Sharjah crafts out Majestic high-rise

Dubai may be leading the way when it comes to building the tallest towers in the Gulf, but Sharjah will have its very own record breaker — the Majestic Tower — by the end of 2007. With international contractors attracted by cheaper rents, a stunning coastline and an area less built up than Dubai, Zoe Naylor discovers that Sharjah is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for any company wanting to build high-rise towers.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  July 1, 2006

|~|128proj200.gif|~|A construction worker bends rebar into shape on the US $46 million (AED169 million) Majestic Tower in Sharjah. Contractor TAV, which began work on the project in August 2005, is due to complete the job in November 2007. |~|While glitzy Dubai grabs most of the construction headlines for the tallest this and the longest that, the emirate of Sharjah is on track to get its very own tallest tower by the end of next year. Standing a modest 207m high (52 storeys), Turkish contractor TAV began work on Sharjah’s US $46 million (AED169 million) Majestic Tower in August 2005. CAB is the architect and consultant, the MEP subcontractor is Universal Voltas and the owner is Khamas Group. The residential tower project comprises shops on the first floor, with the second, third, fourth and fifth floors planned as car parks. There will then be social facilities, including a swimming pool on the seventh floor, and offices on the ninth floor. The remainder of the tower is set aside for residential use. Built on the Dubai/Sharjah border, Majestic Tower will be the tallest building in Sharjah upon completion with views out to the Palm Deira. “The project duration is 28 months and we’re 10 months into it already — it’s due for completion in November 2007,” says Ertugrul Ertan, project manager, TAV Gulf. Construction has now reached the fifth car park floor. According to Ertan, one of the biggest challenges on the project so far was the raft foundation. “Our raft foundations were very difficult and took several months to finish. This is because it has five different levels so we couldn’t make it with equipment — we needed to do it by hand,” he adds. The thickness of the concrete in the centre of the raft foundation is up to 6.5m, whereas the sides are 2.5m. “The different levels of thickness are due to the unusual shape of the design — the ground floor up to ninth floor is an elliptical shape, and this makes it a challenging building to construct,” adds Ertan. According to Ani Ray, regional director, TAV Gulf, Majestic Tower is an unusual-shaped building compared to many of the rectangular, matchbox-design structures found in Dubai. “If a building is straight then the raft will be much easier i.e. it will be on the same plane and the load will be uniform,” explains Ray. “On the Majestic Tower project, the base is ellipse-shaped but after the ninth floor it becomes smaller and rectangular, and the grid lines and location of the walls changes.” This means a 3.75m thick transfer slab is needed on the ninth floor of the tower. “We have to cast this additional raft because the shape of the building is changing,” he adds. Another challenge with this project — and one that is particularly time-consuming — is the cladding. “On most towers in this region aluminium and glass is used for the cladding, whereas Majestic Tower will be completed in the style of the Empire State Building in New York,” explains Ertan. The façade will be made up of a combination of four different materials: concrete precast panels, GRC [glass reinforced cement], stone cladding and plastering. Work on the façade is due to start in the next four to five months. There will also be a considerable amount of architectural detail on this building that is again designed to make it stand out from other structures in Sharjah and beyond. “But this kind of workmanship takes more time than the glass and aluminium-clad buildings you see in the Gulf,” says Ray. “These commonly seen buildings are easy and fast to construct, but the Majestic Tower project is more craftsman-orientated.” He believes that since the workmanship required for this project is in excess of what is normally required, there are fewer companies interested in constructing this type of building. “Compared to the value of the work, the workmanship is much more,” says Ray. “Instead, people try to do fast work i.e. a 46-storey building can be built in Dubai in 22 or 24 months. But the workmanship is much less — it’s more mechanised with the glazing and aluminium, whereas on a building like this you can’t take any shortcuts.” TAV currently has around 160 labourers on site. This will peak to around 450 at the beginning of 2007 when the team commences the finishing work. The majority of TAV’s current labour force is made up of workers from the Indian subcontinent, as well as around 50 Vietnamese labourers — the first time they have been employed by TAV on a site in the region. While the floor cycles on tower projects tend to settle into regular patterns as work progresses, Majestic Tower will see no fewer than four different floor cycles due to its varying footprint that changes as the tower goes up. “From the ground up to the ninth floor the footprint is 1,950m2; then it is 1,300m2; then 900m2; and then 600m2,” says Ertan. The total built up area is approximately 62,000m2, while the site area itself is around 4,500m2. Construction of Majestic Tower has currently reached the fifth floor. “The floor cycle for this part of the building is 12 days,” adds Ertan. This early part of the project has a relatively slow floor cycle as it includes 64 columns on one floor of the car park. “From the ninth floor up to the 30th floor, the cycle target is eight to nine days per floor. This is reduced to seven days for floors 30 up to 41, and then six days per floor for floors 41 up to 52,” he adds. The concrete grade will also change as the tower proceeds — for the vertical elements in the ground floor up to the ninth floor it is 70N; from the ninth floor up to the 30th floor it is 60N; and from the 31st floor up to the 52nd and final floor it is 50N. Precast concrete elements will be used on parts of the façade only, while the structure itself will be cast in situ. Sharjah-based Jamix is providing the concrete for the project, with Doka providing the shuttering system. “When finished, this building will be a milestone in Sharjah — not only in terms of height but also the fact that this type of design is not seen much in Dubai,” says Ray. He believes that for all Dubai’s hype, Sharjah offers untapped potential. “If the traffic going to Dubai in the morning eases then this place has massive potential. “In terms of proximity it’s right next door to Dubai, and value for money here is very high — this type of building will sell for approximately $150 per m2, whereas if it was in Dubai it would be nearer $272 per m2.” Dubai may still wear the crown as far as high-rise projects go, but Sharjah is attracting a growing number of international contractors who are keen to make their mark on the emirate’s relatively untapped construction market. Cheaper rents, an attractive coastline and a less built up area make Sharjah a potentially viable alternative to living in overcrowded Dubai. But until the impenetrable traffic jams between the two emirates are resolved, it is only the brave few who would move to Sharjah and tackle the daily slog of commuting to Dubai.||**||

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