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Destination Dubai

Middle East: Dubai

Dubai is shaping up to be the destination of choice for the region.

Judith Cruickshank reports.

Hotels, medical facilities, commercial and residential developments, it is hard to find an area of Dubai which is not growing. Investment could well exceed the predicted US$28bn according to Saeed al Muntafiq, director general of Dubai Development and Investment Authority.

Dubai's GDP, which stands at $16.4bn, has grown at a rate of 8% over the past 10 years. Non oil growth over the decade was 11% annually.

Among the most high profile new projects are the two Palm Islands, a $1bn scheme to add 120km to Dubai's shoreline.

Each will have at least 40 luxury hotels, entertainment and shopping facilities and residential complexes.

Also recently announced is the $1.8bn Healthcare City which will house a university medical complex, medical school, a school of nursing, plus day clinics, a rehabilitation centre, hotels, health resorts and spas. Along with the International Financial Centre and the Festival City tourism and commercial project, all are designed to make Dubai into the principal destination in the region for business or leisure.

And the supporting infrastructure is being put into place well ahead of time. Roads, bridges, interchanges are all included and a light rail project will bring the area its first real public transport system. The new Deira Corniche improvement plan (involving another artificial island) calls for a monorail connection to Bur Dubai.

Housing development is proceeding apace in the form of high-rise apartments, luxury villas and a residential complex open to expats on a 30 year lease.

Jebel Ali Port is expanding in capacity from 4M TEUs to 21.8M in a four phase project. The Cargo Village has ambitious plans to increase cargo handling capacity to 2Mt annually.

In the following pages NCEI focuses on a few of the current projects which will play a part in making the city almost unrecognisable 10 years from now.

Dubai City will soon be getting its own version of Paris' landmark Grande Arche de La Defense building, among the most outstanding of President Mitterrand's Grands Projects.

'The Gate' will dominate Dubai's International Financial Centre, projected to become the financial quarter for the entire Middle East. It will house the offices of the client, Dubai International Financial Centre, the Dubai Stock Exchange, plus retail and rental space.

The building has been designed by the London office of American architect Gensler.

Construction manger is Turner Construction International, with civil and structural engineering consultancy services provided by Hyder Consulting and services consultancy by Roberts & Partners Hyder Consulting was well placed to secure this commission with offices in both London and Dubai and links with both London and Dubaibased architects being considered for the job. In the event, the London office team was successful, being employed as a sub-consultant to Gensler in early August 2002.

Scheme and concept design were undertaken by Hyder in London, with detailed design, production information and site based services taken forward by the local office of Hyder in Dubai.

The scheme comprises two 11 storey towers, offset on a large podium, connected at the top by a four-storey bridge link structure. The axis of the arch allows a clear view of the twin Emirates Towers (another Hyder Consulting project) through the centerline, with the tower of the World Trade Centre Hotel centred beyond.

The towers of The Gate building are rectangular on plan, 70m in length, 18m wide and 27m apart. The bridge level structure covers the entire footprint of the building being 70m square.

The two lower floors of the podium will provide parking and services space, with shops occupying the uppermost floor set just below external ground level. The water table in this area of Dubai is fairly high, with Hyder working on the basis of a water table 1m below ground level. The water is also highly saline. To combat these conditions, the outer basement walls and slab will be a joint free waterproof concrete structure, and as a further protection, externally tanked.

The structure will be supported on piles varying in diameter between 600mm, 900mm and 1,200mm, founded in the sandstone which underlies the site, the deepest being around 20m. Those under the building will typically be in compression with tension piles under the car park podium areas to resist flotation of the structure. 'The nature of the strata and potentially elevated groundwater levels dictates a piled foundation solution', explains Rob Smith, technical director within building structures at Hyder's London office. He adds that 'differential settlement is also a big issue'.

Initially, the 180m square podium was to be a flat slab.

Second thoughts changed that to an extensively landscaped area with trees and planting, plus water features and pergolas, requiring the construction of a stepped slab and beam construction.

Below ground works also include the service access road which will be semisubmerged like all roads throughout the entire financial quarter, for which Gensler Houston is also acting as master planner.

The two towers will consist of conventionally reinforced concrete columns and core walls with post-tensioned reinforced concrete floor slabs, typically spanning 9m. The cores are located on the outer edges of the towers at the four corners, 'for stability and stiffness', remarks Smith.

The client's desire to incorporate a steel element in the building coincided happily with the need for a lightweight structure for the bridge spanning between the two towers, says Smith. Above level 13 floors are framed in structural steel with precast prestressed concrete floor planks.

The link bridge trusses themselves need to be stiff - Dubai lies in a seismic zone - and also take into account the effect of the ambient temperatures on the steelwork.

This will be an air conditioned building in a hot climate. And the arch shape requires special consideration to be given to localised low level environmental wind speeds.

The first of the upper link bridge floors, immediately above what is effectively the soffit of the arch, will be clad in stone. Then will come two storeys of fully glazed offices with diagonal steelwork external supports. These will be clad in stainless steel.

Offices on these levels are likely to set the standard for rental space in the Middle East.

Because the corner offices will command some of the best views in Dubai, the cores have been inset within the footprint of the floor.

The offices are topped by plant rooms and a roof garden, sheltered by a brise soleil, partly for shade and partly because the building will be overlooked by the Emirates Towers.

The building will be clad in stone and glass, with the contract for facade engineering awarded to Arup Facades. The design will incorporate thermal breaks to avoid hot bridging.

In mid-February excavation of the basement was around 50% complete and piling was scheduled to begin before the end of the month. Discussions with a number of international and local contractors are in progress and a date has already been proposed for an official ceremony on the completed podium.

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