The journey to Atlantis

Work has begun on what is set to be the largest water park in the region. Alison Luke visits Atlantis on The Palm Jumeirah to find out what it takes to create a thrill-seekers paradise.

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By  Alison Luke Published  September 9, 2006

|~|4p18main200.gif|~|Atlantis is the flagship development on the Palm Jumeirah. Located at the apex of the crescent it will occupy around 60 acres of land and include the largest water park in the region. |~|Does the thought of a close encounter with sharks get your adrenaline pumping? Or do you prefer your water experiences to be of the more relaxing variety? Whatever you enjoy, installation has begun on a water park that is sure to cater for you.

Set across 42 acres on the crescent of The Palm Jumeirah, The Waterscape covers around two-thirds of the land on the development’s flagship property Atlantis. A series of rides will give visitors the options of lazing on a rubber tube as they float along a meandering river; riding through white water rapids; and plunging down slides.

The centrepiece of the park will be a Ziggurat Temple, which will include a slide that sends its passengers through an acrylic tunnel in a shark-filled tank, giving a close encounter with the animals and that all-important rush of adrenaline. And surrounding all of this activity will be various aquariums and marine habitats containing over 65,000 animals ranging from dolphins to lionfish.

The creation of this complex mix of facilities in such a unique location has created several challenges for the design of the services installation. Providing base services on a project sited in the Arabian Gulf is only the beginning of the story – just how do you move people uphill without them having to leave the water?

The team involved in making sure everything works to plan has plenty of experience. Atlantis, The Palm is a joint venture project between Kerzner International and Dubai-based Istithmar. Under design for around two years, this is the second such project for resort developer Kerzner.

The original Atlantis is located on Paradise Island in the Bahamas and opened to the public around ten years ago. Many of the team members who have worked on the Bahamas project are now in Dubai making sure that their existing knowledge is put to use.

Kerzner president Jim Boocher explains: “The designers were there from the start. We are doing an expansion [of Atlantis] in the Bahamas and some of the designers are common to both, so for the first year [of the design process] we did a lot of two and three-day project meetings there and we would split them half for the Bahamas project and half this one.

Then we’d get together wherever it was convenient, so for example we may take a hotel together in Paris to do it.”
Off-site coordination of the design required careful planning due to the team involved; Salt Lake-based EDSA Cloward was the engineering design consultant for the water park, the architect was based in Toronto and another design architect is located in California.

All drawings and project information was coordinated in Toronto and available to the project team members via an internet link. But since March 2006 and the beginning of groundworks all design meetings have taken place on site. “It doesn’t really matter until you start on site; once you do, its pretty critical that you have everyone here,” stresses Boocher.

The internet link has now been closed and all decisions are made at site meetings. “Now we’re physically on site I prefer the guys to get around the table and discuss it instead of working out of different offices. When I can reach out and touch somebody I can make more of an impact…I get a better response from them,” he explains.

Three-dimensional modelling is used to ensure that all structures and services installed in the project are fully coordinated and a team of 20 cad operators is permanently based on site to undertake the process.

“Anything bigger than half-inch electrical conduit goes on these drawings,” explains Boocher, “you can’t imagine what’s going on underneath this park. On a normal job you could say [anything under] four inches you don’t have to worry about, but on this one, with the coordination involved, everybody needs to layer in.”

Each contractor submits their drawings for approval and they have the responsibility of not clashing with each other or the structures.

The water park is not a carbon copy of the Bahamas one but some features and MEP plant will be the same. Peter Chamberlain, construction administrator with EDSA Cloward explains: “In Phase Three of Atlantis; they are doing a dolphin encounter that is pretty similar to here – the tank sizes, shapes etc are the same and the water treatments in the parks are similar.”

The visitor experience here though will be quite different due to the design of the water flow system. “One thing here that hasn’t been done in a lot of places in the world is that this is an action river as opposed to a racing river,” explains Chamberlain.

The difference in the two types of river is the use of gravity. “In a ‘lazy’ river the water is propelled by jets, this one is propelled by gravity,” explains Chamberlain, “so we have a lot of options to make the river a lot more interesting and to include rapids.”

Gravity feeds the water through the system from the highest point at around 8.5m above sea level. “The difference between a gravity feed and pressure system is the running costs,” explains Boocher. “Lifting this amount of water would be very expensive,” he stresses. “We will have about 4.5 million gallons of water in the river, which will be turned over every 1.5 hours,” adds Chamberlain.

The park topography is designed to give two falls of four and three metres from the top to bottom of the river to enable the water features to be created. It also brings the problem: how do you get passengers uphill again?

The solution has involved a clever mix of gravity flows and mechanical systems. Chamberlain explains: “We’re putting in two conveyor belt systems that lift you up three or four metres depending on what side of the river you’re on.”

Water is pumped through the conveyor belt and out through the top. Visitors float onto the conveyor on their rubber tube, the belt “grabs” the tube and it is propelled to the top by the force of the water, where they then float off again. “There are four 25,000 gpr pumps on each conveyor pumping 100,000 gallons (454,500 litres) of water per minute. That’s what drives the river,” explains Chamberlain.

In addition to these two belt-driven conveyors, one ‘master blaster’ system will be installed. “Master blaster is newer technology which pushes you uphill,” explains Boocher. “The master blasters in theory work fantastically, but in actual practice I’ve seen them have some issues, so we’ve put one in and for the others we’ve gone with the conventional ones.

