The $961.3m Etihad Towers posed considerable MEP challenges, but has emerged as a “new landmark” for Abu Dhabi, Hill International tells MEP Middle East
Conceived by HH Sheikh Suroor Bin Mohammad Al Nahyan, Etihad Towers covers over 500,000m2 in the Al Ras Al Akhdar district of Abu Dhabi, near the Corniche. The project, developed by Sheikh Suroor Projects Department (SSPD), is in close proximity to Emirates Palace and other high-profile high-rises like Nation Towers.
SSPD project director Sami Al Khuwaiter tells MEP Middle East it has been 48 months from the first concrete pour on the project to its completion in November 2011.
During that period, the project successfully weathered the impact of the global financial crisis, as well as a plethora of engineering and logistics challenges. It has since emerged as a triumphant new landmark, destined to become as easily-recognisable on the Abu Dhabi skyline as the Burj Al Arab is in Dubai.
The mixed-use project comprises five towers, plus an interconnecting podium level. “This means it was like constructing and managing five projects in one; or six, if you count the podium as well,” comments Michael Scotese, project director at Hill International. He explains that the project management company has been working on the flagship project virtually since its inception.
“We have been involved with the coordination with the engineer and all the design aspects, all the way through, making sure the completeness of the design is acceptable to the main contractor, Arabian Construction Company (ACC), and basically being able to supply ACC with enough documentation to be able to build the job successfully,” says Scotese.
“There have been a number of third-party contractors, also with direct contact with the owner, and that has complicated the process as well. I think we had something like 45 third-party agreements.”
Tower 1 is 277.61m high, while Tower 2 is 305.3m. “As of a couple of weeks ago, the completion of Tower 1 has placed us as the 92nd tallest building in the world,” notes Scotese.
Tower 2 is the 49th tallest building in the world currently, as well as being the tallest building in Abu Dhabi, comprising mainly a residential tower with an observation deck on top. “We are still in the process of completing [the observation deck] right now.
It took a bit longer than we thought. This is one of the spaces independent of ACC. It will be operated by Jumeirah [the hotel operator], and will be called At 300 because it is 300m high.” Scotese says the anticipated completion date is end March, “but we are trying to get it done by the first part of March. Right now we are looking at mid- to end-March.”
Anil Kumar, MEP manager for Hill International, oversaw the installation of MEP systems for the project and says that the height of the building posed particular challenges for the MEP contractor, Voltas.
“Installing the Busbar system for catering to power services to the higher levels in the building and its onsite measurement prior to fabrication was a major challenge.
Professional and experienced vendors had to be used to take out the measurements. As a result, the measurements and total installation has been completed without much wastage and on schedule,” he explains.
MEP work on the project covered a wide scope, with Kumar’s remit ranging from power, lighting, cooling, ventilation, plumbing, fire alarms, home automation and access control, all the way to an energy management system and other BMS related work.
Scotese says that Etihad Towers is “truly a mixed-use project.” One tower is a five-star-plus Jumeirah Hotel, while another contains semi-fit residential apartments. The third tower offers premium office space, with the final two towers providing long-term residential leased space.
The hotel itself caters to different customer segments, with the lower floors featuring hotel apartments, while the upper floors are fully-fledged five-star-plus hotel accommodation.
The podium, which interconnects the five towers, provides a combination of business, leisure and hospitality. It includes a high-end shopping arena, a swimming pool, spa and gym, speciality restaurants, the UAE’s largest banqueting hall and a business centre.
The Great Grand Lobby and pre-function area features an extensive curtain-walling feature with panoramic views and use of automated solar-shading.
Scotese says Hill International was concerned that the extensive use of exterior glazing would add significantly to the project’s cooling load, and thus impact on its sustainability.
Design and engineering consultancy Hilson Moran provided detailed analysis and sustainability advice for the Great Grand Lobby, using computational fluid dynamics modelling, in addition to technical analysis of the proposed design and building services systems.
“Surprisingly enough, the months where the project is affected the most due to the angle of the sun are during the winter, from late fall until early spring,” notes Scotese.
“Power-wise, we have seven dedicated 11.0kV radial feeders from ADDC. Six feeders are normal and one is an express feeder. In the event of any of the 11.0kV feeders failing, the energy management system automatically switches to the express feeder,” says Kumar.
“There is a diesel generator installed, which is hooked to the 11.0kV network, but it is only required to run during a black out.”
Furthermore, the building is cooled by a Tabreed chilled water plant, which is pumped through six pumps. Kumar adds that the MEP contractor used 12m long pipes in the building because it would reduce the number of joints.
Voltas said the scope of MEP works on Etihad Towers undertaken by it comprised the supply, installation, testing and commissioning of services for Towers 1,2 and 3, the podium, basements and Floating Restaurant, which is still under construction.
