Pioneering the path of hotel rebuilds

The Messilah Beach Hotel in Kuwait has been undergoing a major transformation for the past three years. On completion in May 2007 it will be the country’s largest hotel and the only one with a garden. Rupert Cornford went to see how the reconstruction of Kuwait City’s oldest hotel was progressing.

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By  Rupert Cornford Published  June 24, 2006

|~|127proj200.gif|~|The main body of the hotel taken earlier this year. The structure is now in the final stages of construction.|~|Following the fall of Iraq in 2003, the leisure and tourism industry in Kuwait is now showing signs of strengthening. Around 80 hotel licenses have recently been granted by the government and over the next two years construction of a large number of hotels and resorts in the city is likely to dominate this sector. But in an effort to stay one step ahead of this potential development explosion, one hotel, which was the first to be built in Kuwait, is now entering the final stages of a major reconstruction project, the size of which is likely to set the standard for others to follow. The original Messilah Beach Hotel opened its doors in February 1974. It was regarded as an ambitious project, which, at that time, pioneered the development of a hotel within a recreation and beach environment in Kuwait City. And there it stood, among only a handful of hotels to spring up across the city in the following decades. But during the Iraqi invasion of 1990/91 the hotel was occupied by troops and part of the facility was destroyed. Despite renovation efforts, tourism in Kuwait following the occupation was minimal and the owners of the Messilah Beach decided that an entire rebuild was needed to bring the hotel into the 21st century and encourage the growth of modern-day five-star hotels. And so US architect, Skidmore Owings & Merrill — which also designed the Burj Dubai — was commissioned to work on the project. The Municipality Council approved a design concept in 2000, and construction started in September 2003. “It will be the largest hotel in Kuwait and the only one with a garden,” says Tony Barlow, the owner’s representative and former manager of the original Messilah Beach Hotel. “We are hoping to attract tourism from business travellers, Kuwait and the other GCC countries.” Now just under a year away from the expected project completion date, construction of the structural skeleton is in its final stages. “The main structure of the hotel building is nearly done,” says Shaukat Javaid, resident engineer, Gulf Consult, the local consultant on the project that is working alongside US-based consultant Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. “There are one or two areas that are still being built, but the structure is 98% finished.” The main contractor on the project is a joint venture between local firms, The Kuwait Company for Process Plant Construction and Contracting (KCPC) and Kokache. Construction work on the US $93 million (KD27 million) lump sum contract is expected to be finished by May 2007. “The main structure is built using RCC walls and the partitions are done using block masonry walls,” adds Javaid. Doka is supplying all the formwork to the project, which has been designed specifically for this job. Isa Hammoudeh, senior construction engineer, Gulf Consult, estimates that around 50,000m3 of concrete has been used to complete the main structure of the hotel, which KCPC is supplying from its own plant. But is there a problem with pouring concrete in the searing summer temperatures in Kuwait City? Not according to Javaid, who says a collective effort by Kuwaiti contractors has led to a series of guidelines to follow when carrying out concrete pours. “A few years ago contractors got together and produced a document to address the heat issue in the concrete industry — and now pours are carried out at specific times of the day throughout the year,” he says. “Most of the concreting in the summer is done during the night and in the winter we can do it during the day.” With its highest point being only six storeys high, the Messilah Beach Hotel project has also had to stay within strict municipality guidelines for building on the shoreline. The reason for this, adds Javaid, is that the whole of the Kuwait skyline has been carefully planned by the government for a long time. Barlow explains the boundaries: “The limit for the height of the building on the foreshore is 11m and this rises to 21.5m at the front of the hotel.” And this had led to some very compact internal dimensions when only building six storeys high. “Floor to ceiling height is 3.1m and we have to keep within these height limits set by the municipality. We had to be very compact in our designs,” says Akil A Lookman, senior architect and project manager, Gulf Consult. But although vertical space is an issue — unlike the high-rise towers of Dubai — the building footprint is a sizeable 88,000m2. And due to this large area, the hotel will comprise nearly 400 rooms and suites, a wedding hall and conference centre, four restaurants and 543m2 of retail space, 17 serviced chalets, a beach house, which will contain changing areas, showers and sauna facilities, a spa and swimming pools. A total of 429 parking spaces will be provided, which will be split between basement level parking and surface parking. The remaining areas will be taken up by the beachfront and landscaped gardens. And down at the water’s edge, another major aspect of the development is visible from the beach. It is a breakwater in the shape of a question mark. Marine consultant is Halcrow International and Gulf Dredging and General Contracting is the main contractor for the marine and beach works. “Halcrow designed the marine works — it’s a breakwater that extends 300m into the sea from the land side with a bridge in between to allow the water to be flushed out,” explains Lookman. “The breakwater also functions as a promenade and it offers a protected area for the beach users.” According to Lookman, before any work could be done on the breakwater, Halcrow had to carry out a study to prove that what was being designed was environmentally feasible and would not cause any damage to flora and fauna, and submit its findings to the Environment Protection Agency for approval. The work on the breakwater was completed in February. The main body of the structure has been extended out into the sea using rocks sourced from Fujairah in the UAE. And the boardwalk comprises timber laid on piles, which are driven 6m into the seabed. It’s not obvious what other uses there are for a breakwater that is under construction, but according to Lookman, some of the Chinese labourers employed on the site have been fishing for their dinner off the structure. It seems the flushing inlet under the bridge has preserved the quality of the water then. Currently there are about 500 labourers on the site — a mixture of Pakistani, Indian, Chinese and Egyptian nationals. This figure will peak at over 1,000 once finishing works on the project start. But will the increased number of labourers on the site be affected by the Kuwait midday working ban, which began on 1 June and runs until 31 August? “The working ban between 12pm and 4pm in the summer is strictly enforced by Kuwait Municipality [KM] and any contractor violating it is fined,” says Lookman. “Compliance with the KM working hours requirement is always written into the contract from the beginning and contractors’ timings allow for it to take place.” So keeping within the tight regulations set by the municipality, the Messilah Beach Hotel is pushing forward to its May 2007 completion date. And as the project takes its pioneering place for the second time in Kuwait’s construction history, only time will tell to see whether the careful planning and reconstruction of Kuwait City’s oldest hotel will pay off. Wedding hall and conference centre To meet a growing demand for public and private gathering space in Kuwait City, a 2,000m2 wedding hall is being constructed within the hotel. Set to be the largest conference, function and exhibition space in the city, it will consist of a wedding hall of 880m2 and two separate dining halls of approximately 550m2. The hall is designed to be free of columns and the roof will take the form of a spiralling dome (pictured). It will be 20m wide at the base and 6.4m at the top. The height of the dome from the base to the top is 10.5m and from the floor to the top it is 24m. It will be made up of 27 layers of L-shaped Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum and supported by a steel frame structure during the construction process. Rubber moulds for each of the different L-shaped units will be cast individually and assembled in the workshop for adjustment. These can then be dismantled and reassembled on site. Each unit is 45mm thick and its size will vary from 600x1077mm at the base to 300x351mm at the top. These units will be stacked on top of each other to form the octagonal spiral of the dome.||**||

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