On form: How formwork projects are pouring in across the region

The need for speed on high-rise building projects throughout the Gulf has driven innovation in the formwork sector. Zoe Naylor reports on some of the latest systems to hit the market.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  January 7, 2006

formwork contractors are casing the best deals as mega-tower construction demands the latest technology|~|102prod200.gif|~|Level 20: Wall, soffit and joist formwork on Emaar’s Burj Dubai is being supplied by German firm, Hünnebeck. Doka are providing the self-climbing kit.|~|Last year turned out to be a bumper one for those involved in the formwork industry. A clutch of high-profile GCC jobs, from shopping malls and hospitals to super-high residential towers, has kept the local and international formwork suppliers busy. And this year looks set to offer more of the same. Aluma Systems has seen a rise in demand for its big Flying Tables: “Our speciality is high-rise, so Dubai is a prime target for us,” says Bob O’Riordan, regional sales director, Aluma Systems (Middle East). “With this system we can create the lightest, strongest and largest flying tables that can be manufactured by any formworks supplier — no one else can match it for size, weight or strength,” he adds. According to O’Riordan, much of this is attributable to the unique manufacture and design of Aluma’s tables: “We believe we are the only ones to use a lightweight aluminium truss, so we’ve brought into the marketplace a new innovation to the traditional method of casting in-situ concrete slabs.” The company aims to build on the success of its big Flying Tables with the introduction of a new system called Aluma Dek. “We expect to launch this lightweight aluminium panel and beam quick-strike decking system by the end of the first quarter of 2006. Like all of our products, it will be manufactured in the UAE and will be suitable for virtually any sort of in situ concrete slab construction — from multi-storey towers to villa complexes.” What sets this new product apart from the competition, according to O’Riordan, is speed. “You’ll be able to cast concrete decks and then remove the decking material and transfer it to its next position very quickly. Ultimately it depends on what the consultant will allow you to do, but for the spans we’re looking at, you’ll be able to take the deck out within 72 hours and move it to its next position, leaving the shoring behind.” To help keep pace with Aluma’s growth and new product launches, the company is about to move into a new purpose-built site in Al Quoz incorporating two-storey offices, fabrication facilities and a 9000 m2 stockyard, that can be expanded upon if required. One of the biggest formwork projects in town (or anywhere else, for that matter) is Emaar’s Burj Dubai. Now standing at around the 20-floor mark, the project is presenting some demanding formwork challenges. Austrian firm Doka is supplying the self-climbing formwork for the tower, which is expected to reach a height of around 800 m when completed. Following the pouring of the heavy foundations in autumn last year (also using Doka formwork), and the subsequent site installation work, the main formwork assignment got off the ground in March this year. The architectural form of the tower means that the formwork for the shaft core and wing walls needs to be highly adaptable. In turn, the extremely tight construction schedule also calls for an ingenious and streamlined utilisation plan. With its Y-shaped floor plan, the three-element tower thrusts upwards from a pyramid-like base, with setbacks occurring at each element in an upward spiralling pattern. Towards the top, the tower shaft tapers to form a finishing spire. Often varying from one floor to the next, the building’s complicated floor plates present a key formwork-engineering challenge in the construction of the shaft core and walls of the three wings of the building. Safety is paramount when working at such heights, and this is compounded by high wind speeds. To counter this, Doka’s automatic climbing formwork is designed to withstand extreme wind speeds of more than 200 km/h, and is completely enclosed in a steel grille to provide the greatest possible safety for the crew at these heights. While Doka is supplying the self-climbing formwork for the Burj, Germany’s Hünnebeck is providing the plan and materials for the wall, soffit and joist formwork for the five to nine-story podium area — in addition to the soffit and joist formwork for the first 10 stories of the tower itself. For the soffit areas in the podium and tower alone, Hünnebeck is supplying 9500 m2 of Variomax wooden beam formwork, almost 5000m2 of table forms, 900 ID 15 frame supports and around 12 000 tubular steel props to the site. All of this will be joined for the walls and columns by approximately 1000 m2 of Manto giant frame formwork, 14 Manto column sets and almost 700 m2 of Ronda circular formwork. According to Frank Odzewalski, CEO of Hünnebeck Middle East, the main advantage of using the Manto giant steel-frame formwork on the walls is its aligning clamp, which connects the Manto panels flush with tension- and vibration-resistant joints in a single action. “The easier the handling of the formwork equipment employed, the smoother the operations on site,” he says. The region’s busy formwork industry is also providing excellent opportunities for Mivan, which specialises in hand-held aluminium formwork systems. “All of our projects to date in Dubai have been 30-storey plus residential contracts,” says Steven Murray, Mivan’s Dubai-based business development manager. Here, the firm has just finished working on two towers at Dubai Marina: the 52-floor Al Fattan Marine Towers and the 41-floor Al Moosa Tower. Murray says the Al Fattan towers project was particularly challenging due to the tight construction programme: “We were doing five to six days per floor, so speed — as well as quality — was a key element on the project.” He says it is important to work together and coordinate with all the trades on site to make sure that the formwork progresses as quickly as possible. This means good coordination on site with the main contractor and with Mivan’s supervisors. “Meeting deadlines often means squeeze production in our own factory facilities and trying to get involved as early as possible with the client both pre-tender and during the tender process.” Dubai is Mivan’s first step in the UAE market — the Northern Irish construction company has only been here for two years. According to Murray, the mature nature of the Dubai market presents many challenges. “It’s a very competitive and time-related market: The construction contract time periods are very time-orientated, as are delivery periods,” he says. “But the market is still growing and continuing to boom, and there’s plenty of exciting projects to become involved with in the foreseeable future.”||**||

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