This comprised HVAC, carpark ventilation, high-voltage network, low-voltage electrical, extra low voltage (ELV) systems comprising a building management system, closed circuit television, audio/video intercoms, water supply and sewage, draining, fuel-oil supply, fire fighting and fire-suppression system, hot-water system and cool/cold water system.
The cooling load of the project is 12,500TR, catered for by an energy transfer station to manage chilled water brought in by the district cooling provider. This volume necessitated the installation of 5,400 fan coil units, 300 air-handling units, 21 heat exchangers, 200 fans, 29 pumps, heat recovery wheels and VRVs.
The project’s 60MW power requirement was met through 20 transformers and 380 panels that are, in turn, backed by 8MW diesel generators with a dedicated fuel supply. The plumbing and drainage requirements called for 45 water tanks, with a total storage capacity of 10,000m3.
A total of 2.5 million litres of domestic water storage is catered for in the basement, with 35 sets of booster transfer pump sets at various levels, 25 submersible pump sets for handling drainage systems, 160km of water piping and a 150km network of HDPE drainage pipes.
Al Khuwaiter says a major achievement of the project was to get the Jumeirah Hotel component up-and-running in time for the Formula One in Abu Dhabi in November last year. “We were not fully ready, as it takes three to four months for training, et cetera, but we opened. Jumeirah stood by us and this resulted in a very good job.”
In terms of the commercial leasing, Al Khuwaiter says: “We are leasing the office tower now; we are ready to open. We hope the tenants will finalise their fit-outs by the end of March and the beginning of April.
In the current [market] situation, we have leased 25% and booked 50%, and that is okay. Before we opened, we were a little bit concerned.” However, any such concerns have been vindicated by the project’s initial success.
“In terms of Hill International’s role, we have been pretty much involved with the project management all the way through, coordinating with ACC, and trying to bring all the third-party contractors together and ensuring there is smooth handover from one contractor to another,” says Scotese. This has been particularly challenging as many components of the project have been ongoing simultaneously.
“When you come from the basement, up from the bottom of the towers, it probably still really looks like a construction site. While we still have people working there, we have already got people living in the towers. The Jumeirah Hotel has been in use since the Formula One; this was really quite an accomplishment, with all the construction work going on.
“SSPD has a number of prestigious clients lined up for the office towers,” says Scotese. “Tower 4 and Tower 5 are the first towers to be inhabited, with people starting to move in on 15 November 2011. Tower 2 began to receive its first tenants on 15 December 2011.”
This means that Hill International will continue to have a presence on-site until at least June this year.
Scotese says that Hill International has established a good rapport with SSPD as its main client, and is hopes to work with the developer again in the near future.
Commenting on the main construction challenges faced on the project, Kumar says: “Since all the specialist systems, such as the Lift intercom, BMS, CCTV, Access Control System, façade lighting and so on, are running on the same ELV backbone, maintaining all the systems live throughout is a major challenge for us.”
“Maintaining the SNG conversion plant through a professional party so that the gas supply is intact for all the 885 tenants, when the building is completely occupied, and for the hotel kitchen, is another challenge” he adds. “Managing the Energy Management System and its operation to start the DG set, which feeds the emergency power in the event of power failure, is also a challenge,” Kumar says.
Al Khuwaiter concurs that SSPD and its team has met all the challenges posed by the project: “Abu Dhabi has established its credentials as a truly global city, and is today witnessing unprecedented development.
The rising prominence of the city as a regional business hub has been complemented by the arrival of global professionals, who demand the best in lifestyle choices.” Etihad Towers is set to become a beacon in this burgeoning growth.
Client/owner: H.H. Sheikh Suroor Bin Mohammad Al Nahyan
Project manager: Hill International
MEP Manager: Hill International
Lead designer: Design by Innovation (DBI)
MEP consultant: Norman Disney & Young (NDY)
Supervising engineer: Cansult Maunsell/AECOM
Main contractor: Arabian Construction Company (ACC)
MEP contractor: Voltas
Eithad Towers project statistics
Tower 1: Jumeirah Hotel
* 67 levels, 67,032m2
* 400 guest rooms and suites
* 192 serviced apartments
* Restaurants, banqueting halls and meeting rooms
Tower 2: Short-term residential apartments
* 75 levels
Tower 3: Commercial offices
* 56 levels
Towers 4 & 5: Long-term residential apartments
* 54 levels (Tower 4)
* 65 levels (Tower 5)
* Five levels
* Floating Restaurant, beach bar, pool bar, casual beach restaurant, all-day dining, Indian, Lebanese, French and Japanese restaurants
* Shopping mall: Level 1 and 2 (2,300m2)
* Health club and spa
* Grand lobby and conference centre
* Four levels
* 2,580 parking spaces
* Plumbing stations, plant rooms