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Burj Dubai is hit by curtain wall delays

Burj Dubai could miss December 2008 deadline as contractor battles cladding hold-up

The planned 2008 completion of the Burj Dubai could face delays because of ongoing difficulties in sourcing cladding and changes to the original design of the structure.

The world’s tallest tower has already reached 80 storeys, but curtain walling work has yet to start, leaving the concrete structure of the building exposed to the elements.

The 160-storey Burj Dubai is being built at a cost of around US $900 million (AED3.285 billion) and will form the central feature of the $20 billion Burj Dubai district being developed by Emaar Properties.

The cladding delay, together with recent design changes affecting the overall height of the project, means that contractors Besix, Arabtec and Samsung are likely to seek a time extension to accommodate the extra work.

Schmidlin LLC is contracted to install the cladding on the tower, but Construction Week has learned that tower contractor Besix has approached rival cladding outfit Al Abbar to take on the contract. Al Abbar is already contracted to supply cladding to the podium on the development.

According to the original construction timetable, cladding should have started several months ago to keep pace with progress on the concrete structure – rising at a rate of one floor every three days.

But the collapse of Swiss curtain walling giant Schmidlin, in February, has led to a substantial delay in procuring the exterior of the tower.

The UAE operation of Schmidlin however, remained solvent and was subsequently taken over by a group of local investors, including Geap International, a diversified trading group based in Dubai.

Geap International managing director, Mahendra Patel, said: “The cladding should start in the very near future. We have started fabrication already. There were a lot of design changes with the height.”

But with just 115 weeks to run until the project is due to complete, even if cladding work started tomorrow and was installed at a rate of 1.3 floors per week, the project would still miss its end-of-December-2008 deadline.

A manager at one company already supplying curtain walling on the Burj Dubai development told CW that the ongoing supply problems will have a massive impact on the project completion.

He said: “Normally if the building is reaching level 70, they should have fixed the curtain walling up to level 45. They will never catch up. The whole project looks to be delayed by a year minimum.”

But an Emaar spokesperson insisted that work would be accelarated to keep the project on track. In a statement, the company said: “Progress on the curtain wall subcontract was disrupted by the bankruptcy of Schmidlin’s parent company in Switzerland earlier this year. Acceleration measures are being put in place to ensure the completion date is unaffected.”

The high performance exterior cladding system on the tower has to be fabricated to withstand the massive wind pressures acting on the structure as well as the movement of the tower itself, which will sway by up to 1.5m at its peak.

It also has to withstand the extreme summer temperatures of the Gulf. Primary materials include reflective glazing, aluminium and textured stainless steel spandrel panels.

“We have a problem with the curtain wall, as you can imagine. You can see that the curtain wall is not moving. But there is a plan to get that back on track,” said Besix deputy project director, Ivan Bruyninckkx.

He added: “The final height of the tower will indicate what extra time we will be allowed to work with, because the initial programme was for a certain height and the new height is different from the initial height. So there may be an adjustment of timing, but all of this is not clear yet.

“We are still hitting for substantial completion by the end of 2008 or the early months of 2009,” he said.

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