Up the Creek: Extending Dubai’s trading hub to build a new CBD

Dubai is used to seeing construction mega-projects right on its doorstep, but the new Creek extension scheme has created more than the usual level of interest. Zoe Naylor went on site to see just how contractor, Dutco Balfour Beatty Group is linking this historically-important body of water to the Arabian Gulf as part of the new ‘Creekfront’ Business Bay development.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  October 9, 2005

|~|proj200.gif|~|Phase one, from Oud Metha Road to Sheikh Zayed Road, will extend the Creek by 7 km and is expected to be completed by December 2006.|~|The Creek has long been a focal point of Dubai, and is synonymous with the city’s rapid growth as a hub for trade and commerce. So when developer Dubai Properties announced that it would be extending the Creek as the focal point of its Business Bay project, eyes and ears were firmly opened. Dubai is no stranger to massive feats of engineering, but extending the Creek presents numerous logistical challenges: How do you physically extend a body of water and link it up to the Arabian Gulf 16 km away? The overall Creek extension project is split into three phases: Phase one is Oud Metha Road to Sheikh Zayed Road; phase two is Oud Metha Road to the Creek; and phase three is Sheikh Zayed Road to the sea. The contract for the first phase of construction of the US $54.5 million (AED200 million) Creek extension was awarded to Dutco Balfour Beatty Group (DBBG). “This initial phase will extend the Creek by about 7 km with an average width of 130 m, and a mean water depth of 5 m. This will allow pleasure craft to cruise the Creek”, says Angelo Manesero, chief engineer, DBBG. The Creek extension is one of the main elements of Business Bay that will be executed simultaneously. The other stages involve the infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, and laying the foundation of towers and other facilities. Fully fledged construction work is now underway on site. To complete phase one, around 6 million m3 of earth will need to be excavated. One of the most efficient ways of excavating the canal is to first implement a dewatering system. The quay wall will consist of precast mass concrete gravity block constuction with crush rock foundation and rear core filling. It will then be completed with bollards and a block paved circulation corridor. “The excavation for the Creek will be done in the dry following the installation of a dewatering system. Pumped ground water will initially be stored in temporary over-ground dams. As construction of the quay wall progresses, pumped water will be discharged into previously completed sections of the Creek. A number of temporary dams will be formed along the length of the Creek to first retain the water; later these will be excavated to complete the flooding of the Creek,” says Manesero. Gabbro will be used as the rock foundations for the quay walls. Quarried from the emirate of Fujairah, the rock is exceptionally hard and durable with a density in excess of three tonnes per m3. Geotextile filter fabric is placed over the excavated surface to receive the inclined rock elevation, preventing the loss of fine sand particles as part of the natural percolation of ground water through the soil, wall and the water in the Creek. Since the entire site is low lying, the huge volume of excavated material will be re-used as landfill. “This is the area in Dubai that floods after heavy winter rain. The excavated material will be used to raise the plot level of the site by around 1.5 m so eventually it will sit approximately 3.5 m above sea level,” explains Manesero. A huge fleet of construction plant and equipment is being deployed to move all the earth. “At the moment we’re employing excavators and tipper trucks. We’re using dozers to push the top 1 m off, and then bring in the excavators,” says Ivan Warnes, commercial manager at DBBG. “We’re hiring most of the trucks needed for the earthmoving on the project — it’s not worth buying this equipment since the job is too short and there is a large plant market here, so there’s plenty around.” The on-site concrete batching plant is currently under construction and Q-Mix will be the suppliers. There is one precasting yard dedicated solely for the casting of blocks. At present, the precasting yard has been sized to produce an average of 80 blocks per day for the total of over 21 000 blocks required for stage one of the project. “Contract one involves some interesting logistics because you’re going through an urbanised route,” explains Natarajan Shreedhar, resident engineer, Halcrow. Phase one is expected to be completed by the end of December 2006. While the first two phases of the Creek extension involve working on empty land, the third, and as yet unawarded phase (Sheikh Zayed Road to the Arabian Gulf), will mean creating a path for the Creek across the busy highway and residential area. A number of options are being considered and feasability studies are being carried out. This phase is due to begin in the next three months. DBBG is already working in the area on the Dubai Municipality contract to widen Sheikh Zayed Road. The $22.4 million (AED82.3 million) contract is for widening an 8 km stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road from Safa Park, Interchange two through to Oud Metha Road junction. The works involve the construction of a fifth lane on both sides of the highway in order to ease traffic flow. It also includes the construction of a fourth lane under Trade Centre underpass and alteration works on the underpass leading towards Umm Hurair Road and Maktoum Bridge. Two more lanes will also be added between Sheikh Zayed Road and Sheikh Rashid Road. Business Bay itself looks set to be well-served in terms of transport. In addition to the Creek extension (which is likely to promote the use of water taxis), the provision of a Public Rapid Transport (PRT) system is being considered within the masterplan. “Part of our vision is to be environmentally friendly,” says Mohammed Al Dabal, Business Bay Development, Creek Extension, Dubai Properties, “and this means introducing a transport system that reduces car usage.” Various options under consideration for the 1300 hectare site include a monorail and a tramway system. According to Al Dabal, the PRT is likely to link up with the planned LRT rail system currently being developed by Dubai Municipality. Business Bay follows in the steps of projects such as the Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina, in the sense that it aims to meet the market requirement for waterfront commercial and residential property. The business cluster will extend several kilometres along the new Creek, starting from Ras Al Khor to the old Central Military Command on Sheikh Zayed Road. “The idea behind Business Bay is to create a new business centre that reflects old Dubai by incorporating the Creek into the city’s urban development,” says Al Dabal. “Business Bay is a world business concept that will create a corporate headquarters for international companies. We also want to create a new waterfront and add value to the existing Creek; it’s getting old and we want to expand it.” Al Dabal says one of the prime considersations of the project is to respect the local environment by increasing the existing nature reservation area around Ras Al Khor. “Linking the Creek to the Gulf means the channel will be 100% flushed through, providing cleaner water and eliminating the current problem of water stagnation at the Creek end,” he adds. The final plans for Business Bay are still being developed, with possibilities including a beach, a golf course and a water airport. “The construction methods involved in extending the Creek are not simple, but they are achievable,” says Al Dabal. “We want our project to add real value to the development of Dubai, so we’ve brought in not only hydrologists and geologists, but urban planners, architects, traffic specialists, archaeologists and environmentalists to make sure that we achieve this goal.”||**||

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