Raffles reaches its peak performance

The Raffles Dubai at Wafi City has been in the public eye since construction started back in April 2005. Dubai residents stuck in the traffic on Sheikh Rashid Road have watched the pyramid take shape until it topped out last week. Zoe Naylor took a trip to the 19th floor to witness structural completion.

  • E-Mail
By  Zoe Naylor Published  September 16, 2006

|~|137proj200.gif|~|The concrete structure of the Raffles Dubai nears completion. According to the main contractor, the pyramid and associated above ground works only make up around 40% of the project. Much of it is below ground level.|~|One of the most eye-catching sites in Dubai reached a
key milestone last week when the 100m-high pyramid- shaped Raffles Dubai topped out. Construction of the hotel got underway in April 2005, and last week saw the completion of the concrete structure.

The US $150 million (AED550 million) project is due for completion in March 2007 and is scheduled to open to the public in mid-2007. Khansaheb is the main contractor, Arif and Bintoak is the architect and RJ Crocker is the structural engineer. Voltas is carrying out the MEP works, Hyder is the MEP consultant and the client is MKM Commercial Holdings.

Built in the shape of a pyramid in keeping with Wafi City’s Egyptian-themed mall, the 257-room hotel will be operated by Singapore-based Raffles International and is the group’s first foray into the Middle Eastern market. It is also the first new build for a Raffles hotel as they are typically sited within historic buildings.

The pyramid structure of Raffles Dubai will comprise 19 floors and two basement levels, which will be used for car parking and an underground shopping centre.

“From the fifth floor upwards of the pyramid there will be hotel rooms,” says Richard Browne, operations manager, Khansaheb. “On the 16th floor there will be the owners’ private apartments and above that on the 17th, 18th and 19th floors there are restaurants and nightclubs.”

The structure will be topped off with a 10m-high gold-coloured glass pyramid, which will sparkle in the sunlight and be backlit at night-time. While unusual structures are par for the course in Dubai, the actual construction process of the Raffles hotel was far from straightforward.

“When it comes to the construction of the project, it’s not the volume of concrete that was used, it’s the complexity of the structure,” explains Michael Harris, project manager, Khansaheb.

“The floor layout changes on every floor,” he continues. “As you come up the building some of the floor plates change. It’s also a bit of an iceberg of a building because what you see from the road is probably only about 40% of the development as a whole – a lot of it is underground.”

The structure of the hotel comprises a cast in situ frame with hollow core precast floors. According to Browne, one of the main construction challenges that the team has had to overcome is the shape of the building.

“Essentially most buildings are vertical or horizontal, but with a pyramid shape you have a bit of both. The angle of the building makes it difficult to transport men and materials up through the structure – with a conventional building there are lots of faces on which you can run most equipment up vertically. But we can’t easily do that on this project.”

This means the team has to use a cradle skip to place most of the concrete at high levels. “Removal of rubbish is also extremely difficult because we can’t use gravity so easily to drop materials down,” adds Browne.

Another key challenge of the project is its location. Bordered by Sheikh Rashid Road, Citibank building and the rest of the sprawling Wafi City development, delivery and storage of materials on the construction site was potentially problematic.

Despite the apparent restrictions on space, Browne says there is sufficient space in which to store materials. “We actually have a very large footprint – the basement stretches all the way back to the shopping centre. But we have spent a lot of time coordinating the deliveries of materials.”

An added challenge to the construction procedure is the fact that the team must work around the existing Wafi facilities, which are still fully operational. “We’ve had to maintain access to the Pyramid Club as all their daily deliveries come through our site,” says Harris.

“Minimising the disturbance to these existing facilities is important, especially since the hotel fronts right onto the existing shopping mall. We’ve been quite restricted on what we can do in close proximity to the mall. This has been challenging and has meant that we’ve had to do a lot of work at night,” he adds.

Raffles Dubai is one of the emirate’s many job sites that works around the clock. And with a construction schedule spanning a mere 22 months, Browne believes it is unlikely the project would finish on time had the site not been running 24 hours a day.

“There are currently around 2,500 labourers on site, including all the subcontractors. This will peak at around 3,000 within the next four weeks as a lot of the finishing trades begin,” he says. “We’ve just started the finishings and are already in the final finishing stages on two of the floors.

“We’re expecting to get wild air [uncontrolled air conditioning] to cool the rooms so we can carry out delicate finishes such as veneers and wallpapering.”

A new district cooling plant built by ETA will be used throughout the entire Wafi development, and the new hotel and shopping centre will be tied into that. “Power is quite a significant issue with most construction sites these days,” explains Browne. “There are two substations here – the first one is very close to being energised so we should be ok for power, which will give us a good head start.”

As with any project, maintaining the quality and speed of construction is key: “It’s a tight sequence and a tight cycle, and it’s a challenge to maintain that level of quality,” says Browne, “but we pride ourselves on delivering on time and with the right quality.

“MKM is one of our biggest clients and our relationship with them on site extends to around 12 years. We get involved very early on with the construction process, giving our advice on how it should be built,” he adds.

While tight construction timetables requiring a 24-hour labour force are usual in this part of the world, the Raffles Dubai project has already made its mark in the city for the sheer complexity of its structure.

With the main concrete work now completed, attention will soon turn to the gold-coloured pyramid that will sit on top off the hotel, adding yet another interesting visual element to Dubai’s ever-changing skyline.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code