Unique and iconic? DMC project goes after the real Dubai dream

As Dubai Media City is witnessing extensive growth in a limited area, developers are keen for their projects to stand out from the crowd. Zoe Naylor finds out how the 40-storey Media One tower is looking to attract attention.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  June 10, 2006

|~|125proj200.gif|~|The main contractor believes that the cladding — designed to give the tower a pixelated-like quality — will make the project stand out from the rest.|~|In the race to shave more and more time off construction projects, a growing number of contracts in the region are being awarded on a design and build basis. One such job is Media One, a mixed-use tower currently under construction in Dubai Media City (DMC). The 40-floor building comprises a hotel and commercial office space and is located at the main entrance of the free zone, opposite Dubai Marina. “One of the biggest challenges on this job is that it is being designed as we are busy constructing it — this means the design and construction elements have got to follow in tandem as we go through the contract,” says Kez Taylor, managing director of ALEC (Al Jaber Engineering & Contracting). ALEC is the main contractor on Media One; HPM is project manager; main consultant (for structural, architectural and MEP) is Dewan; and Transgulf is MEP subcontractor. The client is Al Jaber Group with Roya International acting as the client’s representative. While design and build is still not a common way of working in Dubai it can be an effective means of reducing the construction time on a project. “With design and build contracts, the construction and design run very close in tandem with each other,” says Taylor. “Compare this with doing the design up front, which may take around 10 months, then doing the construction, which may take two years. “ALEC’s previous jobs include the Madinat Jumeirah phase one (Mina A’ Salam) and the Madinat Jumeirah phase two — both of these are fast-track contracts and both were built in 17 months,” he adds. Media One tower is likely to take 25 months to finish. Construction got underway at the beginning of 2005 and is due for completion in March 2007. Standing around 170m-high, the US $81.6 million (AED300 million) tower will incorporate two basement levels, a ground floor with lobby, mezzanine floor, seven podiums, and an eighth floor incorporating services and a business centre. Floors nine and nine mezzanine are restaurant levels, and then floors 10 through to 20 will be the hotel incorporating 268 rooms. The remaining floors (21 through to 40) will be offices leased on shell and core basis. “Construction of the tower is progressing rapidly,” says Taylor. “We’re well into the structure and are onto the 19th floor. We’re into four or five-day floor cycles and want to finish the structure by early October. “Following on from that we’ll do the curtain wall and then get the finishes completed in various areas,” he adds. Site access presented initial challenges early on in the project. “There were initially some problems while Wade Adams was putting the services in [for Interchange Five] since there was digging all around the site,” says Taylor. In terms of built-up area, Media One is approximately 70,000m2 with a plot size of approximately 7,000m2. The footprint of the tower varies and gets smaller as it climbs; the footprint for the basement is around 4,700m2 while the footprint for the hotel is 1,200m2. “We didn’t have the space to batch on site here, so the concrete is ready mix and post-tensioning,” says Taylor. “Generally the controls are better from the ready mix plant — they’re quite sophisticated mixes as you need ice and cooling.” Unimix is providing readymix to the project. BRM is providing the slipform on the main core, and for the horizontals, Aluma Form aluminium system is being used. Peri is providing formwork for the vertical work. The Aluma formwork system in particular is helping to fast-track the project. “The system is lightweight so you don’t have to strip it down so much to move it up to the next level — it requires minimal dismantling,” explains Neil Mellors, senior project manager, HPM. Another key advantage of using aluminium is its capacity to create bigger tables compared to using traditional materials such as wood or steel. “With these conventional materials, the weight is a restricting factor in terms of the lifting capacity for the crane,” adds Taylor, “whereas if you’re using a lighter system such as Aluma Form, the tables can be a lot larger.” All of this has a major impact on cycle times. “In terms of us being able to get these very quick floors in place in between four and five days, these larger tables help to speed up the cycle times,” says Taylor. “The size and the shape of the building presented some formwork challenges — it’s a bit of an odd-shaped building, but Aluma Form enables us to cantilever out quite a bit from the edge of the slab to give us working access,” he adds. ALEC worked closely with the project’s structural engineer, Australian firm BG&E, to influence the structural design of the slabs early on. “We told BG&E we wanted quick cycle times and flat slabs on the underside, and together we came up with what would assist us in getting as economical a cycle time as possible,” says Taylor. While there are numerous hotel and office towers within DMC, Taylor believes it is the glass and aluminium cladding — to be provided by Al Abbar — that will make Media One stand out from the crowd. “The cladding will be angled up and down on the one pane, and then left and right,” he explains. The idea behind this design concept is that the refraction and reflection of light from the external surface of the cladding will give the tower a pixelated-like quality (hence the Media One moniker that alludes to pixelated computer images). As the relentless pace of construction in Dubai forges ahead, contractors are under pressure to meet the tightest of deadlines. This in turn may lead to a gradual rise in the number of projects being completed on a design and build basis. While this method of working can help to shave precious time off construction schedules, it nevertheless requires a team that can meet these fast-track challenges. “If you’re working with people that are used to working in a rigid environment with everything done up front and with no change, then it’s very difficult to get that kind of a system to work — it needs people that are geared up to it and who can be flexible,” summarises Taylor.||**||

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