Constructing new hotels in boom town

Dubai’s well documented efforts to transform itself into a tourism hub means that constructing new hotels is top of the agenda. Zoe Naylor circumnavigates the tower cranes to report from Le Meridien Mina Seyahi extension.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  July 15, 2006

Constructing new hotels in boom town|~|Luxury-Beach-200.jpg|~|Around 55,000m2 of precast hollow core slabs (above) will be used, along with 25,000m3 concrete for the beams, columns and foundations.|~|Dubai has set its sights on attracting an incredible 15 million tourists per year to the emirate by the year 2012. The upshot is that along with building more roads and a bigger airport, Dubai is seeing a rapid increase in the number of hotels being built across town. One such project is the new five-star hotel under construction on the beach side of Al Sufouh Road heading towards Dubai Marina. Known as the Luxury Beach Resort, the US $95 million (AED350 million) project is being built as an extension to the existing Le Meridien Mina Seyahi in Dubai Marina, and will be operated by the same hotel. Arabian Construction Company (ACC) is the main contractor for the nine-storey beachfront project that will consist of 300 rooms, including one presidential suite on the top floor. Completion is scheduled for August 2007. An underground service tunnel may be built to connect the existing Mina Seyahi with the new hotel, but the two structures will be separate and not conjoined. The consultant, architect and project manager is Arch Group, while Transgulf Electro Mechanical is doing the MEP works. “We started on the project in May 2005 with the piling works which were done by Middle East Foundation Group,” says Emad Bordkani, project manager, ACC. Despite the project’s proximity to the sea, Bordkani says that dewatering and piling did not present any challenges. “The water table is at -7m level, and our platform level is at +1m, so dewatering was not an issue. “Now we’re into the concrete stages and are currently concreting the seventh floor,” he adds. The concrete work comprises columns, beams and precast hollow core slabs. “We decided to use precast instead of cast in situ, the main difference being you can go for more span with precast,” explains Bordkani. “Precast for the same thickness can go to a nine or 10m span, whereas with cast in situ it is limited to 6m. Precast is also easier — it’s prefabricated so all you have to do is erect it. You do the beams and the columns and then you lay the slabs.” The hollow core slabs used on the hotel vary in thickness — they start from 200mm and go up to 400mm. The grade of concrete used is 40, 50 and 60. For the columns up to the third floor it will be grade 60, reducing to 50 and then 40 as the structure goes higher. The beams are grade 40. Abu Dhabi-based Transgulf is providing the concrete from its plant in Dubai. The total concrete pour is 25,000m3 for the project’s beams, columns and foundations. In addition to this, around 55,000m2 of precast hollow core slabs will be used. The hotel’s large footprint (approximately 17,000m2) means that the floor cycle is far from speedy. “To complete our sequence of works it is one month per floor,” says Bordkani. The formwork comprises many elements, some of which are being supplied by RMD Kwikform and SGB. According to Bordkani, one of the biggest challenges of working on this project is the sheer size of the plot and how to safely coordinate the activity of all the cranes on site. “The footprint is 200m by 120m with a total built up area of approximately 80,500m2,” he says. Work on the hotel is divided into six portions — A through to F — which means that there are six tower cranes working within a 200m horizontal length. “The main problem we have is with the craneage. We have six tower cranes working on the project (mainly from Potain) and their simultaneous movements have to be coordinated very carefully,” says Bordkani. “Each of the cranes has a boom length of between 50 and 60m. This means there is insufficient space for each of the cranes to swing around at the same level, so their booms are all at different levels.” This is where the role of the banksmen on the ground becomes crucial, since the crane operators are often unable to see one another and therefore rely on the banksmen to guide and direct them safely. Despite the careful coordination demanded by having six cranes on site, Bordkani says that this number was needed and any fewer would have meant delays to the project’s completion. The maximum height of the hotel is 45m, where there will be an 18m-diameter dome constructed above an atrium. “The design of the dome is still being finalised but it could be built from glass, which would be quite a challenge in terms of construction.” The cladding on the hotel will be a combination of GRC elements, natural stone and plaster. ACC currently has approximately 1,000 labourers on site and is running at peak. “When the various subcontractors join us for the finishing stage this figure will rise to 1,200,” says Bordkani. For the months of July and August, all contractors in the UAE must abide by the midday working ban. “We’ve changed our working times and now start at 6.30am and work until 12.30pm, and then work again from 3pm until 7pm. “This hasn’t really affected our work too much because we already give our workers two hours’ rest anyway, so all we’ve done is just extend this. “We have finishing work such as block work and plastering etc. internally, so we are still able to work according to the law. “The site is 24 hours but at night time we do mainly concrete work and other jobs that don’t require so many labourers.” Dubai’s goal of becoming a prime tourist destination means that the number of hotels in and around the emirate must increase dramatically — and they are doing just that. While many of the hotels under construction are located in built-up areas of town such as Sheikh Zayed Road, the Burj development or Dubai Festival City, the extension to Le Meridien Mina Seyahi is right by the beach with views out to the Arabian Gulf and the Palm Jumeirah. One thing is certain — when all the hotels are finally finished, visitors to Dubai will indeed have a plentiful choice of rooms in which to stay. ||**||

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