"If you look at the size of our runs, it gets to be at the edge of engineering,” he adds. One run alone extends for 30m over an elevation that changes from three to seven metres above sea level.

The river itself is almost 2.5km long and flows at around 1.4m/s, giving visitors a 30 minute journey should they not stop off to join any rides. “You can experience about 90% of the entire water park without getting out of your tube,” says Chamberlain.

“The continuously moving river system is actually the queue to the rides, so people are queueing but they don’t actually know it.” A wave generator creates a circular motion around the base of the temple to provide movement through this area.

The distribution of MEP services for the water park begins at a main supply route that runs alongside the primary circulation road around the Palm’s crescent. A chilled water ring main supplied by a central chiller plant being built by Palm District Cooling serves all the properties along the route.

“They provide inlets along the road around the crescent and I take chilled water directly from those points and bring it into the buildings,” explains Boocher. “It’s the way the project was set up – the entire Palm was set up with central utility distribution plots.”

A 132kVA electrical supply is provided at each end of the property by master developer Nakeel via DEWA. This supply again is tapped into and fed through step-down transformers and switchgear in basement plant rooms located under the site buildings before being distributed around the site.

Redundancy is fed from two sides, and generator backup for approximately 40% of the services runs elevators, lights and emergency systems. Separate backup systems are provided for the marine services: “Life support for the fish is 100%,” assures Boocher.

Power needs will be similar for the water park and the adjoining Atlantis hotel, however in the park, the requirements will be unevenly distributed. Boocher explains: “With things like the big pumps [for the conveyors], they are going to take a lot of juice in that area, so it’s going to be concentrated in a few of the buildings, then there will be regular feeders to do the pathway lighting.”

The distribution of services around the park is all carried out by underground routes, hence the importance put on the coordination drawings. “We’ve got masses of pipes coming out of [services building] that have to be laid to exact elevations,” explains Chamberlain.

“The basic rule is that the Cloward Group [services] goes in first because they are critical to the gravity flow. You set the general tone of what the river has to do, then work out the other routes,” adds Boocher. “It’s not a case of drawing one-line diagrams with pipe sizes where you can get the general layout of the pipes, there are a lot of different layers and the direction they run in is essential to making sure [the river] still works.”

Water is pulled from the river at certain points to be treated. All particles down to around 10 microns are removed by a series of filtration systems then around 20% of the water is split into a sidesteam to be ozonated; here around 5g/hour of ozone is injected into the water. “The ozone picks up 99% of things that you can kill in the water,” explains Chamberlain.

Chlorine is also added as required, but as Chamberlain explains, the levels needed will be lower than in a system without the ozone process. “We’ve found that chlorine and ozone systems used together saves quite a bit of money – you can reduce the chlorine demand to about a quarter of what it would usually be for a normal pool. Normally you’re up at 1.5-2ppm; here we can use about 0.5ppm,” he explains.

Before being returned to the river system the water is tested for temperature, oxidation reduction potential (orp) and ph level and any adjustments needed made automatically by a central control system.

The plumbing products being used are familiar to the team from their previous project, however the quality of the materials used is significant. “There’s a lot of pumps with fibreglass impellers plus titanium and stainless steel on the heat exchangers because the salt water eats them up,” explains Boocher, “A lot of owners won’t spend that kind of money. We own and manage our own properties, so we’re looking after these things.”

Titanium products such as heat exchangers plus fibreglass pumps are used for the salt water distribution. For the domestic water supplies, the heat exchangers have 316 stainless steel plates. “They’re going to think that we’re launching a space shuttle,” Boocher laughs. The reason for the plant chosen and the need to protect the systems comes from the lack of definite information about the future water supplies.

DEWA is supplying the Palm, but Boocher reports: “On the trunk and crescent its either going to be DEWA or they are going to contract out to a company called Palm District Water. But none of the Palm District Water facilities are actually up and running so you can’t actually test the water [they’re going to be supplying].

“If I don’t plan for a harsh water condition and I get one, I’m going to eat the plates out of my heat exchangers and shut my project down,” stresses Boocher. “I don’t like to leave anything to chance,” he adds.

Just how long would standard products last under harsh water conditions? “I can tell you because it’s happened to me – less than ten months!” he exclaims.

Ensuring the long-term security of supply is not restricted to the water services. Where possible, products are factory tested before coming to site. “For example, with our generator sets, we do the load test at the factory, then bring them here and test them under load,” says Boocher.

“At the end of the day we know that when they come out of the factory they meet the design requirements. We don’t leave it to chance. There is no point checking the load when its installed because its too late.”

This preplanning is also essential to maintaining the construction programme as the lead-in time for products ranges from around eight weeks to over 12 months and delivery is from worldwide sources.

Two separate firms are carrying out the installation of MEP services at Atlantis. BK Gulf is responsible for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and the low voltage services in the hotel. In the water park, local process engineering firm Septech won the contract to supply and install the specialty water process equipment and pipework in a joint venture with partner Ashbrook Simon-Hartley.

“Basically the way it splits down is salt water is distributed by Simon Hartley, if its fresh water it’ll come through BK Gulf, with the exception of the river,” confirms Boocher.
Currently the water pipework is being laid, and some electrical conduit is being installed.

“It’s like anything else, we do the deep utilities first, backfill and compact, then come upwards and normally the electrical networks are [installed at a shallower depth],” reports Boocher.

Atlantis is due to open in December 2008, just in time to celebrate a new year by having a close encounter with sharks. ||**||

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