says the Select Group spokesperson. “It’s obviously a great approach for Dubai, to build greener. In addition, in the Marina there is a load restriction in terms of development. We had to think of new ways of making the building more energy-efficient. Therefore, we will introduce heat exchanger water heaters.”
“These are really high performance and will reduce the workload. We have used gas lines as well, so as to try and reduce the overall energy footprint of the building. All the lighting within the developments is LED as well,” he adds.
Given the scale and complexity of the project, it’s no surprise to learn that ALEC is heavily invested in using Building Information Modelling (BIM) to help bring the project to fruition. Both developer and contractor are confirmed advocates of the construction technology and highlight its benefits on the Marina Gate project.
“In terms of design, the BIM model was there. At ALEC, all our construction projects are turning to BIM. We have our internal BIM capabilities, so we’re using them on this job. We’ve developed the master BIM model and all the design development, the shop drawings and so on will be integrated into the BIM model, so that we have a master BIM model for the project,’ explains Hanna.
“At Select Group, we’re firm believers that BIM will improve the construction process. The consultant and the contractor are fully implementing it, for clash detection and to ensure a better building,” adds the spokesperson for the developer.
“Once completed, the Marina Gate project will provide the missing retail link on the original section of the Marina Walk. We believe it will add value to the entire Marina community. The overwhelming response from buyers that we have received has reinforced our dedication to quality,” he says, as the tour of the latest addition to the Tallest Block in the World comes to a close.
Project: The Residences at Marina Gate
Client: Select Group
Main Contractor: ALEC
MEP Contractor: ALEMCO
Project Value: $1.08 billion
Total Built-up Area: 371,612sqm
Project Type: Residential mixed-use development