Emirates HQ is clear for 2007 takeoff

The new Emirates Headquarters will be linked via a tunnel to Dubai International Airport and will have its very own metro station alongside. Zoe Naylor pays a flying visit to a site that is facing inherent logistical challenges along the way.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  August 19, 2006

|~|134proj200.gif|~|The main Emirates HQ will be linked via tunnel to Dubai International Airport, enabling efficient transfer of air and ground staff.|~|It looks like being a story of planes, trains and automobiles when the new Emirates Headquarters on Airport Road in Dubai is completed early next year. Accommodating a range of Emirates crew processing facilities and managerial offices, the new HQ building will be directly connected to Dubai International Airport on the opposite side of Airport Road via an underground tunnel. Two 11-storey car parks built on either side of the HQ building will provide parking for over 2,000 cars. And a walkway from the building will eventually link directly to an above ground Dubai Metro station, which will be the last stop on the Red Line before the airport itself. A range of contractors are involved in the project: ACC is the main contractor for the Emirates HQ building, car parks and bus lanes in and out of the site. WJ&P is the main contractor for the underground tunnel that will link the HQ building to the airport, and Dubai Rapid Link Consortium is responsible for the Metro station. Arcon is the consultant for the Emirates HQ building, car parks and tunnel elements of the project. Construction started in March 2005 with the Emirates HQ building itself. Due for handover in March 2007, this portion of the project will house the Emirates crew processing facilities, a baggage handling system as well as managerial offices. “The project comprises the main HQ building, which is two basement levels then ground plus nine floors, as well as two adjacent car park buildings,” says Ziad Awji, project manager, ACC. This core element of the project costs around US $144 million (AED530 million). “The basement area is for the Emirates crew and is a direct access for them to the building. Upon the arrival of the plane, the crew will enter the Emirates HQ building from the airport via the tunnel and their luggage will be taken to the basement,” explains Awji. Basement two of the HQ building measures 22,000m2 while basement one measures 10,000m2. These two floors will facilitate the crews’ arrival and departure and will incorporate a baggage handling system, for which ADPi (Aeroport de Paris Ingenierie) is the consultant and the main contractor is BHS. The basement area will also contain a parking area for buses, and will be the linking point for the underground tunnel that connects to the airport. The ground floor of the main building is 11,500m2 and the nine upper floors are 12,800m2 each. On the second floor there will be restaurants and shops, then offices from the third until eighth floor, with the ninth floor housing executive offices. The rooftop will feature a swimming pool, jogging track and gymnasium. “The first part of construction was the excavation and dewatering of the main Emirates building,” says Awji. Middle East Foundations carried out the dewatering and piling. “After finishing the third floor we then stopped the dewatering and construction of the tunnel commenced,” he adds. Work on the tunnel project began on site in August 2005. The client for this part of the development is Dubai Civil Aviation (DCA), as opposed to Emirates. “The main tunnel will be about 250m long and will go from the ACC building basement into the airport, where it will connect with the Concourse Three building,” says Andreas Kannas, project manager, WJ&P. “We’re using a cut and cover method which means we can make an open excavation, construct the tunnel and then we cover it. We will also construct two open ramps which go in and out of the tunnel either end,” he adds. One portion of the tunnel (approximately 45m in length) on the ACC side is already completed. “To do this we’ve had to divert the Airport Road northwards and then once we’ve completed this section around the end of August, we’ll divert the traffic onto this completed portion in front of the ACC building. “We will then excavate through the Airport Road and connect it to the piece that we have on the other side,” adds Kannas. The maximum depth of excavation for the tunnel is 17m and will require around 200,000m3 of earth to be moved. “Some of it is used for backfilling on top of the tunnel and about two-thirds we have to get rid of. Some goes to Al Naboodah Laing O’Rourke inside the airport, and the rest is disposed of in a tipping area.” According to Kannas, one of the main construction challenges of the tunnel project is tackling the combination of multiple underground utilities. “There’s telephone, water and irrigation — it’s full of utilities on each side of the road. Diverting the traffic is also a challenge, as is dewatering the area. “We’re also trying to stage the work since the availability of the land is limited — we had to make some alternative buildings in order to shift the existing buildings which were obstructing us, and it took around four months to clear part of the site on the airside.” The main tunnel was scheduled for completion by January 2007, but Kannas says that delays with availability of land on the airside of the road means that its completion may be pushed back as far as August 2007. Running alongside the tunnel construction is the construction of the main Emirates HQ, which has now reached the eighth floor. The two adjacent car parks are both at the first floor stage. Both car parks are being constructed using pre-cast concrete elements and will use around 50,000m2 of hollow core slabs. It will connect with the main HQ building via steel bridges. “The ground and first floors of the car parks contain all the large columns and beams, but once we get underway with the typical floors it should be a three-day cycle per floor,” says Awji. “The car parks mainly use precast because it’s quicker — we’ve shaved three months off the schedule.” The HQ building is being constructed using a combination of precast (around 5,000m2 of hollow core slabs) as well as cast in situ with post-tensioning. The post-tensioning designer is MEPS. According to Awji, the main reason for using precast and cast in situ on the main building was due to the 49m final height restriction imposed upon the HQ building by the airport. The building will now rise to a final height of 48.5m. Approximately 161,000m3 of concrete will be used overall on the project, along with 17,800 tonnes of reinforcement. Abu Dhabi-based Transgulf is providing the readymix concrete from its Dubai base, while Potain is providing eight tower cranes to the site. Approximately 1,450 ACC workers are employed on the project at the moment, plus another 700 from other subcontractors. Construction work is currently running at peak. Once completed, around 6,000 people will use the Emirates HQ building on a daily basis, but there will only be car parking space for around 2,000 cars. This means that having an integrated public transport system that can efficiently carry workers to and from the office is a vital element of the project. The plan is to achieve this in two ways: firstly, a road system will be built within the Emirates HQ complex that will enable buses to drive from Airport Road up to the second floor of the building via ramp ways. This will involve building approximately 500m of single lane roadways up to 8m high, and should take around 10 months to complete. “By September a lot of work on the main building will be finished so we can transfer some of our ACC workforce onto this road project. It will require about 350 labourers and will cost around $2.7 million,” says Awji. The second element of the integrated transport system designed to serve the Emirates HQ building is the Dubai Metro station. “Work will start on the station at the end of September when we have finished our concreting work on the Emirates HQ main building,” says Awji. Known as ‘Emirates’, the above ground station will connect directly to Emirates HQ building via a walkway to the second floor and will be the last station on the Metro’s Red Line before the airport. When completed, the Emirates HQ project will facilitate the arrival and departure of Emirates’ crew as well as provide administration space for the rapidly expanding airline. With so many different construction elements of the project underway simultaneously, coordinating the various teams on site is a challenge in itself. But with around 65% of the works already completed, it seems that many of the on site challenges have been met. If Dubai is truly intent on pursuing an integrated transport system in its bid to ease traffic congestion across the city, then the new Emirates HQ building appears to be a good example of how to go about it.||**||

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